Queen visits Lambeth’s Gaia Centre

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Images: Refuge/Stacey Osborne

The Queen today (23 January) visited the Gaia Centre in Lambeth, a community-based lifeline working to end gender-based violence and support survivors of domestic abuse.

The centre, run by the domestic abuse service provider and charity Refuge, is a one-stop shop service, a community hub based in the heart of Lambeth working to end gender-based violence.

The Queen met survivors of domestic abuse, frontline staff from Refuge’s service delivery team and from Refuge’s leadership team including interim CEO Ellen Miller and the chair of Refuge’s board of trustees Hetti Barkworth-Nanton CBE

She also spoke to members of Lambeth council, which commissions The Gaia Centre service, about the work to end gender-based violence in the area.

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The Queen with Refuge staff (l-r) Aneta Mularczyk, refuge senior operations manager; Hetti Barkworth-Nanton CBE, Refuge chair; Marta Guss, Refuge service manager, The Queen; Louise Firth, Refuge director of fundraising and communicartions; Ellen Miller, Refuge Interim CEO

The Queen visited a children’s playroom and heard from Refuge’s specialist staff about how children who have experienced domestic abuse, and other forms of violence against women and giles (VAWG) including child sexual exploitation, are supported by centre.

The Gaia Centre is one of Refuge’s community-led services to support survivors of domestic abuse and different forms of VAWG, providing confidential, non-judgemental and independent support services for people living in Lambeth who are experiencing gender-based violence.

“I particularly salute all the survivors who are able to get out there; to talk to me, talk to everybody and tell other people about what they’ve been through, because they are going to save many lives by getting others to come forward,” said the Queen.

“It’s wonderful to see everybody here today, to see a whole team working together. It’s obviously producing good results and will save lives. Thank you all very much for all you do in this field, because you are doing a brilliant job.”

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Ellen Miller said Refuge been campaigning for a long time to raise awareness of community-based domestic abuse services.

“We were thrilled that The Queen visited the Refuge-run Gaia Centre today. Local services like our Gaia Centre service in Lambeth are absolute lifelines for communities, providing survivors of domestic abuse a vital support system,” she said.

Of the survivors Refuge supported in the past year, 95% were supported by these types of community-based services.

“These important services, run by dedicated staff, are only available because of the generosity of charitable supporters, and run by dedicated staff, working tirelessly to address the epidemic social issue of gender-based violence and ensuring access to specialist support for survivors,” said Miller.

Thanking the Queen for her visit, Hetti Barkworth-Nanton CBE she had had a long history of lending her support and voice to the campaign to end gender-based violence and domestic abuse.

“Today, Her Majesty met with survivors of domestic abuse and listened to their stories of experiencing and overcoming this horrific crime,” said Barkworth-Nanton.

“When survivors so bravely share their stories about lived experience of domestic abuse, they do so, so that they can help others and inform the vital work that is ongoing.

“The women who so powerfully spoke to The Queen today really embodied what it is to be survivors.”

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The Queen visited some of the specialist facilities Refuge provides, including a children’s playroom. We know that children don’t just witness domestic abuse, they experience it as victims in their own right,” said Barkworth-Nanton.

“Refuge’s mission is to support women and their children to live a life free from abuse.”

The Queen also met expert frontline staff who gave her details about what Refuge and the Gaia Centre are doing to support more survivors in their communities so that they have options on how to rebuild their lives following gender-based violence and domestic abuse.

“I know Her Majesty is hugely passionate in her work in this area to eradicate domestic abuse and gender-based violence and we look forward to continuing this work together,” said Barkworth-Nanton.

95% of survivors supported by Refuge use community-based services is calculated based on internal intake numbers from FY 2022-23.

The Gaia Centre is a community-based service and operates as a one-stop shop supporting survivors with outreach programmes, independent advocacy such as legal and economic support, group support, support around accommodation and housing and other specialist services.

It is accessible to anyone living in Lambeth who has experienced or is at risk of gender-based violence.

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Types of gender-based violence Refuge’s Gaia centre supports include domestic abuse (physical, sexual, financial, emotional, economic, psychological and tech-facilitated abuse), rape and sexual assault, stalking and harassment, sexual exploitation including child sexual exploitation and prostitution, modern slavery/human trafficking, female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and so-called “honour”-based abuse.

Refuge is the country’s largest provider of specialist support for women and their children experiencing domestic abuse and gender-based violence.

It supports thousands of survivors on any given day, and says that someone looks to for every every two minutes.

Refuge opened the world’s first safe house for abused women and their children in West London in 1971.

The charity also runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country.

More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and on average two women are killed by a current or former partner a week.

The helpline – 0808 2000 247 – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for free, confidential specialist support.

Or visit nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3–10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.