"When we arrived at Hestia’s refuge, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe we had left."

Nina's story

*Names changed to protect identities

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I still remember the day I decided to leave my husband. I had two suitcases and I remember telling the children we must be quick.  

Things had been very hard at home before I decided to leave. I was married for ten years and during that time my husband controlled my life and enjoyed publicly humiliating me. He would give me a credit card to use at the shops but change the pin so that when I went and did our weekly shop the card would be declined.

He frequently told me and our children that I was useless. At times he was violent.

I remember on one occasion I locked him out as I was so scared. He smashed the glass in the door to get back in. I just remember cowering behind a chair with the children and thinking ‘he’s going to kill us’. One of my biggest regrets was not calling the police. 

At first I stayed for the children but when my daughter, who was seven years old, told me that she had heard her father saying that he wanted to kill me, I knew I had to leave. It wasn’t right that she was hearing these things and it was badly affecting her. She was very anxious, she’d started wetting the bed and she was always wanting to come and sleep with me. 

When we arrived at Hestia’s refuge, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe I had left, I was so relieved. That one room we had felt like a mansion.

The children found it really hard at first, they were crying and saying they wanted to go home, they wanted to see their friends but I knew it would be okay.

When they saw the playroom in the refuge and were given some of their own things by the Hestia worker they started to settle down. When they said to me, ‘Oh mum you’re not so sad anymore’, I knew I had made the right decision. 


Christmas at home had been full of tension, it was very stressful as all my husband’s family would be there and he would use it as a chance to humiliate me. At the refuge, I cooked together with the other ladies and the children went to the Christmas party with all the other children. Beforehand they were worried, asking ‘what are we going to do at Christmas, will we see our father?’ but all the activities the refuge did with them made them so happy. 

While at the refuge I got some support for my depression and I know what I need to do now to keep mentally healthy. I find it hardest when things are quiet or I’m not very busy as that’s when the bad thoughts come. I still have a lot of fears about my ex-husband. It helps that the children are so much happier, I can see them getting their confidence back.  

I would say to other women in a similar situation that the best thing you can do is leave. You will rebuild yourself again and nothing is worth that stress. I kept quiet for so long and I realise now that there were people who would have helped me.