Culturally specific services

Black and minoritised women often face additional barriers to accessing support due to discrimination, language needs or immigration status. We’re committed to breaking down those barriers.

We’re breaking down cultural barriers.

Domestic abuse crosses the boundaries of race, culture, language and religious and ethnic background. It can happen to anyone. But, for a multitude of reasons, Black and minoritised women often face additional barriers to accessing support. For example:

  • Discrimination, language barriers, or immigration status can hinder some minority women’s ability to access support
  • Many survivors from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee backgrounds can face cultural and community pressures that may make it more difficult for some women to escape the abuser
  • Some survivors may have been trafficked into the UK or forced into marriage
  • Some women may prefer to access support from women who speak their language and understand their culture/cultural background and specific needs.

Refuge is committed to breaking down these barriers to accessing help. Our expert staff speak a range of languages and we provide culturally-specific services for Eastern European, Vietnamese, African, Caribbean and Asian women. We continuously adapt and improve our services to ensure equality of access for all survivors. We also run a range of culturally-specific refuge and community-based outreach and advocacy services, run by multi-lingual expert practitioners.

Vietnamese and Chinese outreach service

Refuge’s specialist Vietnamese service operates across the country. Many of the women (and men) it supports have experienced – or are at risk of – multiple types of gender-based violence and domestic abuse, including human trafficking and modern slavery. A large number of women we support also have insecure immigration status or have no recourse to public funds – something their abusers frequently use to control them. Refuge’s specialist Vietnamese workers can support women in their own language to:

  • Understand their rights and feel empowered
  • Review access to public funds
  • Keep themselves and their children safe
  • Access immigration solicitors to regularise their immigration status in the UK
  • Report abuse to the police and access the criminal justice system
  • Access ‘first-responder’ organisations for support services within the National Referral
  • Mechanism following human trafficking or modern slavery
  • Attend English classes and reduce their isolation

Eastern European Advocacy and Outreach Services

For a domestic abuse survivor, accessing support from an independent advocate who understands her culture and speaks her language is invaluable. Refuge runs specialist advocacy and outreach services:

  • Understand her rights and feel empowered
  • Access safe accommodation
  • Navigate the criminal justice system
  • Access financial support and employment opportunities
  • Communicate safely with friends and family
  • Benefit from safe use of technology
  • Access support from other agencies, such as mental health services
  • Overcome language barriers
  • Keep herself and her children safe

Culturally-specific refuges

We run a number of refuges specifically for women of African and Caribbean descent, and for women of Asian descent. Nine out of ten women in these refuges have said they preferred living in a specialist refuge.

Refuge workers at these specialist accomodations speak a range of languages, including Urdu, Punjabi, Mirpuri, Hindi and Sylheti. They also understand the specific pressures and challenges facing the women they support, which offers survivors relief knowing they will not be judged or misunderstood for their experiences, immigration status, religion or traditions.

Our culturally-specific refuges are adapted to offer survivors:

  • Language support
  • Support around immigration, asylum and modern slavery
  • Support to access the criminal justice system
  • Support relating to forced marriage, ‘honour’-based violence and FGM
  • Support following potential or actual child kidnap (including overseas)
  • Staff accompany women to appointments, to support and empower them and challenge prejudices and racism
  • Staff work with women to connect, safely, with local cultural and faith groups
  • Support to access safe technology
  • Providing separate pots, cutlery and utensils to cater for any dietary requirements

Spotlight on Linh*

Linh* left Vietnam for China in 2005. Instead of the expected factory job, she faced the choice of prostitution or having her organs removed. In 2015 she was trafficked to the UK and moved from place to place. Her captors threatened that the police would imprison her if she communicated with them. Linh believed this and was scared.

A police raid enabled her escape but left Linh unsure of where to turn. By approaching Vietnamese women in the street, she learnt about our Vietnamese and Chinese Outreach Service. Linh couldn’t believe that a Refuge worker would see her, all for free.

We provided her with clothes, food and safe accommodation. We found a solicitor able to see her immediately. And we referred her to a specialist counselling service. Linh is now living in her own accommodation. She has been granted leave to remain under asylum and refugee status.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.


Brunette woman looking into camera against a white background.