Lucy* left her abusive husband in July 2022, and has been staying in a Hestia refuge for four months with her 2-year-old daughter Maria*.  

Before I married my husband everything had been fine, but afterwards he began ignoring me or trying to humiliate me. He would say I wasn’t his equal and that my mental capacity was less. It hurt to see him happily eating and socialising with his friends or family, when he would completely ignore me as if I was nothing to him. This went on for over a year.  

I hoped things would change when I got pregnant, but they just got worse, especially when he found out at the ultrasound that I was having a girl. I remember he said ‘now I’ll have to live with two fools’. I was so disappointed, but I convinced myself it would be better when the baby was born. 

Once the baby arrived, he wanted nothing to do with her. He slept in a different room and refused to help with anything. I once asked him to get medicine when she was sick, and he said ‘you were the one who wanted a kid, you can look after her’. It broke my heart as I was really hoping he would be a good dad.   

He would do anything to control me and keep me submissive. He would threaten to tell social services that I wasn’t taking good care of the baby, or that he would take her away from me and have me declared mentally unstable and put in a hospital. He even said he would sell our home and the new owners would kick me out on the street. It was torture. 

I was so scared of ending up on the streets with my child that I went to a solicitor who advised me that I should put a restriction on the property. I don’t know how my husband found out, but when I got home he was very angry. He was shouting and throwing things at me. He said, ‘I will kill you, even if I have to go to jail, I cannot tolerate you in my house for one more second’.  

The next day I went to the police and told them everything. They came back to the house with me so I could pick up some clothes and medicine for my daughter. We could only take what I could carry and enough money for a taxi. My daughter was two years old at the time. 

I had to stay with friends for a couple of nights while my social worker tried to find me a place to stay. A few days later I found myself sitting in the park with nowhere else to go. It was getting cold and dark, and I had nowhere to sleep for the night. Someone stole my suitcase while I was in the toilet. I felt emotionally broken.  

Finally, I was able to get a space in a Hestia refuge in London. I felt so happy when I arrived and met the other women, all the staff were so kind and friendly. They helped me to set up a bank account so I could have access to benefits, and they’re advising me about housing.  

When we first arrived, my daughter was very agitated and would cry all the time and cling onto me. But slowly over time, with the support of our Children & Families Worker, her confidence grew. Now she is very sociable and loves getting involved in all the activities – from arts and crafts, to yoga, to baking! We’ve also been on trips to the seaside and the zoo. She was absolutely amazed to see the animals for the first time and to walk in the sea. She now gives all the staff members high fives and she’s just started going to nursery. It’s wonderful to see her running in so confidently, she’s like a different child.   

We’ve only been here for four months, but already it’s made me feel more hopeful. I had no idea that we could live without my husband, but now I feel that a future is possible for us. I’m hoping to enrol in a course when my daughter is in nursery full time.  

My biggest worry for the future is about the cost-of-living crisis. We’ll be leaving the refuge in January, and I think about it every day. Sometimes it keeps me awake at night. I worry that we won’t be able to get a house and we’ll be put in shared accommodation with men. Living all alone in London will be very tough and uncertain. But for now, I’m grateful that we will have a happy Christmas in the refuge. We will try to be part of each and every activity, so that my daughter and I can continue to learn and grow. I’m so thankful for all the support I’ve received from Hestia.

*All names have been changed to protect identities