What is a domestic abuse refuge and how do I access one? 

What is a domestic abuse refuge? 

A refuge is a place where adults and children can stay if they need to leave their home because they are experiencing domestic abuse. 

Refuges are homes where you should feel safe and free from fear. Refuge addresses are confidential, so that you can stay as safe as possible.  

All refuges are different. At Hestia, we have refuges that are self-contained flats, meaning you have your own room and kitchen, as well as refuges with individual bedrooms, while the kitchen and living room are shared. 

Hestia’s 25 refuges are home to up 192 women and 262 children at any one time. However, you do not need to have children to stay at a refuge. Our refuges are for any women who have or are experiencing domestic abuse. 

What is a domestic abuse refuge?

There also refuges in the UK for men, LGBTQ+ people and women with specific religious or cultural needs, or physical/mental health needs. 

“When I went to the refuge, I was thinking: how is it going to be? You hear stories about refuges but when I arrived it was nothing like what I’d heard. Everyone was really friendly, the staff were really friendly. I felt safe when I was here.” – Nadine*

Who will I live at the refuge with and what help will be available there? 

You will live alongside other women and children who have also experienced domestic abuse, so they will understand what you are going through. Many of the women in our refuges spend time together, taking part in group activities like yoga, or cook together.  

“The good thing about being in the refuge is that we are with other families in the same situation. I don’t think my children feel different here; all the other kids just have a mum too, there are no dads around. They play with the other children, and one of the other mums sits and reads with my eldest. We all help each other out. It’s lovely.” – Tara* 

There will also be support workers on hand at the refuge who can help you to begin to recover from what you have experienced. You will be given a designated support worker who can help with your emotional needs. You will meet with them frequently to discuss how you are doing and what you need help with. 

Your support worker will also help with your practical needs, such as applying for benefits, finding a GP or solicitor, finding your way around the area or looking for other accommodation when you are ready to move out. 

“Over time, the staff at the refuge have become like family. They have made me feel like I’m home.” – Lubna* 

Read Lubna's* full story

What support is available for my children at a refuge? 

Our refuges have Children and Family Workers, who work specifically with mothers and children to help them recover from their experiences together. 

What support for children is there at a domestic abuse refuge?

This includes therapeutic sessions, such as play therapy, as well as group play activities and day trips out. These are designed to help your child make friends and feel happy and safe while at the refuge. All of our refuges have toys and spaces where children can play with each other. 

In a recent survey by Hestia, 96% of children felt safe at a refuge, while 93% felt happy. Two-thirds of mothers said that their relationship with their child improved after arriving at a refuge. 

Your support worker can also help with practical needs relating to your child, such as finding a new nursery or school.  

“Everything happened quite quickly. My support worker Sharon called the local school and my daughter was offered a place. Sharon even gave us some lovely gifts after realising my daughter had no toys. She has enabled me to be a survivor, not a victim.” – Lena* 

What if I arrive with nothing? 

We understand that sometimes you need to leave your home and come to a refuge very quickly and may not be able to pack all the essentials. 

When you arrive, we will provide you with a welcome pack of basic items, such as toiletries, food, pyjamas, and toys if you have children. 

What is a domestic abuse refuge?

How do I access a domestic abuse refuge? 

Hestia’s Refuge Referral Line is managed by trained, friendly volunteers who help women and children access our refuges across London and the south east. You can contact the Refuge Referral Line on 0808 169 9975, from Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm. You can also email [email protected]. 

You can also contact the free, 24/7 National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 at any time, and they will discuss your options and finding refuge accommodation with you. 

There is also the free app Bright Sky, which you can use to find local support services and their contact details, as well as other national helplines. Please only download the Bright Sky app if it is safe to do so and your device is not monitored.  

If you are in immediate danger, always phone the police on 999. 


Support our refuges 

This winter, dozens of women and children will arrive at our refuges after fleeing domestic abuse. We want to give them the best possible support when they arrive. That includes a welcome pack full of essentials, tailored practical and emotional support, and a programme of fun, family activities. 

Donate to support our Journey to Refuge Winter Appeal, supporting women and children arriving at our domestic abuse refuges through winter to settle in and begin their recovery journeys.

Donate now