Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland

24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline
0800 917 1414

homeabout us | services | help4you | domestic violence | help4us | volunteering | publications | useful links | jobs |



Other related pages


» helpline 

» helping a friend 

» know your rights!  

» local groups

Women's Aid 24 Hour Helpline  0800 917 1414


What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is the physical, emotional, sexual or mental abuse of one person by another, with whom they have or have had an intimate relationship.  

Domestic violence is very common: it can happen to any woman, regardless of her age, social class, race, disability or lifestyle.  Domestic violence can start at any point in a relationship, even many years after you first met.

Domestic violence is rarely a one-off event. Physical violence often escalates in frequency and severity over time. However, the violence can take many forms and even though the physical or sexual abuse may not happen regularly, other forms of abusive or controlling behaviour may be ongoing, so that you always feel off-balance or anxious about your relationship.

Although every situation is unique, there are some common behaviours that link the experience of an abusive relationship. Acknowledging that you are in an abusive relationship is an important step in preventing and stopping the violence. All forms of abuse – psychological, economic, emotional, sexual and physical - come from the abuser’s desire to maintain power and control over another person.

 What can I do if I'm in a violent relationship?

The first step is acknowledging that it is happening to you and to stop playing down the abuse you are experiencing. Women’s Aid is here to help you come to terms with the violence.

The second step is to recognise that you are not to blame. No-one deserves to be assaulted, humiliated or abused, least of all by their partner in a supposedly caring relationship. Women often blame themselves because they have consistently been told it is their fault.

The third step is to begin seeking the help and support that is available. This step includes gaining emotional support and practical help. You can start this process by talking to a friend that you trust, calling the Women’s Aid Helpline, or contacting your local Women’s Aid group. You may want to start thinking about moving to somewhere safe, away from your abuser, or taking legal action that will protect you and stop the violence against you.

Getting free of abuse can be a lengthy process. Most women try to seek help or leave a number of times before they finally make the break.

The prospect of leaving an abusive relationship can be as frightening as the prospect of staying. It takes courage for a woman to reach out and seek help and this process can be painful and distressing.

How can women's Aid help you?

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing, or has experienced, physical, emotional or sexual violence in the home, the Women’s Aid 24 hour Helpline (0800 917 1414) can give you support, help and information.

You do not have to be in an emergency situation to contact the Women’s Aid Helpline.

The Helpline is staffed by paid and voluntary workers, as well as women who have experienced the benefits of Women's Aid themselves.  The self-help process which allows women to take control of their own lives, underpins the work of Women's Aid.  They will discuss the practical and legal options available to you and, where necessary, refer you onto a refuge, a local Women’s Aid group or other agency that can help.  Your local Women’s Aid group may also offer aftercare or, face-to-face support.

You do not have to go to a refuge or leave your relationship to get support.                                                                                                      

If you do decide to go to a refuge Women’s staff and help you devise a safety plan for leaving.

What is a Refuge?

A refuge is a safe house where you can live free from violence. It offers temporary accommodation and a breathing space where decisions can be made free from pressure and fear. a refuge playroom - click to enlarge

If you have children, you can take them with you, but you don’t have to have children to stay in a refuge. There are refuges throughout Northern Ireland -you can choose to travel as far away from, or stay as near to, your home town as you wish. It may also be possible to get accommodated in refuges run by similar organisations throughout the UK.

A refuge - click to enlarge You can stay at the refuge for as long as you need, this can be anything from a few days to several months. The refuge will help you if you need to find somewhere permanent to stay.

Continuing support is available from the refuge workers when needed.  The networks established among women in the refuges are a very important source of support. 

How can I get referred to a Women's Aid refuge

There are no hard and fast procedures.  Referrals may come through Social Services, Police, Homeless Advice Unit, Samaritans, and The Citizens Advice Bureau.  You may get in touch with the refuge directly or through the Women's Aid Helpline.  If you need to go to a refuge in an emergency, the police can take you when asked to help.  Social workers and GP's also have lists of refuge addresses.    

Who can go to a refuge?

Any woman, regardless of her religion, political outlook, culture or background. 

How much does it cost?

If you have no income or are on income support, Housing Benefit covers rents.  When you come to a refuge you are entitled to make a claim for income support.  If you are on a low income the cost charged will reflect your ability to pay.

What facilities are there for families?

Living accommodation is shared, women cook for their own families and good laundry facilities are available for washing and drying clothes.  Families will have their own sleeping accommodation.  Outings and playgroups are sometimes arranged for the children.  

What if I don't want to go to a refuge?

Many local Women’s Aid groups also run advice centres, drop in centres or outreach services to more isolated areas. You can call in to see someone or telephone for advice and support, without having to stay in a refuge. 

How can I help a friend?

Click here for information on helping a friend

A Safety Plan

  • Know where the nearest telephone is located. 

  • Know where refuge can be sought. 

  • Make a list of important and emergency numbers. 

  • Save money for bus or taxi fare. 

  • Have an extra set of keys to home and car. 

  • Pack an emergency bag - take enough clothes, including school uniforms and children’s favourite possessions. 

  • Consider when it is best to leave. Discuss it with the children. It is important to try to leave with all the children. 

  • Keep important documents together e.g. benefit books, medical cards, certificates, bank books, legal orders etc. 

  • Keep a note of the family’s essential medicines.  

When Leaving 

  • Leave when partner is not around. 

  • Take all of the children. 

  • Take personal belongings. 

  • Take clothing for several days. 

  • Take children's favourite toys. 

  • Take medicine.    

  • Take important documents (medical cards, passports etc).

back to top

contact us

Contact Us:  129 University Street Belfast. BT7 1HP  Tel:(028) 90 249041 Fax:(028) 90 239296  
General email: [email protected]


Please help keep our website useful by providing suggestions and comments by filling in our feedback form


Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland