If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please know that you are not alone.
Despite what your partner or family member may have told you, there is support available and you will be believed. The abuse is not your fault and there is nothing that you have done to deserve it.
- If you are in current danger, call 999 for immediate, urgent help
- To report a non-emergency incident or incidents, contact the non-emergency police line on 101
- You can also report to any police officer, or open police station
If this is your situation, or you are concerned that someone you know may be affected, it can be a frightening time and really difficult to know what to do. Read on for more information and you can also find details below of other organisations that can help. You can reach out for support such as:
- Immediate help from emergency services by contacting 999
- Legal advice and court support
- Access to a safe house or refuge
- Outreach support based in the community
- Drop-in services
- Support for children
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse is not a rare occurrence. Research shows that in the year ending March 2019, an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.6 million women and 786,000 men).1 Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone2, and this figure has remained unchanged for many years. Domestic abuse has an enormous effect on children, and we know that 130,000 children live in homes where there is high-risk domestic abuse.3
The UK government defines domestic abuse as, ‘Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.’
Domestic abuse is all about one person having power and control over another. Here are some examples of abusive behaviour:
- Gaslighting (manipulation to the point of questioning sanity)
- Convincing memory is poor
- Creating fear
- Telling lies about others
- Holding you down
- Unwanted sexual demands
- Unwanted sexual touching
- Pressure to have unsafe sex
- Pressure to have sex
- Being intentionally physically hurt during sex
- Using debit or credit cards without consent
- Putting debt into a partner’s name
- Gambling with family assets
- Withholding money
- Demanding receipts for every purchase
- Withholding access to a bank account
- Taking benefits or income that are in a partner’s name
- Using child maintenance to control a partner
- Invading privacy due to jealousy
- Putting down
Since 2015, coercive controlling behaviour has been illegal in the UK. The Serious Crime Act 2015 defines controlling behaviour as ‘a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.’ It defines coercive behaviour as ‘an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.’
Clare’s Law (also known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme) has two main functions:
Anyone has the right to ask the police about a partner’s history of domestic abuse or other violent acts. A member of the public can also make enquiries into the partner of a close friend or family member (although a disclosure, if made, will only be made to the partner).
The police can proactively disclose information to someone about their partner’s domestic abuse or other violent behaviour.
To make a Clare’s Law application you will need to call 101. A call handler will take your details (such as your name, address and date of birth) and they will talk you through the next steps.
Whether you are still living with a perpetrator of domestic abuse, are planning to leave the abuser or have already left, keeping yourself (and any children) safe is incredibly important. Below are some things you can do to increase your safety.
If you are living with an abuser:
- In an emergency, call 999
- Teach your children how to call 999 in an emergency
- Arrange a secret code with someone who lives close by that lets them know you need help
- Plan an escape route and plan a place to meet with your children if you get separated
- Make copies of important documents such as passports, birth certificates, court orders, and marriage certificates, and keep them in a safe place (or ask someone you trust to keep copies safe for you)
- Find out about your legal and housing rights. This can include criminal restraining orders and civil injunctions such as non-molestation and occupation orders (which can ban an abuser from your home)
- Keep notes of abusive incidents (including times, dates, names and details of how it made you feel)
- Access specialist support
If you are planning to leave:
- Arrange a place to stay. This could be the home of someone you trust such as a friend of a family member. It’s important that the abuser doesn’t know the location. The option of accessing refuge accommodation may also be available to you
- Make a plan to leave. Think about the abuser’s routine and when would be a safe time to leave i.e. when they’re at work. Think about what transport you will use – you may not want to use a local taxi firm, for example, in case the driver tells the abuser where you have gone
- If it’s safe to do so, create an emergency bag. That bag could be hidden at home or stored with a trusted friend or family member and could include things like cash, important documents, some clothes, medication, phone charger, emergency numbers and a set of keys
- Consider buying a spare phone that can be used in an emergency and not tracked by the abuser
- See also safety planning points for those living with an abuser
If you have already left:
- Explore civil orders that can stop an abusive person from harassing you
- Make your home more secure. Your local police, support services or local authority can help you with this
- Access support around children. Many abusers continue to control and harass their partners through their children. There is support available to help with this
- Ensure that no tracking devices or spyware have been placed on any computers, tablets or mobile phones
- See also safety planning for those living with an abuser and for those who are planning to leave an abuser
If someone discloses domestic abuse to you
What to do if someone discloses that they are experiencing domestic abuse:
- Find a safe place and have someone else with you if the person is willing
- Listen to what they are saying and believe them
- Prioritise their immediate safety
- Do not promise confidentiality if children are involved
- Give relevant information and signposting
- Reassure them that this is not their fault
What not to do if someone discloses that they are experiencing domestic abuse:
- Don’t react emotionally or with any judgment
- Do not minimise the impact of what they are experiencing
- Don’t try and immediately ‘fix’ the issue by recommending a specific course of action such as couple counselling
- Do not approach the abusive partner
- Do not ignore safeguarding concerns
Further support can be found through the organisations listed below.
- SafeLives (2015), Getting it right first time: policy report. Bristol: SafeLives.
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