Blog Article | 5 December 2023

Blog: Claire’s Story – How a survivor of domestic violence now volunteers to help others

5 December 2023

Trigger/Content warning: Mention of graphic or explicit violence.

Author: Claire, Refuge Referral Line volunteer

During 16 Days of Activism we’ve invited other organisations to shed light on how they’re combatting gender-based violence and domestic abuse. Join us as we learn, explore strategies, share stories and advocate for a future that ensures all victims are supported.

Claire nearly lost her life when her partner tried to murder her in her sleep. Claire was supported by Hestia and now volunteers on our refuge referral line, taking calls from other women affected by domestic abuse.

How did you get into volunteering for Hestia?

In 2020 my partner tried to murder me whilst I was asleep. It was my daughter who saved me. I was stabbed eight times and had no use of my arm for over a year.

“I feel so lucky to be alive and now I get to help other women get out of awful situations before something like that happens to them.”

I feel like I’m living for a reason. I believe that there are lessons to be learned in life and if my story can help someone else then something good has to come from it.

What does a typical day/evening of volunteering look like?

The first ever call that I took was a complex one. It was a lady that really was in danger, frightened and desperate for help. I was able to call her back and tell her that she’d been accepted into refuge. She was crying with joy, she was so happy and that was really moving and humbling. I felt like I’d made a difference. The majority of the calls aren’t this intense but every now and again you do get one that is.

I usually try to do one day a week and I volunteer through the holiday periods as well, just whenever I can really. Usually I go in, answer the phone, talk to the women, and take referrals. The best part is when a referral to a refuge is accepted, especially when you’ve worked on it all day. When you get to phone them with the good news, it’s the best feeling. It’s very rewarding.

“To be able to tell them that they’ve got somewhere safe to go and have a chance to rebuild their lives in safety, it’s very moving.”

The team is so lovely and it’s not a pressured environment. If you have any questions, there’s always someone to ask. Over time there have been a few difficult calls and I’ve learnt a lot from the other volunteers.

What have you learned from your time volunteering?

Before I started, I had to do adult and child safeguarding training, I shadowed people’s calls and then when I felt confident, I took my first call. I knew from that first call that I had made a difference and I realised; this is what I’d like to do. It’s so rewarding.

“When you’re mentally and physically abused for years and years, you lose a lot of your self-esteem and the referral line has really helped build that up for me.”

Before this I only had my story but now I hold the stories of other women that I speak to on the referral line, and I learn from their stories. I start to see a commonality, things that are failing in the system and things that work well. The most fulfilling thing is getting a woman into refuge where she can be safe and start to rebuild her life. To be able to be part of that journey to give one woman a better life and to set her free – it’s incredible. I’ve managed to get my life back now, but I could have been one of those two women a week that die.

Outside of volunteering I’ve been able to do talks as a survivor of domestic violence and I feed back a lot of what I’ve learned from the referral line to others working in this area, such as medical professionals.

 What would you say to encourage others to volunteer?

When you go through domestic violence, you start to think, “Wow I should have seen this, I should have seen that”. But working on the referral line you start to realise that you aren’t alone. You’re not the only person that this has happened to. I’ve learned a lot about myself and now I try not to be so hard on myself. It can happen to anybody.

That’s why I volunteer and why I will always volunteer, even when I have a paid job. I try to take everything bad that happened to me and use it for good to help others. I feel like I’m living for a reason.

Hestia’s Refuge Referral Line supports women and children experiencing domestic abuse to find safe, secure and suitable refuge spaces across London.   

We are currently looking for more volunteers for our Refuge Referral Line. If you are interested, please do get in touch to find out more:


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