JODIE'S Place appears from the outside to be similar to most other family homes in the Cessnock-Branxton area.
But for the weary and afraid who arrive at its doorstep, it is a sanctuary from unspeakable abuse that has reverberated around the walls of houses they have been forced to flee.
Hunter Domestic Violence Support & Advisory Services Inc established the women's and children's refuge two months ago and has since welcomed a total of 11 women and children into the spacious property, which can accommodate 11 people at any one time across its four bedrooms.
Chairperson and manager Paula Mudd said the women were often "delicate" and "emotionally drained" when they arrived.
"They don't want to talk, they shut down because they've been through so much," Ms Mudd said.
"It's hard to sit down and talk about life when they're coming from such a place.
"We don't force the issue, we work with them but don't put pressure on them.
"Most women eventually talk after a couple of days - it's a trust issue.
"The big fear they have is someone will find them."
The refuge usually has an average of about six people staying at the same time, some for only one or two nights before they get on a train to leave the area and others for up to seven weeks before they secure permanent housing.
Many have spent time living with family members and friends, or sleeping on couches and in cars.
"Every woman has got a different story, a different history, different baggage," she said.
Ms Mudd said many of the children who accompanied their mothers to the refuge had been forced to grow up too quickly, with some little boys assuming the role of the man of the house.
"They know when something is going to start and the older siblings take care of the younger ones, taking them away and hiding them under the house."
Refuge staff provide women with one-on-one support, refer them to agencies, medical assistance, help to apply for apprehended violence orders and offer to enrol them in a nine week domestic violence education and recovery program called Phoenix.
"We teach them to listen to their gut because their gut won't let them down," Ms Mudd said.
"It's your inner voice, telling you to be wary, be careful - it won't lead you astray."
"The end result we hope for is for the woman to be able to get into her own home, to empower her and for her to be in control of her own life.
"We want to see her strong, able to tackle anything head on, and the person she's meant to be.
"We give them back who they are, self respect and the knowledge they can do things, even when they think they can't."
The idea for Jodie's Place developed over the past three years as the organisation has operated from the Salvation Army's Cessnock office during that time, providing individualised support, liaising with government or housing agencies, hosting a therapy group and running Phoenix.
"When we first opened we had a lot of women coming in and wanting accommodation, but when we rang refuges most were full, so where do you send a woman with four or five children?" she asked.
"At one stage the closest refuge was Bathurst."
"We saw the need for a refuge in this area for women and children who needed to be close to their support network, their children's schools and their doctors."
Developers of the Huntlee Project LWP Property Group provided the organisation with the house for nominal rent.
The refuge is named after Jodie Jurd, who died from domestic violence on November 16, 2011.
"We never want another woman in this area or any other area to die from domestic violence," Ms Mudd said.
"We want to give these women somewhere to go, somewhere to flee."