The charity was established in 1996 and was originally named Dartford & Gravesham Women's Aid and then North Kent Women's Aid before adopting the name of Choices. It exists to provide help to all those who are experiencing domestic abuse.
The campaign for a refuge in the North Kent area began in the summer of 1989. The need was perceived by the sisters in Bexley Women’s Aid who received calls from agencies and women who needed a safe place to stay outside of Bexley. After some initial research Hyde Housing agreed to work with the group to obtain capital funding from the Housing Corporation. Local Councillors, voluntary and statutory agencies met and a steering committee was then formed and each year a bid would go to the Housing Corporation and was finally successful in 1995.
Dartford & Gravesham Women’s Aid (DGWA) as they were then known received charitable status in 1995 and the first Annual General Meeting was held in September 1995.
In December 1996 with the support of Hyde Housing Association they opened the first house in Dartford providing accommodation for three families. In November 1997 a refuge for a further three families was opened in Gravesend which includes a playroom and is completely wheelchair user friendly. In 2001 with the support of Gravesend Churches Housing Association they opened the third refuge housing three families, and in June 2002 they opened the 4th refuge which houses eight families.
DGWA became an incorporated charity on 8th July, 2008, and became known as North Kent Women’s Aid (NKWA) on 1st January, 2009.
In 2012, NKWA, along with other independent specialist domestic abuse service providers formed the Kent Domestic Abuse Consortium (KDAC). They formed the Consortium in order to help provide a more comprehensive county-wide service and because they believe that specialist domestic abuse services, embedded in the local community, provide the best outcome for victims.
In 2013, following the closure of a domestic abuse agency in Maidstone, they have provided support services to the communities of Maidstone, Medway, Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells.
In November 2014, they became known as Choices to recognise the range of support services they provide to men, women and young people affected by domestic abuse across West Kent and Medway.
Today they are now able to provide refuge accommodation and support for 17 women and 35 children at any one time.
In addition to providing refuge accommodation and support services to the women and children in refuge, they have also been increasing the activities in the community. Choices is actively involved in the One Stop Shops
in a number of locations in West Kent and Medway providing support and advice to men and women in the community. In addition, they provide Helpline support and advice to victims of abuse as well as to other agency personnel seeking advice for their clients.
Choices co-ordinates and facilitates the Freedom Programmes
which are run in Dartford, Gravesham and Maidstone. Choices also delivers other community programmes such as the Recovery Toolkit and the DAY programme. Choices provides training on Domestic Abuse to statutory and voluntary organisations as well as give presentations in order to raise awareness of Domestic Abuse.
Choices are working with schools and youth organisations to introduce the 'Loves Me... Loves Me Not' healthy relationship programme which is a proactive way of informing children and young people about domestic abuse and help to challenge and prevent abusive behaviour.
As part of KDAC, they provide -
- a Positive Relationships programme to adolescent girls who are more susceptible to early sex, early conceptions and violent and coercive relationships.
- a group programme for children aged 5-13 years who have experienced domestic abuse in their homes.
- Independent Domestic Violence Advisors to work with high risk victims of domestic abuse.