Our Services

One-to-One

Choices works with any person who may be experiencing domestic abuse from a partner, family member or someone they’ve had an intimate relationship with.

  • We will listen to what you have to say
  • We will be supportive and non-judgemental
  • We will give you information about options available to you so that you can make an informed decision about your future
  • We can signpost you to other agencies who can help
  • We will reassure you that it is not your fault

Call our Helpline free on 08009179948 between 09:00 and 16:30 Monday to Friday.

Refuge Search

If you're looking to flee an abusive relationship now, we can offer help and advice around how to leave safely.

Call our helpline on 0800 917 9948 and we can provide a UK-wide search of refuge vacancies.

Refuge is not the only option, and if you wish to leave by other means or remove your abuser from your home, we can discuss those other options with you and advise around keeping you and your family safe.

Support Groups

  • Freedom Programme

    The Freedom Programme is a support group for women who have experienced or who are currently experiencing domestic abuse. The group is led by a trained facilitator and will consist of a small group of women. The group runs for 11 weeks and we meet once a week for approx. 1hour and a half. The group looks at the tactics used by abusive people and the impact this has on us and our ability to make decisions, also the impact it has on the children and focuses on the looking at warning signs. To make a referral either download a copy of our referral form; or, to speak to someone from the team for further information, please call 0800 917 9948 .

Step Change

Step Change is an original programme designed to work with and support the needs of victims of domestic abuse and their children.

We want to help you take back control of your life, to strengthen your family and to be your scaffold: to support you and your child to make the changes you want to see.

We understand that life is not a straight line from struggle to success and where things go wrong, support rather than judgement will help you through.

We understand that living in a chaotic environment has a knock-on effect throughout your day-to-day life - medical or other important appointments may be missed.

At times the “shopping list” of things to do can be overwhelming and we will also work with other agencies, advocating for you, your obstacles and your goals.

"After all this time it was a relief just to be listened to - to be believed."

"My IDVA was amazing - she helped me out of a dark place."

1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives.
Only 10% will report it to the police.
Only 5% will seek help.

There are a range of reasons men have told us they haven’t sought help before. Most common is the fear that they won’t be believed.

We believe you.

Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of age, race, sexual orientation and, yes, gender. It doesn’t need to be physical. An abusive partner, ex-partner or family member may control what you do and who you see, or how your money’s spent. They may constantly shout at you or tell you you’re worthless, may intentionally humiliate you in public or at home.

You’re not the only one who’s going through this, and you don’t have to suffer alone.

  • We will listen to what you have to say
  • We will be supportive and non-judgemental
  • We will give you information about options available to you so that you can make an informed decision about your future
  • We can signpost you to other agencies who can help
  • We will reassure you that it is not your fault

Call our Helpline free on 08009179948 between 09:00 and 16:30 Monday to Friday.

Step Change

Step Change is an original programme designed to work with and support the needs of victims of domestic abuse and their children.

We want to help you take back control of your life, to strengthen your family and to be your scaffold: to support you and your child to make the changes you want to see.

We understand that life is not a straight line from struggle to success and where things go wrong, support rather than judgement will help you through.

We understand that living in a chaotic environment has a knock-on effect throughout your day-to-day life - medical or other important appointments may be missed.

At times the “shopping list” of things to do can be overwhelming and we will also work with other agencies, advocating for you, your obstacles and your goals.

Living With Abuse

1 in 7 young people have lived with domestic abuse – whether that’s experiencing it yourself or seeing it happen to your mum, dad, grandparents, guardian or carer. If someone in your home is abusing you or someone else, you’re not the only one going through it, but that does not make it OK.

Abuse doesn’t have to be physical. If someone at home is being called names – fat, stupid, lazy – or is regularly shouted at or made to do things that make you uncomfortable, those are all signs of domestic abuse.

And help and advice is available here.

Dating Abuse

The beginning of a new relationship is exciting. You can’t wait to see your BF/GF and it feels amazing to know that they feel the same way about you. During this early stage it can be very easy to overlook things that might under normal circumstances both you. You are more likely to dis miss the small things that your new partner does that make you feel uncomfortable or unsure or things may move faster than you feel comfortable with.

It's not always easy to see abuse starting in a relationship.

It can start with small things like teasing and name-calling and gradually get worse, with put-downs turning into physical abuse and/or control over time. But these “small” things can wear people down and can make it harder to take action. It can be hard to believe that the same person who says the love you could also be abusing you.

Warning signs

Ask yourself, does my BF/GF:

  • Get angry when I don’t drop everything for them? Or reply immediately to calls or texts.
  • Criticise the way I look or dress?
  • Keep me from seeing friends or stop me from talking to any other boys/girls?
  • Check my phone/social media
  • Want me to stop an activity/hobby even though I really enjoy it?
  • Ever raise a hand when angry, like they are about to hit me?
  • Try to force me to go further than I want sexually?
  • Blame me for their behaviour?

