Winter Survival Appeal: Inside the refuge helping women who have fled abusive homes

The Standard visits a refuge backed by our appeal that helps victims of domestic abuse
Amtal Rana, Kiran Support Services CEO

Sadia had been at university in Pakistan when she took part in an arranged marriage and moved to London two years ago. The 26-year-old said: “When I was living in Pakistan I thought people in London would be more modern, but when I got married and moved here to be with my husband, his family was more traditional than my own.”

Sadia moved into a house with her husband and his parents and his two grown-up brothers and immediately the relationship became abusive. “Everyone thought I was lucky because I had a new big home,” Sadia said quietly. “I was supposed to cook and clean and do everything for them. I wasn’t allowed to go out on my own.”

Sadia said her mother-in-law encouraged her son to hit his new wife, saying: “She is your wife, she is supposed to look after you.” Sadia added: “When my husband’s nails were too long my mother-in-law asked why I had not cut them.”


Sadia was told to bring her husband a pot of warm water for his feet when he got home from work. “I had to clean the toilet used by his brothers. If they were out late at night, I had to stay awake so I could feed them. I had to clean their underpants.”

When Sadia’s father-in-law began acting violently, Sadia decided enough was enough and — despite being pregnant with her second child — fled.

She found a mobile phone (her husband had taken hers away) and called the police and was taken to a hotel with her daughter. Although she was safe, the hotel was by the side of a motorway and far from shops with no access to a kitchen. That was when Kiran Support Services stepped in. The charity helps South Asian women affected by domestic abuse. It runs three refuges for women, provides therapy for children, immigration advice, drop-in support, specialist counselling, advocacy and resettlement support.

Kiran Support Services is one of eight charities being funded with a £31,250 grant out of the £250,000 pot of funds raised for our Winter Survival Appeal from the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund, with grants being administered by the London Community Foundation.

Sadia lives in one of the charity’s refuges, alongside six other women and their children. Each family has their own bedroom and share a kitchen and living room. Sadia’s baby is due any day. Sadia said: “I got more support than I ever expected. I am so relieved. I have had counselling and I am getting stronger all the time.”

Amtal Rana, CEO of Kiran Support Services, said the cost-of-living crisis is affecting all the charity’s work. She said: “It is taking longer to rehouse women when they leave here. We can’t take new women until there is space. We have had cases where women have gone back to abusive relationships because there has been nowhere for them to go.”

Last year the charity provided 1,187 counselling sessions to women in their own language, a 41 per cent increase on the previous year. Lily, 25, who lives in the same refuge as Sadia after escaping a violent seven-year marriage, said: “I was born in Afghanistan but brought up in London. I had an arranged marriage. He said I couldn’t have any friends and made me wear the hijab. I couldn’t live with him controlling and abusing me. I was suicidal. Now I feel like I have been born again.”

Names have been changed

How you can help

£10 could provide a nourishing meal for a Londoner every day for a month

£20 could provide a duvet and pillow to a young person helping them sleep at night

£50 could contribute to a new school uniform for a child fleeing with a parent from an abusive relationship

£100 could provide 400 meals for families at a local community centre

£300 could pay for all that’s needed by a family expecting a baby, including new cot, mattress and pram

£1,750 could get a truck packed with enough food for 7,000 meals

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