Hestia is the largest provider of domestic abuse refuges in London. In 2016-17 Hestia provided a place of safety for 719 women and 668 children across our 29 refuges across 11 boroughs, all of whom had been made homeless by domestic abuse.

In addition to our refuge services, our Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs), Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) and floating support teams supported almost 2,300 people living in the community who are at high risk of abuse. 


Impact of domestic abuse on children

Experiencing domestic abuse as a child has a long lasting impact. We know that adverse childhood experiences have a direct impact on a child’s mental health. That these experiences continue to have an impact on their mental health as they move into adulthood. Studies indicate that 1 in 3 adult mental health conditions relate directly to adverse childhood experiences (Kessler, 2010).

A recent study by Opinium revealed that one in eight adults who witnessed domestic abuse as children said that the impact of the abuse had an immense adverse impact on their childhood.

“[We] could not escape the abuse, [we] felt helpless, constantly afraid and confused.”

Now grown adults, these survivors now recognise and understand the isolation and trauma they experienced. Many shared that school hours were a time of constant worry for the safety of their mothers at home with many of them struggling to concentrate in class. 

 “I was worried all the time that I would get home from school and find Mum having been attacked by her then boyfriend. I managed, with a lot of bad behaviour, cheeky comments and truancy to get myself excluded and finally expelled from school. This had meant I had to be home schooled and could now be with my Mum during the day and keep her safe.” - John. B (aged 24)

John’s education was severely impacted and he left school with only 2 GCSE’s. He has since gone back to education as an adult to get his social care qualification enabling him to work with children going through similar situations as his own.

A recent public opinion poll commissioned by Hestia revealed that out of the adults who had witnessed abuse as children more than 55% went on to experience domestic abuse in their own intimate partner relationships. This reaffirms that need for us to recognise the impact domestic abuse has on children. If we want to make real social change we need work together across fields, across counties and across organisations to break the cycle of abuse.

How do we break the cycle of abuse?

We start by seeing and accepting that children are directly impacted by domestic abuse. Regardless of where they are when the incident happens - perhaps they are under the bed hiding or shooed out of the front door to a neighbour’s house or to school.

Children know.

Children are torn between loving both parents and being afraid of one. They react to the subtle changes in atmosphere and behaviour, with every child reacting to domestic abuse differently. Some may become quiet and withdrawn while others display signs of anger and lash out. At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve seen many who believe it is their fault and that if they behave impeccably, excelling at school and not causing any trouble the domestic abuse will stop.

Breaking the cycle means listening to these children. Allowing these children to have a specially trained worker – who understands the impact of domestic abuse on children and understands children. At Hestia, like many domestic abuse refuge providers we work tirelessly to ensure that children have access to specialist child and adolescent workers. Unfortunately, as many of these services rely on the support of the public and corporate organisations availability, access to these vital services across London and across the country is a postcode lottery.

We need to ensure that these children have access to mental health support that they need. This support can range from talking therapies, drama, art or play therapy to summer play schemes delivered by specialist workers and volunteers. Access to these services is essential for children who have experienced domestic abuse.

How do we know that these services make a difference?

The children who benefit from these services have told us what a difference they make.

Through the UK SAYS NO MORE campaign we meet people every day who experienced domestic abuse as children and are now ready to share their experiences. Tom who is now 35 told me that he and his brother along with his Mum had been in a refuge in London in the early eighties.

“I only remember a little bit from our time in the refuge. The two things that I remember best is the change in my mum. Her body completely changed - she grew six feet in a week, her shoulders went back and she held her head high.

The second memory was so powerful I remember it as yesterday. We came home from school and heard a completely new sound – mum laughing. She was in the kitchen with another women in the refuge and they were laughing their heads off. I was seven by then and has never heard that sound before!

I’ll never forget that sound. To this day my brother and I mark that date as the start of our recovery.”

Tom credits the women that worked in the refuge, in particular Sandra who played with he and his brother and the other children afterschool, helping them all understand the changes that they were witnessing.

At Hestia we are committed to providing a children and family worker in every refuge who gives practical and emotional support tailored specifically for the children who arrive with their mums. Our children and family workers support children in many ways, including: conventional and creative therapy, stay and play sessions, activities and day trips during the summer play schemes.

This summer over 200 children will benefit from Hestia’s summer play scheme. The six-week timetables of outings and activities provide a safe and supportive space for children to bond with their mothers and begin to trust adults and their environment once more.

Donate by midday on Friday 15th June below to DOUBLE your donation to our summer play schemes.



Lorraine Radford, S. C. (2011). Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC.

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