Of course these aren’t the only questions you can ask yourself. If you can think of any way your BF/GF is trying to control you, make you feel bad about yourself, isolate you from the rest of your world, or harm you physical, emotionally or sexually, then it’s time to get out.

It can be tempting to make excuses or mistake violence, possessiveness, or anger as an expression of love, but it’s important to remember that this is not how love it. It’s not healthy to be in a relationship where you feel afraid or bad about yourself.

How to get help

First things first: if you’re in danger, don’t wait. Call 999 now and ask for the police. Fear of upsetting someone isn’t worth the risk to your safety.

You are aged...
Young Persons Violence & Abuse Advisor

If you’re living with domestic abuse – either from a partner, an ex, or a family member – Choices' Young Person’s Violence and Abuse Advisor (YPVA) can help.

  • We will listen to what you have to say
  • We will be supportive and non-judgemental
  • We will give you information about options available to you so that you can make an informed decision about your future
  • We can signpost you to other agencies who can help
  • We will reassure you that it is not your fault

You can download our referral form below. There are instructions on where to return it to and you can read about how we store and use your information here. Once we’ve received it we’ll aim to be in touch within 48 hours not including weekends.

Aged 16 or over?

Need to talk to someone for advice and information about domestic abuse now?

Call our Helpline free on 08009179948 between 09:00 and 16:30 Monday to Friday.

Other people who can help
  • A trusted grown-up. This might be:
    • Your teacher
    • Your mum, dad, guardian or carer (if they're not the abusive person)
    • A family friend or neighbour you know very well and trust
    • A nurse or doctor
    • A police officer
  • Childline is a free, private and confidential service for anyone under 19. You can call about anything, big or small, and not just domestic abuse. Their number is 0800 1111.
  • Galop are a national LGBT+ anti-violence charity who can offer advice and information around domestic abuse in the context of LGBT+ relationships. You can call them on 0800 999 5428.
  • Karma Nirvana are a specialist charity who can provide advice and information for victims of so-called "honour-based" violence and forced marriage. You can call them on 0800 5999 247.
Who can you talk to?
  • A trusted grown-up. This might be:
    • Your teacher
    • Your mum, dad, guardian or carer (if they're not the abusive person)
    • A family friend or neighbour you know very well and trust
    • A nurse or doctor
    • A police officer
  • Childline is a free, private and confidential service for anyone under 19. You can call about anything, big or small, and not just domestic abuse. Their number is 0800 1111.

Accommodation Services

Choices runs a safe hostel in Gravesend offering support and advice for a variety of problems, and help with getting your own permanent home. We are pleased to be opening a second hostel in the coming months.

Who’s it for?

We currently accept young single women only, aged 18-25, either homeless or at risk of homelessness.

What type of accommodation is it?

The hostel has 7 rooms, 3 of which include en suite amenities such as kitchenettes and one of which is fully wheel-chair accessible and includes a wet-room. Rooms are allocated on the basis of availability and need. There are 4 shared shower rooms, and shared kitchens where en suite is not a feature.

It is considered temporary accommodation for those in need and we will support you to find your own home.

What kind of support is offered?

You will work with our accommodation staff to create a support plan looking at what you need – be it knowledge of tenancies, skills to live independently or support around your physical or mental health.

These can include:

  • Starter tenancies and what to expect
  • Assured shorthold tenancies (ASTs)
  • How to arrange repairs
  • Setting up or changing energy suppliers, and how to take meter readings
  • How to use utilities such as washing machines and dryers
  • Council tax and how to claim for reductions
  • TV licenses: how to apply and ways to pay
  • Applying for grants for things like carpet, cutlery and bedding
  • Warm home discounts
  • Writing and keeping to budgets
  • How to create and manage a diary
  • Safely purchasing from second-hand sites such as Freecycle
  • Registering with a GP

We provide internet and access to a computer if you need it to get you on the housing list and to make and follow-up on bids through HomeChoice.

We are part of PATH which stands for Prevention of Actual and Threatened Homelessness and partner with Samaratens, Porchlight, Mind and CAB. Through PATH we can link you in with services that will help with a further range of issues such as mental health and immigration.

What does it cost?

Once you’ve applied we will check our vacancies and get in touch with you and you may be offered a one-to-one meeting to discuss what you need and what we can offer – called a needs assessment.

At that meeting we will look at your financial situation to assess whether some or all of the costs would be covered by any benefits you are either claiming or are entitled to. Typically, if you’re not working, rent can be paid in full through your benefits.

