29/03/2016 13:14 BST | Updated 30/03/2017 06:12 BST

The Unsung Heroes of Domestic Abuse

all women everywhere

You'd be forgiven for thinking charities have lost the plot, existing to serve the egos of highly paid executives rather than the vulnerable people they were established to serve. Of course that's an unfair stereotype, and the reality is far more complex. But if you look away from the high profile cases, you can find something dramatically different: women who have built desperately needed services from nothing. In the struggle to end domestic abuse, small, local charities lead a hand-to-mouth existence, but without them there would be no-one.

I can guarantee that near you, often in a secret location and always with nowhere near enough funds, women have been working for decades to keep victims of domestic abuse safe. They offer somewhere to flee for safety, working with women and their children as they rebuild their shattered lives.

This is the face of charity we never see: women who in very many cases have survived abuse themselves, who have had to battle even to get domestic abuse recognised as an injustice, who still struggle even to be heard.

In my three years at Women's Aid I have been astonished by the stories of what women have been through to set up these services. I've met refuge managers who originally only got a building to work in by squatting it until the local council gave way. I've met many women who themselves fled abuse to the refuge they now run, and I've met the women they now support, for whom this example of empowerment and commitment gives them a kind of hope that is unique. If you could see it, you'd never question why it matters that domestic abuse services are run by women for women.

Fleeing domestic abuse - whether you go to a refuge, or whether you reach out for support to end the relationship - is terrifying, because it is genuinely one of the most dangerous things a woman can do. It's hard enough already, without facing even more barriers. Instead they simply have to provide the most accessible environment they possibly can: meeting women with the utmost understanding and empathy.

Sometimes these services lose their funding, but that doesn't stop women coming for help. Around half of local domestic abuse charities are running at least one service with no funding at all. How? By refusing to give up, and by giving their all, that's how.

These are the women making a life-saving difference day in and day out. Doesn't this fit with the way you think of "charity" these days? Think again.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today. Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about