Frequently Asked Questions

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What Is A Refuge?

A refuge is a safe house where women and children who are experiencing domestic violence can stay free from abuse. Refuge addresses are confidential. There are over 500 refuge and support services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can choose to travel as far away from, or stay as near to, your home town as you wish (subject to space and availability).

There are also Refuges for men.

Some refuges have space for many women and children, and some are small houses. Some refuges are specifically for women from particular ethnic or cultural backgrounds (for example, Black, Asian or South American women). Many refuges have disabled access and staff and volunteers who can assist women and children who have special needs.

At Southern Domestic Abuse Service you have your own bedroom to share with your children. Other spaces (the living room, kitchen, bathroom etc) will be shared with other refuge residents. You will be expected to cook for yourself and your children. It is up to you and the other refuge residents whether or not you share cooking or eat together at mealtimes. You can be as self-contained or as sociable as you want to be.

Who Can Go Into A Refuge?

Any woman who needs to escape from domestic violence or abuse can go into a refuge at any time. It does not matter whether or not you are married to or living with your abuser, or whether or not you have children.

Will There Be Room For My Children?

Yes, we will be able to help you find a local school and we have lots of toys and activities for children of all ages.

I Live In A Joint-Owned House With A Mortgage, Can You Still Help?

Yes, whatever accommodation you are coming from we can help you.

I Don’t Come From This Country. Can You Still Help Me?

Yes, wherever you were born and whatever your religion or cultural background, you and your children will be welcome. However if you do not have recourse to public funds it may be more difficult to find accommodation.

Will The Person Who Has Been Abusive To Me Be Able To Find Me?

This is a safe house. The address is only given to people who need to know. We can arrange for you to be relocated to another area for your safety if it is advisable to do so.

What Shall I Bring With Me?

If you are in immediate danger don’t worry about taking anything, just leave. If it is possible, then bring with you a key to your home, identification, some money, bank books and debit cards, benefit books, copies of documents relating to your housing (for example mortgage details or tenancy agreements), birth and marriage certificates, passports, visas and work permits, address book, insurance documents, television licence, family photographs, your diary, jewellery, small items of sentimental value, school and medical records and the bare essentials of clothing, toiletries and medication for you and your children. You may also wish to bring your children’s favourite small toys.

What Can't I Take With Me To A Refuge?

We do not have any storage space, so you are unable to bring large items such as furniture with you to the refuge. You cannot bring pets but we will do our best to support you to get your pet fostered.

If I Leave A Refuge, Can I Go Back?

Yes, in most cases. If you choose to leave the refuge but later need safe accommodation again, you and your children will be able to go back, either into the same or another refuge, depending on space, safety and availability at the time you need it.

If you were asked to leave a refuge because you broke the terms of the licence agreement, it may not be possible for you to return to the same house. You may be referred to refuge accommodation elsewhere or the local authority for help with accommodation.

You can also use the refuge organisation for information and support when you are no longer a resident. Please see further information on Outreach and Resettlement Services.

What About My Permanent Housing Situation?

You can return home from the refuge at any point. You may decide to return with an injunction. You may decide you want to be re-housed elsewhere. The choice is yours, and refuge workers will give you information about the various options in order to help you decide what you want to do. They will also help you to get advice regarding joint property and mortgage agreements. Do not agree to sign any documents relating to the tenancy or ownership of your home until you have taken legal advice.

You may be able to apply to your local council for help with housing.

I Don’t Want To Leave My Home. Can You Still Help Me?

Yes, we can give you confidential support and relevant information wherever you are staying. We offer a range of support services including one to one support for women, children, young people and men as well as group work for women and children of all ages.

Is Domestic Abuse A Crime?

Since domestic abuse may comprise of a number of different behaviours and consequences, there is no single criminal offence of ‘domestic abuse’. Instead, there are several categories within the law that constitute a criminal offence that may also be defined as domestic abuse.

Not all forms of domestic abuse are illegal e.g. some forms of emotional violence, for example. However, these types of violence can also have a serious and lasting impact on a woman or child’s sense of well-being and autonomy.

Criminal offences include: assault, threats to kill, wounding, attempting to choke, harassment, putting people in fear of violence, rape, sexual assault and exposure. In December 2015 ‘controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship’ become an offence.

Who Is Responsible For The Abuse?

The abuser is. Always. There is no excuse for domestic abuse. The abuser has a choice to use violence for which they are responsible and for which they should be held accountable. They do not have to use violence. They can choose, instead, to behave non-violently and foster a relationship built on trust, honesty, fairness and respect.

The victim is never responsible for the abuser’s behaviour.

‘Blaming the victim’ is something that abusers will often do to make excuses for their behaviour. This is part of the pattern and is in itself abusive. Sometimes abusers manage to convince their victims that they are to blame for the abuser’s behaviour. Blaming their behaviour on someone else, the relationship, their childhood, their ill health, or their alcohol or drug addiction is an abuser’s way of avoiding personal responsibility for their behaviour.

Children, similar to the adult victim, will often feel responsible for the abuse and it is important to let them know that the abuse is not their fault.

It is important that any intervention to address domestic abus prioritises the safety of survivors and holds the perpetrators accountable.


  • "I have found the support from Southern Domestic Abuse Service life saving for me. Without the support I couldn't imagine how my family and I could have moved on with our lives. I am eternally grateful for all your support both emotionally and advisory. I have gained so much more self worth from your help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart." Sandra

  • "I have found the support from Southern Domestic Abuse Service life saving for me. Without the support I couldn't imagine how my family and I could have moved on with our lives. I am eternally grateful for all your support both emotionally and advisory. I have gained so much more self worth from your help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart." Kerrie

  • "From the circumstances I left behind, I have felt safe living in this house. I have had good times and bad, but I am really grateful for all of your help, you have provided me with. Thank you." Ruth

  • "Thank you SDAS for teaching me how to play the game. I am back in control of my life and my self esteem." Donna