There is an additional weekly service charge to cover gas, electricity, water, council tax and other amenities.

How do I apply?

You can apply to us directly by downloading the referral form below, or a professional supporting you can apply on your behalf.

Face-to-Face drop in support for victims of domestic abuse

Open to all victims of domestic abuse, One Stop Shops are a coordinated effort by domestic abuse services, solicitors, police, health, housing and other services to provide a safe space for victims.

Here you can come and meet with professionals from a wide range of relevant fields, who can come together to provide a “whole-picture” response to the issues you may be facing.

Below are the details of the One Stop Shops in the Kent districts we operate in:

Medway

Location: The Sunlight Centre, 105, Richmond Road, Gillingham, ME7 1LX

Day & Time: Tuesdays, 09:30-12:00

Dartford

Location: The Brent Children’s Centre, The Roundhouse, Overy Street, Dartford, DA1 1UP

Day & Time: Tuesdays, 09:30-12:00

Gravesend

Location: The Gateway, Civic Centre, Gravesend, DA12 1DE

Day & Time: Thursdays, 09:30-12:00

Maidstone

Location: Salvation Army Building, 74-80 Union Street, Maidstone, ME14 1ED

Day & Time: Tueadays, 09:30-11:30

Tonbridge

Location: Circles Home Russett, 4 New Wharf Road, Tonbridge TN9 1DS

Day & Time: Thursdays, 09:30-12:00

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is the repeated, habitual controlling behaviour used by one person to intimidate another, within an intimate or family type relationship. It is the misuse of power in order to gain control.

Domestic Abuse can be:

  • Physical - such as slapping, punching, kicking, pushing you around, pulling your hair.
  • Sexual - forcing you to have sex with your partner or others.
  • Parental - abuse of children
  • Emotional – threatening to kill themselves if you leave
  • Psychological - calling you names, putting you down, humiliating you in public, stopping you from going out or seeing your friends and family, turning your children against you, mind games, controlling your life.
  • Financial – stopping you from having money of your own, keeping you with not enough money for the things you and/or your children need.

Domestic violence is a crime. We all have a role to play in ending it.

Why does domestic abuse happen?

Domestic abuse is caused by one person’s desire for power and control over another. Although anyone (man or woman) can be an abuser, statistics show that life-threatening or "high-risk" domestic abuse is most commonly experienced by women and perpetrated by men.

Abusers are careful about who they abuse and about when and where and how they carry out abuse - this shows that they are making a choice and therefore, have not ‘lost control’ but, in fact, the very opposite.

There is no single reason as to why domestic abuse continues to happen but these are some of the things which are understood to contribute:

  • Stereotypes and inequality - Men are still seen as more important than women in our society – better jobs, higher wages, the main earners, head of the household and women are seen to be ‘care givers’- looking after their men, children, parents, going without to provide for others.
  • Society’s tolerance or acceptance of the use of violence – failure to prosecute/minimising of the charge (ABH reduced often to common assault)
  • Society’s belief that the victim is to blame for causing the abuse- ‘she provoked him’, ‘she asked for it’.
  • Friends, families, communities and society as a whole collude with an abuser - denying, accepting and/or covering incidents of abuse. Abusers continue to ‘get away with it’
  • Lack of resources to enable victims to leave - inappropriate or inadequate housing, limited childcare, insufficient support for victims with complex needs.

It is not caused by alcohol, drugs, unemployment, stress or ill health. These are only excuses or justifications for an abuser's behaviour.

Who does domestic abuse happen to?

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. Domestic abuse happens to people regardless of:

  • Social background (class)
  • Age
  • Ethnicity (race)
  • Religion
  • Culture
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Lifestyle
  • Gender

Who is an abuser?

An abuser can be anyone. An abuser chooses to use abusive behaviour in order to get what they want.

Abusers usually behave differently in public than they do in their intimate/ family type relationships. Many abusers may seem charming, hold down important jobs, be well respected in their communities and appear helpful to others - this makes it even more difficult for people to believe that abuse is happening.

How widespread is Domestic Abuse?

Sadly, domestic abuse affecrs 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetimes

Less than half of all domestic abuse incidents are actually reported to the police.

The police receive 1 call every minute about domestic abuse.

Am I or is someone I know being abused?

A person’s experience of domestic abuse will be very individual but all abusive relationships have some common factors - things that lots of victims have said happened to them. If you have to regularly change your behaviour because you are scared of your partner/family member’s reaction, you are probably being abused.

This list might help you to think about whether you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship.

