Ann's escape from domestic abuse

Ann’s husband had been financially controlling and emotionally abusive for years. (Ann's name has been changed to protect her identity)

She’d migrated to the UK and was far away from her friends and family. Not knowing many people, Ann was alone, feeling trapped and struggling with her young children. 

Leaving the relationship seemed impossible. She really hoped she could make it work and that his behaviour would change. Instead, things got worse. 

He became physically violent for the first time. After learning that Ann was pregnant again, he attempted to push her down the stairs.

Seeking help

Months passed. Ann was now heavily pregnant with three young children to look after. She was concerned about the ongoing abuse affecting them all. 

Still shaken from that earlier incident, which could have been fatal for her unborn child, she sought help.

Fortunately, Ann had found out about Safer Families: Enhanced Caseworkers – a local service for adults experiencing domestic abuse. It was in fact a service provided by The Gaia Centre in Lambeth as part of our early years programme. The Gaia Centre offers support for any victim of gender-based violence in Lambeth.

The escape

Talking through her options with our LEAP caseworker, Ann realised she wanted to flee and take her children to a safer place. She was incredibly anxious. Would they get away safely? Where would they live? How would she support her family? 

Understandably, Ann changed her mind several times. The caseworker reassured her, respected her wishes, and provided the emotional support she needed to make the best decision for her and her children.

She was really worried about money. In many cases of abuse, the perpetrator exerts financial control over their victim, leaving them feeling powerless to escape. But her caseworker was there to help her understand her rights and access all the support she needed. 

Ann’s homeless application was successful, and she was placed in temporary accommodation. Emergency funding from children’s social care meant that she could escape before her benefit payments came through. Our LEAP worker also persuaded children’s social care to fund a taxi to get Ann and her children safely to their new accommodation. Everything went to plan. 

Not over

It was a vulnerable time for them. They’d escaped during the height of the pandemic, which meant more isolation and slower responses from services. On top of everything, Ann was close to giving birth.

They were in a safe place, but what about their living costs? Where would she get hold of baby essentials? How would she support her children’s learning? What about their health needs? 

It’s easy to slip between the cracks, no matter how well-meaning the system is. Thankfully, Ann’s LEAP caseworker was with her for the long run – linking her to food and baby banks, advocating for more support and introducing her to the local children’s centre and health services. Our caseworkers ensure that services work together to stop families like Ann’s from falling through the cracks.

Happier children

Ann had a healthy baby, and the birth went to plan.

The LEAP caseworker had helped her put everything into place, from communicating with the midwifery team to identifying a safe friend who would look after the children in Ann’s absence.

“The conversations when I was about to leave and I was very scared and not sure, and you helped me to take the decision. I feel free and happier. You showed me that it was possible. With your help and support I managed to do so.”

“My children are happier because they are safe now. Also, they have a garden, some space to play.”

Help us create happier outcomes for more children

Ann had accessed the Gaia Centre years before our Enhanced Caseworker support existed. She had identified her husband’s behaviour as a problem, but she wasn’t ready to take up any of the options. It meant the centre had to close her case. 

Ann wanted a safer environment for herself and her children, but she was frightened. Our LEAP caseworkers can help people, like Ann, who aren’t ready to act. Rather than closing their cases, we can provide one-to-one support to build confidence and independence.

Domestic abuse has a lasting and adverse impact on children. Our LEAP team seeks to reduce its prevalence and impact by preventing future harm. Enhanced Caseworkers specialise in working with those who are pregnant or have young children. They provide support at an earlier stage of abuse, over a longer period, and more holistically and flexibly than is possible in traditional domestic abuse services.


Have you been affected by this story — or know someone who needs help? Contact our Enhanced Caseworkers. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible. 

Phone: 0207 7338724
Email: lambethvawg@refuge.org.uk

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