Refuge (United Kingdom charity)

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Refuge logo.PNG
Type Registered UK charity (number 277424)
Founded 1971
Founder(s) Erin Pizzey [1]
  • International House, 1 St Katharine’s Way, London E1W 1UN
Coordinates 51°30′01″N 0°07′34″W / 51.5001524°N 0.1262362°W / 51.5001524; -0.1262362Coordinates: 51°30′01″N 0°07′34″W / 51.5001524°N 0.1262362°W / 51.5001524; -0.1262362
Origins Chiswick, West London
Key people Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive.
Area served National
Focus(es) Domestic violence, violence against women and girls
Method(s) Provision of a national network of specialist domestic violence services for women and children[2]
Revenue £11,372,947[3]
Employees 173[4]
Motto For women and children. Against domestic violence.
Formerly called Chiswick Women's Aid (1971-1979), Chiswick Family Rescue (1979-1993)

Refuge is a United Kingdom charity providing specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic violence. Refuge provides a national network of specialist services, including emergency refuge accommodation (refuges), community outreach, independent domestic violence advocacy (IDVAs), culturally specific services and a team of child support workers. Refuge also runs the Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline in partnership with Women's Aid.[5]

Refuge is one of the longest established domestic violence organisations having been established in 1971. It is also the largest such organisation in the United Kingdom with an income of over £10 million.[6]


The organisation was founded in 1971 as Chiswick Women’s Aid, by Erin Pizzey.[1][7][8] It opened the world’s first refuge for women and children escaping domestic violence, in Chiswick, west London.[9] In 1979 the organisation became a registered charity, changing its name to "Chiswick Family Rescue".[10][11] In 1993, the charity changed its name to Refuge, reflecting its growing national status.[9] This followed a funding crisis in 1992 when the charity faced closure, before Sandra Horley made a personal appeal to Diana, Princess of Wales who made a donation and several private visits to the charity's shelters, raising its profile.[7]

In 1997 three of the charity's trustees resigned in a controversy over one of their number's links to a group associated with false memory syndrome.[7] In 1999, Sheryl Gascoigne launched a campaign for Refuge, after her high profile divorce in 1998 following domestic violence at the hands of footballer Paul Gascoigne.[12]

In 2007, English actor Patrick Stewart was appointed the charity's patron, having witnessed his own mother fall victim to domestic violence during his childhood.[13] In 2009 Refuge conducted a television campaign titled 4 Ways To Speak Out in partnership with the cosmetics company Avon.


In 2010 Refuge had an income of £10,284,785.[14][15] The funding is mostly from United Kingdom taxpayers via the Home Office and local councils.

In 2009 a member of staff pocketed over £190,000 p.a. with employer pension contributions to the highest paid staff of over £70,000.[16]


Refuge operates 45 safe houses for female victims of domestic violence and their children, with a total of 250 spaces. They also offer[17]

The organisation runs a 24 hour domestic violence helpline in partnership with Women's Aid.

Refuge also seeks to raise awareness of domestic violence and lobbys to influence changes in legislation and policy.[6]


In 2011 Refuge founder Erin Pizzey criticised the present day organisation, arguing "they are on a feminist mission to demonise men — even those who never have and never will hit a woman".[15]


Patrons of the charity include Cherie Booth,[15] Patrick Stewart, Jo Brand, Helena Kennedy and Fiona Bruce.[18][19]


  1. ^ a b "Weymouth women's refuge sale is suspended". BBC News. 3 August 2010. 
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  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ a b c Daly, Emma (22 May 1997). "Women from a broken home?". London: The Independent. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  8. ^ "Weymouth's women's refuge plan deadline extended". BBC News. 5 January 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "35 years of Refuge". Refuge. undated. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "History". Refuge. undated. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  12. ^ Julia, Stuart (27 November 1999). "My Week: Sheryl Gascoigne Former Wife Of Paul Gascoigne". London: The Independent. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  13. ^ Stewart, Patrick (27 November 2009). "Patrick Stewart: the legacy of domestic violence". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c Pizzey, Erin (15 December 2011). "To say emotional abuse is as bad as violence insults every battered wife". Daily Mail (London). 
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