What is a refuge?

A refuge is a safe house for women and children escaping domestic violence. The address is confidential and no men are allowed in the building. A refuge is a place where women can be sure they are safe, and where they can access emotional and practical support from staff who understand what they have been through.

Every woman in the refuge is escaping abuse, which means they can share their experiences and offer each other support.

We recognise that some women may wish to live in refuges sensitive to their cultural needs or preferences. Some of our refuges are specifically for women from particular ethnic or cultural backgrounds. View more about our culturally specific refuges.

If you would like to go to a refuge, but are nervous about what to expect, reading the stories of a few women who have contacted Refuge may help.


Who can go to a refuge?

Any woman who has experienced domestic violence – emotional or physical – can go to a refuge, with or without children.


More than just a roof over a woman’s head

Women can arrive at a refuge in shock. They may have lived with abuse for months or years. They may have become isolated from family and friends.

Staff in all of our refuges are there to support women practically and emotionally. They understand the trauma women have experienced and are there to listen. The other women staying in the refuge can also provide valuable peer support.


Refuge workers can assist in many areas:

  • Help in finding a safe new home
  • Budgeting and welfare benefits
  • Accessing health services
  • Finding nurseries and schools
  • Accessing local community and cultural services
  • Gaining legal advice, including accompanying women to appointments and court
  • Safety planning
  • Training, education and employment


How long do women stay?

Women stay in our refuges for as long as they need. Some women stay for a few days, others stay for months while they wait for accommodation in a new community. 


How to get a place in a refuge

The Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline helps women find spaces in refuges across the UK. The police and social services can also put you in touch with us.