Refuge opened the world’s first women’s refuge in 1971 in Chiswick, London. It was a time when no-one talked about domestic violence, when what went on behind closed doors in every street was considered private, no-one’s business.


Women and children flocked to that safe house in West London. For the first time, someone was saying it was wrong to beat your partner. What had gone on for centuries behind closed doors was at last being challenged.

Refuge has led the campaign to end domestic violence ever since.


Refuge today

Today the charity supports many more women and children than it did in those early years. Our refuges are always full, and there are more calls to the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline (run in partnership with Women’s Aid) than we can answer. We wish we could do more.


Refuge relies on charitable donations. It is a constant struggle to raise funds for our services, even though those services save the lives of women and children.



  • Refuge opened the world’s first women’s refuge in 1971.
  • Refuge has depended on charitable donations throughout its history. The charity has faced closure on several occasions.
  • Refuge has been a leading voice in the campaign to end domestic violence since 1971.
  • Refuge has been a registered charity since 1979.
  • Refuge supports over 80,000 women and children each year.