1 million children witness or experience domestic abuse in the UK each year. They often see repeat incidences on a daily basis.

30,000 of those children have to flee their homes and are homeless and usually destitute. In London, Hestia provides safe refuge for over 1,300 women and children every year. This is an opportunity to be children again and deal with their trauma.

Nick* and Taylor* witnessed domestic abuse every day in their family home when their father was violent towards their mum, Keira*. Sometimes their father locked them in their bedrooms whereas sometimes they were made to stay and watch. Nick was only 5 years old but his dad repeatedly hit him for dropping food on the floor. His older brother Taylor who is 8 years old is anxious and hyper vigilant since his dad forcefully kept him under the bath water as punishment.

The incident in the bath was the final straw for Keira. She grabbed her sons’ coats and drove away for safety. They went to a nearby police station where an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) told them about domestic abuse refuges.

“63% of women do not know refuges exist before being referred to one”

Victim to Survivor (Hestia, 2016)

The family got a place that night at one of Hestia’s refuges and arrived with only the coats on their backs. They were scared. The manager showed them around the refuge and the small room they would share together for the next months. They were introduced to Ella, the Children and Family Worker, who showed them the playroom. The boys received a welcome present of a backpack with books, a teddy bear, pyjamas and a batman toothbrush much to the delight of Nick as this was his favourite!

After a couple of weeks, the boys were given places at local schools. Unfortunately, the only available places for their ages were at different schools.

“…Without his older brother, Nick struggled to make new friends at school. He also had difficulty keeping up in his new class. We arranged for Nick and his mum to attend a homework club at the refuge. This gave them a quiet space and the support they needed and soon Nick’s schoolwork began to improve…” – Ella, Hestia Children and Family Worker

Taylor, on the other hand, began displaying signs of severe emotional distress.

“Taylor often became aggressive towards his mum, and would regularly hit his head against the wall. In response to this behaviour, I showed his mum several creative ways to communicate with him and supported them to attend family therapy. Taylor has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)…a condition mostly seen in survivors of war…” – Ella, Hestia Children and Family Worker

*Pseudonyms and stock images have been used to protect the identity of the family

Support Hestia: Help us be there for children like Nick and Taylor

This November Hestia’s CEO Patrick Ryan will be cycling over 300km through Vietnam to raise money for children living in our Domestic Abuse refuges across London.

To find out more and donate visit Patrick’s JustGiving Page here.

A Day In The Life of a Refuge Manager