THIS week we have Sky Sports News presenter Charlie Webster embark on her very own Big Challenge. She is running 250 miles, visiting 40 football clubs in seven days, to raise money for the charity Women’s Aid and highlight domestic abuse. That is staggeringly more than seven marathons in seven days, I’ll certainly never complain again if I feel tired in a mere football match!

As I write this article she has already covered 100 miles, battling blisters, swellings, stomach upsets, visits to hospital and the Great British weather!

Charlie’s motivation is based on her own personal experience of suffering shocking abuse when aged just 15. Drawing on her own experiences she is determined to raise £100,000 and unite football clubs, players, fans and the public to tackle domestic abuse. Without hesitation I highlighted this in Parliament.

In Swindon like anywhere else this is a real issue. 2,459 incidents of domestic violence were reported to Wiltshire Police between April 2012 and March 2013, yet it is estimated that only 20 per cent of incidents are reported.

Victims are simply afraid to seek help. Sadly, in society domestic abuse is all too often “out of sight, out of mind” and while this continues we will never truly tackle the issue. With this in mind, South Swindon MP Robert Buckland and I visited the Swindon Women’s Refuge to meet with the fantastic Olwen Kelly and her team. This facility provides a safe-haven and a crucial support network. The visit was certainly an eye-opener.

It’s only when you’ve sat and spoken to some of the victims of domestic abuse that you can truly begin to understand what these individuals are going through.

Many of the women carry the physical scars of the abuse they have suffered, but all of them carry mental scars which sadly will be with them for life. The mayor rightly chose the Swindon Women’s Refuge as one of his charities this year.

Robert and I will continue to support the work of Women’s Aid, the Swindon Women’s Refuge and Swindon’s own ‘Respect not Violence’ campaign launched by Rosa Matheson last week. We will continue to support initiatives in Parliament and work with both the police and local support agencies. It is essential that we empower victims, giving them the confidence to seek help and support. Charlie Webster has shown how you can use sport to deliver such a powerful message, engaging a wider audience. Her determination will help make a difference to people right across the country, including those here in Swindon. She is an inspiration for us all.