  • Verbal abuse: criticising your clothes, body, parenting, housekeeping, cooking, shouting, mocking, accusing, name calling, verbally threatening, humiliating you verbally in public.
  • Pressure tactics: sulking; threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children; lying to your friends and family about you; telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
  • Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people; not listening or responding when you talk; interrupting your telephone calls; taking money from your purse without asking; refusing to help with childcare or housework.
  • Breaking trust: lying to you; withholding information from you; being jealous; having other relationships; breaking promises and shared agreements.
  • Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls; telling you where you can and cannot go; preventing you from seeing friends and relatives either directly or by making it uncomfortable when you do try and see them.
  • Harassment: following you; checking up on you; opening your mail; repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you; reading your texts; looking at your emails; embarrassing you in public.
  • Threats: making angry gestures; using subtle body language that only you and the abuser know in order to threaten you; using physical size to intimidate; shouting you down; destroying your possessions; breaking things; punching walls; wielding a knife or a gun; threatening to kill or harm you and the children.
  • Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts with the abuser or someone else; having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex; any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.
  • Physical: punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching; kicking; pulling hair out; pushing; shoving; burning; strangling.
  • Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen; saying you caused the abusive behaviour; being nice to you in public; crying, saying sorry, begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again.

The Myths and Realities of Abuse

Myth Reality
Alcohol and drugs make him/her violent. Domestic abuse is not caused by alcohol, drugs, unemployment, stress or ill health. These are only excuses or a way to justify an abuser's behaviour.
Domestic abuse only happens in poor families. Domestic abuse can happen in any neighbourhood, abusers can be from any ‘class’, they can be of any age, be able bodied or have a disability, belong to any religious group, be of any ethnic background and abusers can be male or female and of any sexual orientation
Violence and abuse are about anger and loss of control. Abusers are careful about who, how and where they abuse, showing choice. They are aware of their actions and are therefore not ‘out of control’. Ask yourself: when he or she gets angry and throws around "whatever's to hand" are they breaking their own things or yours? Abusers use abusive behaviours to get what they want and gain control.
Stress causes domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is not ‘caused’ by stress; domestic abuse is a misuse of power it is behaviour which has been learned and is carried out with intent. Abusers often blame other people or things for their behaviour. Being stressed is just an excuse, a way of avoiding taking responsibility.
Victims of abuse often provoke and ask for it. You can’t make someone hit you, it is their choice, their responsibility. Often victims go out of their way to avoid conflict in a relationship and the abuse still continues. Nobody ever asks for abuse, abuse is never the fault of the victim.
People who abuse are mentally ill, they can’t help it. Victims often feel trapped in their abusive relationship, by a number of things including fear, shame, lack of money and/or debts, worries over children, low self esteem, still loving the abuser, lack of knowledge about the help they could get, being isolated by location or language or complex needs.
Domestic abuse can’t be that bad or victims would leave. Abusers are careful about who, how and where they abuse, showing choice. They are aware of their actions and are therefore not ‘out of control’. Ask yourself: when he or she gets angry and throws around whatever's to hand are they breaking their own things or yours? Abusers use abusive behaviours to get what they want and gain control.
Domestic abuse is private; you shouldn’t get involved. Domestic violence is a crime. We all have a role to play in ending it.

What is a Safety Plan?

A Personal Safety Plan is a checklist which helps you to think about how to be safer when you are experiencing domestic abuse or thinking about leaving an abusive situation.

Many local Councils run a Sanctuary Scheme which is designed to give additional security measures to victims of domestic abuse who wish to remain in their own homes.

Why do I need a personal safety plan?

You can’t stop someone from behaving in an abusive way, only they can choose to stop.

But you can do some things to help protect yourself and your family, you may already be doing some things that help to keep you safe.

Having a safety plan is about keeping you as safe as possible, looking at the dangers (risks) and planning how to make them less dangerous, where possible.

What dangers could I try to plan against?

Many victims of domestic violence say that they know when something is going to happen, in this case you could:

  • Think about being in a safer room – not a kitchen/ bathroom/ garage etc. where there may be dangerous objects around.
  • Think about being where there is a way out, for if you need to escape.
  • Keep a spare key on you, or somewhere you can get to it quickly and easily.
  • Make sure there are no objects blocking the way to a door out.
  • Keep your mobile charged and in a safe, easy to get to place, so you can phone for help.
  • Have some emergency money for bus fares somewhere safe and easy to get hold of.

Can someone help me make my safety plan?

A safety plan is something you can do yourself, however, It may not be safe for you to have a printed or written copy of the safety plan in your house but you could still take some of the ideas from the safety plan to put in place and find a safe place for you to store the phone numbers you may need in an emergency?

A Choices worker can help you to make your plan.

Any other worker that is involved with you or your family could help you to make a safety plan.

A Choices worker can also carry out a risk assessment with you to highlight the risk factors in your relationship and to help you to think through your options to reduce these risks.