A new domestic abuse service has been launched in Slough.

Slough mayor Paul Sohal unveiled charity Hestia’s services, which is hailed as London’s largest provider of domestic abuse refuges, in the borough over the weekend.

Hestia’s service provides community support to tackle domestic abuse. The service has specialist teams working with “marginalised” groups across the borough, while another supports the borough’s most vulnerable high-risk victims to seek justice and increase safety.

The charity also runs a domestic abuse awareness raising programme – the Freedom Project – which aims to provide a wider understanding of domestic abuse and support victims in their next steps.

Launching the Freedom Project in Slough, Cllr Sohal said: “When I knew I was to become mayor back in May, I immediately gave some thought as to the theme of my mayoralty and based upon my many years of community service, I decided that a women’s welfare charity would be at the forefront of my civic year.

“As the council’s partner, my obvious choice was Hestia. They are a long established and highly respected organisation with a wealth of experience and I am really pleased to be able to support their work and particularly the launch of this new service.”

Mia (name changed to protect privacy) was referred to the service in Slough after being forced into marriage aged 17 and living in fear of her husband and his family since.

After her husband’s addictions and violence became life-threatening, she and her young daughter turned to Hestia in Slough.

She said: “I haven’t really been free since I was 17 and with Hestia’s support, I am taking steps to go back to work and my daughter is finally smiling again.

“Now I am free and it’s the best feeling ever – it’s my life and after 10 years I am finally living it my way.”

Patrick Ryan, CEO of Hestia, said: “Domestic abuse can leave a person feeling isolated and hopeless. Finding the courage to leave an abusive relationship is a difficult process. 

“The lack of specialist support in the current system means that women who experience poor mental health and have complex needs – often because of years of abuse - can be forced to stay in life threatening relationships.

“This project will save lives and give women direct access to the specialist support needed to recover from the trauma of domestic abuse.”