Press Release

24 February 2021

Refuge appoints new CEO

Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, is thrilled to announce the appointment of Ruth Davison as its new Chief Executive Officer. Davison joins from Comic Relief where she is interim CEO. This appointment comes as Refuge supports more women and children than ever before – more than 7,000 on any given day – and with domestic abuse never being higher on the political or public agenda.

Davison’s extensive CV includes Princes Trust International, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth and Crisis, as well as her current role with Comic Relief, one of the largest funders of work to tackle violence against women and girls in the UK. She brings a wealth of experience, is an authentic leader and will take Refuge to the next level with her commitment, drive and passion. With the Domestic Abuse Bill currently going through its final stages in Parliament and commitments from the government to transform the response to domestic abuse across the country, Davison will take the reins at a time of great opportunity, as well as at a time when specialist domestic abuse services, like those provided by Refuge, are needed more than ever.

Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, chair of Refuge’s Board of Trustees said:

“I am delighted to announce Ruth Davison as Refuge’s new Chief Executive. Ruth brings to Refuge a wealth of experience, expertise and insights and a deep commitment to addressing domestic abuse and inequality. This year Refuge celebrates its 50th birthday – I have no doubt that Ruth’s inspirational leadership skills and her proven commitment to diversity and inclusivity will drive and build Refuge, and the broader violence against women and girls sector, to a sustainable future which achieves yet more for the women and children who experience domestic abuse in this country today.”

As CEO at Comic Relief, Davison led the organisation through the global pandemic – growing income and brand awareness by delivering two live TV Telethons – raising a combined total of more than £100 million. This enabled the organisation to accelerate its grant making and increase the funds available to frontline organisations. Davison also led Comic Relief’s social change strategy, global philanthropic portfolio as well as its policy and advocacy work. Before becoming CEO of Comic Relief, Ruth held the position of Executive Director of Impact and Investment, where she established Gender Justice as one of the four pillars of Comic Relief’s funding strategy and focused on shifting power in grant-making; under Ruth’s leadership Comic Relief introduced participatory grant-making, prioritised funding to organisations whose strategies and approach were informed by lived experience and introduced an overt focus on addressing inequality in all funding. During 2020, this led to Comic Relief delivering its first racial inequality funding programme to address the disproportionate impact Covid-19 had on Black, Asian and minority people, and the historic under-funding of organisations working with these communities.

Davison is a lifelong activist, and a Board member of Greenpeace UK.

Ruth Davison said: “It is an honour to be joining Refuge as Chief Executive during such a critical time.

“I am a firm believer that no one should live in fear of violence, intimidation or control, and it has been deeply alarming to see the rise in domestic abuse during the pandemic. The outstanding services and support of Refuge will play a crucial role in helping some of the most vulnerable women and families throughout the Covid-19 recovery.

“I look forward to working closely with colleagues, supporters and survivors. The organisation is guided by those we seek to support and together we will ensure that Refuge grows from strength to strength as an inclusive, innovative and impactful organisation that strives to build a world where domestic abuse and violence against women and girls is no longer tolerated.”