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What is RBWA?

We are a small independent charity dedicated to changing the lives of women and children fleeing abuse. Founded in 1984, we have provided safety and freedom for around 2000 women and 3000 children

What is a refuge?

Most people have heard of a refuge; a place where women and children go when they’re fleeing severe domestic abuse. However, because they’re secret places (we have to keep these families safe from the people that wish to harm them) you may not realise that there is one in your area.

The families that use the service will be the most high-risk cases of domestic abuse and they are assessed as being at risk of murder if they were to remain in their homes.

How is RBWA different?

What's different about us is that we are not telling people what to do, we are enabling women to rebuild their own lives using their own strengths and skills. We have passionate and dedicated specialist staff. The whole team work tirelessly in the community and nationally raising awareness about domestic abuse.

When some people think of a refuge, they imagine a hostel with grim surroundings and a depressing environment. What’s different about us, and what people always say, is that we provide a happy, nurturing home.

We pride ourselves on making the families feel welcome, included and safe – we embrace everyone’s differences.

RBWA works tirelessly with the women and children over their six month stay. Providing therapy, support, advocacy, practical help and understanding and anything they need to recover and rebuild their lives.

We treat children as primary victims, not just witnesses and their support needs are as important as their mum’s.

Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid have eleven women and their children living in the refuge. The children range in age from birth to eighteen years old and we have up to twenty-four children living at the refuge at any one time.

Through your support we can change lives

Reigate and Bansted Women's Aid (RBWA)

We provide so much more than a roof over their heads for the six months they live with us:
At first point of contact the woman and her children are supported to get to the refuge. Most service users travel long distances from across England to get to the refuge. They need to be far away from their homes for safety reasons. The downside of this long move is that they will be separated from families, support networks, services, education and employment. They have to permanently leave their lives behind and often arrive with the clothes they are wearing and nothing else. The refuge staff support the family to settle into the shared accommodation then start the process of rehabilitation and a new life free from abuse.

Our support is best broken down into three parts –
support for the women, support for the children and support for the family as a whole.

Support for women:

There are two full time women’s advocates onsite at the refuge, dedicated to working with the women.

Women arrive traumatised and bewildered so intensive emotional support is key. This continues throughout her stay and she is paired with a key worker who meets with her on a regular basis; daily at first and at a minimum weekly. Refuge staff are based onsite and are always accessible throughout the day, we also operate an out of hours on call service.

Women are offered counselling once they arrive and we have a counsellor who visits the refuge weekly. This enables women to be seen very quickly rather than waiting for an appointment through the NHS which can take six months to arrange.

RBWA facilitate The Freedom Programme at the refuge. All women attend the programme as part of the holistic package that we offer. The aim of the Freedom Programme is to give the women an understanding of domestic abuse and to make sense of what has happened to them. The programme looks at the effects and impact that domestic abuse has had on them and their children, with an emphasis on removing guilt from the women who have suffered and placing it solely on the perpetrator. This programme is instrumental in supporting women to move on to new healthy relationships after refuge. It is delivered sensitively by two trained members of staff at the refuge.

Practical assistance and advocacy are key elements of support offered by advocates.
This covers a wide range of areas including:

  • Assistance to secure permanent accommodation after refuge.
  • Maintaining tenancy whilst at refuge.
  • Liaison and referrals to statutory agencies including Children’s Services, education, health and housing.
  • Assistance with benefits, education, employment and volunteering.
  • Liaison with police and courts in both family and criminal cases.
  • Attending any meeting with a woman when she requires an experienced advocate; from court appearances, housing meetings to a mental health appointment.

The aim for all the practical support is to minimise the overwhelming nature of all of the contact with agencies. Empowerment is always the long-term aim but we recognise that women have often been controlled to the extent that they are initially unable to manage the hugely traumatic changes that starting a new life for them and their children brings.

Support for children:

There are two children’s advocates based onsite at the refuge. One of the children’s advocates is a qualified play therapist and filial therapist.

There is a dedicated playroom at the refuge.

The children’s advocates support the children while their mother is in support meetings with her key worker. This is critical to avoid children being exposed to their mother’s trauma. They have often witnessed abuse and have often heard and seen devastating things that can affect them. This is the start of recovery and giving children back their childhood.

Play therapy is often a key part of a child’s stay at refuge. This therapeutic intervention enables a child to express their trauma through the medium of play. One on one sessions are held and are measured through pre and post therapy questionnaires.

Group children’s therapy sessions on individual topics including self - esteem, confidence, coping with loss and reducing feelings of isolation. These sessions benefit the children in terms of education about the topics but also enable them to form relationships with other children at the refuge. There are so many difficulties for children who have lost everything that is familiar to them. They are also unable to disclose their location to anyone which is contrary to everything children are taught about keeping secrets. They may make friends at their new schools but will be unable to invite them to their home or even disclose its location. So, the group sessions enable children to manage the difficulties of communal living with other children but also help to improve their bonds in a safe environment.

At the refuge we have a project that offers all school age children the chance to go on 1:1 outings with the play therapist. The children choose a dream outing and the play therapist accompanies them on a Saturday to their destination of choice. This can often be a simple activity like bowling or cinema with a meal out but we have also taken children to London theatres and included rickshaw journeys and a trip to the hairdresser and nail bar first! It is absolutely the child’s choice and the benefits are multiple.

Group outings are a regular event at the refuge and these can be as simple as a trip to the local soft play area or a day out at Chessington. Group activities such as arts and crafts and cooking are also regularly held. The refuge also has a gardening club where the children plant and harvest their own fruit and vegetables. This activity has the added benefit of teaching the children about the value of nurture and the great results that can be achieved through caring for their plants.

Support for the family:

Supporting the family through means of care and understanding:

  • We offer family bonding sessions
  • Support mums to put behaviour strategies in place
  • Help with routines and boundaries
  • Advising mums how to safely talk about domestic abuse and the loss of dad
  • Support families to access local facilities
  • Basic care needs such as help to access local food banks
  • Securing places at local schools/nurseries/childminders
  • Securing equipment such as buggies or high chairs from our charity partner Stripey Stork
  • Sourcing clothes and shoes for both mum and the children

When the family arrives at refuge we have a project that provides the following items (all new):

  • Bedding (duvets, pillows, sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases) and cot bedding
  • Towels
  • Crockery and kitchen ware
  • Toys for the children
  • Food and toiletry bundles
  • Food and school uniform vouchers

The purpose of all the support we offer is to enable the family to start a new life after their stay at refuge, free from domestic abuse and empowered to make good decisions about their futures.
We are a small charity and are always really grateful for financial donations.

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