My role inside a domestic abuse refuge

Alison* supports women and children to recover after domestic abuse.

Being a refuge manager, my priority is to make women feel safe in an environment that is as homely as possible. The residents in the refuge need to receive the correct level of support to achieve the most important goal: to recover from the trauma of domestic abuse and rebuild their lives.

First of all, I make sure the refuge adheres to health and safety regulations. In addition, I must ensure residents’ time in the refuge is safe and as comfortable as possible. At Hestia we have specific Children and Family workers who are there to support children, helping them to overcome the trauma of experiencing (and sometimes being directly hurt) by domestic abuse.

Finally, I must take time to support my team as a priority, making sure they are happy and feel supported. As a result they are able to provide the best support when working with the women and children. We have regular team and house meetings as well as one-to-one supervisions where we talk about personal goals and any difficulties they are facing.

My role outside the refuge

External relationships are also vital to running a successful refuge. When creating partnerships, you ensure your residents and staff get the support they need from other agencies. This can include counsellors, therapists and advisors in debt management, legal issues and housing.

As a refuge manager in London you are also a community leader. My role is cornerstone to the local authority’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) response.

A typical day

There is no typical day for a refuge manager. Your allocated 'quiet day' to complete admin often ends up the one where something may happen - anything from a defrosting fridge, to a new family arriving. You never know what’s around the corner.

What I love about my job

I love that I am able to witness a change in our residents even after a short amount of time. Following the trauma and abuse, women arrive frightened and reserved but as a result of working with my team they are new women in control of their lives.

A particular woman I supported – Barbara* – was only allowed to have £3 at any given time by her partner. Her experience of abuse was primarily financial and she had no independence. Her partner would check up on her throughout day wanting to know if the money had been spent. She lived in fear.

The day she left our accommodation, she was a changed woman, with a job and a sense of freedom and empowerment – I will never forget it.

How your support can help

As a result of making a last minute escape many women arrive with nothing but the clothes on their back with a maybe few toys for their child.

My team and I support the women to access benefits, but the amounts are minimal when you have left literally everything behind and are starting again. Financial support means we can provide anything from school uniforms or coats to baby essentials.

With your support, women and children will be comfortable as they adjust to a new life.

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