Real life stories across the services

Female survivor

Marianne* initially contacted yourSanctuary via our 24 hour helpline. Marianne disclosed that she had been experiencing physical, financial and psychological abuse since the birth of her first child five years ago.

At the point of contacting us she had two children and was expecting her third. She had not contacted the police at this time. She saw our leaflet at the GP surgery during her antenatal visit. The relationship between Marianne and her husband had recently broken down and he was no longer living with her. However, she was being harassed by him through frequent calls, texts and unexpected visits to the house.

The helpline operator felt that Marianne would benefit from our community Outreach service and after discussion Marianne consented to a referral being made. Marianne was contacted by an Outreach worker and a face to face meeting took place. A risk assessment was conducted and a safety plan was put together. As she was assessed as being at high risk, her case was discussed in a multi-agency forum to ensure she and her children were as safe as possible.

Marianne’s dedicated outreach worker accompanied Marianne to a court hearing to obtain a non- molestation order. She was helped with parenting skills and signposted to a local children’s centre. Marianne had also been left with some debt by her husband so the Outreach worker was able to work with Citizens Advice Bureau and put together a debt management plan. Marianne also attended the Freedom Programme.

After a year of support from yourSanctuary Marianne told us that she felt so much stronger, her relationship with her children was improved, and she was looking forward to a brighter future.

Male survivor

Brian* had a thriving computer business and owned a property. He had an old injury from an accident for which he was taking powerful pain reducing medication.

Brian started a new relationship and after a short time his partner asked him to sell his property and move in with her. Shortly after this she became violent and abusive frequently assaulting him and calling him weak. She then became psychologically abusive to him and told him she wanted to marry him. If he didn’t do what she wanted she threatened to kill him. She got him drunk then overdosed him on pain killing medication.

Brian was taken to hospital and subsequently released to live with a family member who contacted yourSanctuary for information. When Brian engaged with our male outreach worker, he disclosed that he was now being harassed by text by his ex-partner.

yourSanctuary contacted his local housing department and after completing a homeless person’s application he was offered a housing association property. We also supported Brian to contact the police regarding the on-going harassment and they issued a Police Information Notice which warned his ex-partner to stop the constant contact. Local charities were contacted to provide food, household equipment and furniture, and he was signposted to the local CAB who ensured that he claimed the appropriate benefits.

Refuge resident

Johanna* and her 3 year old son Luke* were given a place of safety in one of our refuges in autumn 2013. Johanna was from the Traveller community and had experienced many years of abuse and violence. We understand that a refuge presents an extra challenge to women from the Traveller community so we knew we might need to provide extra support to meet her needs. The first few weeks were quite challenging for Johanna & her son as they struggled to adapt to this new way of life, sharing accommodation with other families from different backgrounds and lifestyles.

Luke was very clingy to her for a while but eventually with the added support of our children's worker Luke was spending time in the playroom whilst mum had 1:1 meetings with her appointed support worker. With lots of extra support & sourcing the right information to fit Johanna’s needs she started showing signs of relaxing around the staff & eventually made friends with other residents. We decided to make contact with a borough council’s liaison officer for Gypsy Travellers who kept in close contact with Johanna from that point & eventually supported us and Johanna with her planned move into her new property. During Johanna’s stay she completed the Freedom Program & went on to complete the Recovery Toolkit – these are the group work programmes that are offered to every resident as part of their support package.

As a result she told us that she regained her self-esteem and confidence and that she felt happy and safe (feelings she had not had for many years). Johanna enjoyed taking part in cooking & baking sessions with our volunteers & thoroughly enjoyed the refuge Christmas party. Johanna and Luke are now doing really well in their new home. Johanna thanked everyone at yourSanctuary for all the support they gave her and the level of understanding they showed to her & Luke throughout their stay.

Johanna told us that we made her feel part of a whole new family again as she felt the atmosphere in refuge had a family feel to it. Johanna had gained better knowledge and understanding of domestic abuse & associated risks factors. She had a greater awareness of the different types of support available to her in the wider community. She also left with improved budgeting and parenting skills.

Helpline caller

Tina’s* neighbour called the Helpline. She said that Tina had gone round to her house because she was scared of her husband. Tina had been married for 53 years and her husband had been abusive throughout the marriage.

Tina was very distressed as her husband was extremely controlling. She was not allowed to have the TV on or listen to music and he threatened to smash her mobile phone. Her husband was an alcoholic and caused her a lot of problems. When we spoke to Tina she was very distressed and was unsure what to do. It took a long time for her to calm down so that she was able to listen and consider the options available to her.

The Helpline operator asked if there was anyone she could stay with for a while, as well as offering to find a refuge space for her. She thought about it and called the helpline back to say that she had decided to go and stay with her sister. Tina did not have any belongings with her and was too frightened to go back home and collect them.

Her husband turned up shouting and banging on the neighbour’s door. We asked Tina if she wanted us to call the Police who would help her go back home to collect her belongings. Tina was happy for us to do this, then she called her sister to pick her up.

The next morning the Helpline operator gave her a call to see if she was ok. Tina said that she was safe with her sister and would contact us if she needed further support or advice. Tina was grateful for the follow up call and for all the help she had been given to get her to a place of safety.

Child at refuge

When Katie* came into refuge with her mum she was nearly 4 years old and appeared very frightened and clingy. During the first few weeks of their stay the children’s worker spoke with mum to understand the background and issues for the two of them. Katie was quite challenging particularly as she mimicked the behaviour of the perpetrator, and was rude and disrespectful to her mum.

Our children’s worker spent time with both of them in the play room each week so that Katie became more confident and felt at ease in that environment. Mum then started to leave the play room for a few minutes at a time so that Katie got used to her not being around. Our children’s worker then started to work more intensively with Katie, once she was comfortable to do so, and used play and activities to enable Katie to express her feelings around what had happened to her and what she had witnessed.

Over the next few months Katie grew in confidence and was happy to come to the play room for 30 to 40 minutes without her mum. Our children’s worker also spent time with mum increasing her knowledge and confidence around parenting and boundaries which led to an improvement in Katie’s behaviour.

Katie’s social skills also improved as she got to know the other children in refuge and began to play with them. When they left refuge their relationship had improved substantially and whilst Katie could still be challenging, her mum felt much more enabled to deal with it.


Vanessa* has been volunteering for yourSanctuary for over two years, initially taking calls on our specialist telephone helpline then subsequently assisting the Support Workers in refuge.

Having once been a resident in a yourSanctuary refuge, Vanessa was resettled in the community and – when she was ready – decided to use her empathy and knowledge to support others affected by domestic abuse.

The yourSanctuary volunteering programme enabled Vanessa to do this as well as giving her the opportunity to build confidence and self-esteem.

Vanessa is now hoping to become an advocate for yourSanctuary and further develop her skills and experience for the future by getting involved in our fundraising programme. She has some great ideas which is fantastic news for us and our clients.

* all names in the stories have been altered to protect the client's identities.