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Sandra Horley CBE

Honorary Fellowship


Sandra Horley's life's work has been a struggle to get domestic violence taken seriously by people. She is an advocate of women's rights, a sociologist, author, and the Chief Executive of Refuge – the national domestic violence charity – where she has spent the last 23 years.

Sandra Horley is committed to campaigning on behalf of abused women and lobbying for changes in legislation and policy. She has spent most of her career battling against prejudices and lack of understanding around domestic violence.

Her work and contribution was recognised at the highest level when she was awarded the OBE for 'services to the protection of women and children' in 1999.

Born in Sarnia, Canada, she has a BA with distinction in sociology from McGill University.

Horley started working with abused and homeless women in Wolverhampton where she was the organiser of the Haven Project. She's also worked as a counsellor, homelessness officer and housing advice worker before becoming Chief Executive of Refuge in 1983.

Since that time, Refuge has grown beyond recognition. Today, Refuge is the UK's largest domestic violence service with a growing network of refuges and community based support including a 24-hour national domestic violence helpline. Refuge is a national "lifeline" for up to 80,000 women and children every year. The charity runs award winning campaigns that change the way people think about domestic violence. This year Refuge is celebrating 35 years since opening the world's first refuge in Chiswick.

Horley explains that, "Our services (at Refuge) are there when a woman is most in need. We can give her and her children a safe place, understanding and support. With our help she is more likely to leave her violent partner and rebuild her life." At a recent interview she explained what keeps her going, "I've come across 1000's of brave, strong women in my working life – and they have made every minute of it worthwhile. This is what keeps me going."

Horley has over 28 years' experience in the field of domestic violence and abuse - experience and expertise that she has always shared with others. She has been involved in training police, health, housing and social workers. She has given evidence to UK Government select committees and has acted as an adviser to several foreign governments. She has provided expert evidence in numerous civil and ground breaking murder/manslaughter cases where the accused was an abused woman. She has produced numerous articles for the national press and professional journals and frequently gives radio and TV interviews. She has advised on TV 'soaps' like Eastenders on their storyline.

Horley has also written many acclaimed books on the subject of domestic violence. Her last book called 'Power and Control – Why Charming Men Can Make Dangerous Lovers' is widely praised. 

Horley has made a remarkable contribution to the protection of women and children and to our greater understanding and awareness of domestic violence as an issue. She has inspired many to be brave and to stand up against it and recognise that it is unacceptable.

For all her work, Sandra Horley, OBE, has been granted Fellowship of London South Bank University.

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