If you are thinking of leaving an abusive relationship the thought of leaving your home to stay in a shelter or refuge can be concerning. In this article, we explain what domestic abuse shelters are and the invaluable services they provide for victims of abuse.
What is a shelter?
If you have made the decision to leave an abusive relationship then you need somewhere secure for you – and your children, if you have them – to stay. If you don’t have family and friends who can help, or you want to be somewhere your partner cannot trace you, a safe option is a women’s shelter. A shelter or refuge is not just a protected place – it is also an invaluable hub of support.
Any woman experiencing domestic abuse – physical or emotional – can go to a shelter, with or without their children. There are also shelters for men suffering abuse. For your safety, and dependent on spaces, the shelter may not be in your local area.
Shelters provide a good standard of accommodation, normally comprising of a furnished private bedroom (with your own key) for yourself and your children, with use of a shared bathroom and fully-equipped kitchen facilities. Some shelters also have special areas for children to play and gardens. Self-contained flats may also be available depending on provision in the area.
Shelters aim to be welcoming places to stay where you can feel free of fear and residents therefore need to agree to abide by the shelter’s rules. The rules set out what you can expect from the shelter as well as standards of behaviour (this includes no alcohol or drugs).
For more information on what personal items and important documents to take with you to a shelter, see our article on Leaving an Abusive Relationship. Of course, in an emergency you should prioritise your safety and you may not be able to leave with any possessions – this will not affect your being accepted into a shelter.
How long people stay in a shelter varies from a few days to several months – rest assured the shelter will give you support and guidance to help you find somewhere safe to move to.
Your safety is of paramount importance. Locations of shelters are kept secret and you are not permitted to reveal the address to friends or family. Shelters are protected by 24-hour CCTV, which is monitored and recorded, and their locations are registered with the Police.
Any information you provide will be kept confidential. Shelter staff will not talk to anyone else about you without your express permission.
Help with rebuilding your life
Shelter staff are there to help you stay safe and to help you plan how to start moving forward with your new life outside of an abusive relationship. They can help with practical matters such as finding permanent accommodation, schools and accessing legal advice and healthcare, as well as provide much-needed emotional support (such as free counselling services and specialist support for children). Staff will also be able to assist you with financial matters, for example benefit claims, and immigration issues.
Finding a place in a shelter
If you require urgent safe accommodation, please contact the Safer Places 24-hour support line on 03301 025811 They will be able to assist you in finding a safe place to go. Safer Places provide the refuge contract for Hertfordshire - more information can be found here.
REMEMBER, if you are in immediate danger, you should always call 999.
You can also contact Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline for advice and support on our FREE confidential helpline. Call 08 088 088 088 to speak to a local expert who can offer advice and signposting to support groups and the most appropriate agency support.