Domestic violence can be defined as “any form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse” which takes place within the context of a close relationship. In most cases, the relationship will be between partners (married, co-habiting or otherwise) or ex-partners. It can also includes the following types of abuse:-
• emotional abuse.
Domestic violence is most commonly experienced by women and perpetrated by men, but also happens in same sex relationships. Men can also experience domestic violence.
Many kinds of domestic violence such as physical assault, wounding, sexual assault, rape, threats to kill and harassment are criminal offences.
What is Gender Violence
Gender violence includes domestic violence, harassment and stalking, rape and sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, honour-based abuse and trafficking.
If you are the victim of an abusive relationship, you should get advice on your options, which may be to:-
• report the violence to the police
• leave home temporarily
• leave home permanently
• stay in the present home and get the person who is harming you to leave
• take legal action.
Reporting the violence to the police
Many kinds of domestic abuse are criminal offences and the police can arrest, caution or charge the perpetrator. Most police stations have Domestic Violence Units or Community Safety Units with specially trained officers to deal with domestic violence and abuse. You should call 199 in an emergency and call 20072500 for a non emergency.
If the police arrest and charge a perpetrator, they will decide whether to keep them in custody or release them on bail. There will usually be conditions attached to their bail to protect you from further violence and abuse. Make sure you ask for your crime reference number which you may need if you contact other agencies for help.
The Crown Prosecution Service will make the final decision on whether a perpetrator is prosecuted.
The police can also give you advice on crime prevention and getting a police marker on your address, so an officer can get to your home as quickly as possible.
Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders
If you have suffered or been threatened with domestic abuse, the police can issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice and then apply to the magistrates' court for a Domestic Violence Protection Order.
A Domestic Violence Protection Order can protect you from further abuse, and if you live with the perpetrator, ban them from returning to the home and contacting you. If the perpetrator does not keep to the Order, they can be arrested and brought before the court.
A Domestic Violence Protection Order lasts for up to 28 days and gives you time to explore your options and get further support.
Finding somewhere safe to stay
If you are a victim of an abusive relationship you may need somewhere safe to stay, either alone or with your children. The options are:
• stay at home if you think this is safe
• stay with relatives or friends
• stay in a women’s refuge. This is only an option for women (with or without children)
• get emergency accommodation from the local authority under homeless persons law - this will usually mean a bed and breakfast hostel
• get privately rented accommodation.
Women in Need
Women in need, is a charity organisation safe house run by and for women suffering domestic violence. Refuges provide somewhere safe for women and their children to stay and allow some time and space for the woman to think about what to do next.
Staff at refuges are specialised in dealing with domestic violence, and so can give a lot of emotional and practical support, for example, advice on benefit claims, which solicitors to use and, if necessary, how to contact the police. They are also happy to talk to women about any questions they have about refuges.
Women in Need (Claire Borrell)
Tel: 8018 (24hours)
Tel : 20042581/20065077 (office hours 9am-4pm)
Going to the local authority
Local authorities have a legal duty to provide help to certain people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. You will qualify for help if you are eligible for assistance, legally homeless or threatened with homelessness and not intentionally homeless. You must also be in priority need. The local authority may also investigate whether you have a local connection with the area.
You will normally be considered to be legally homeless if it is not reasonable for you to occupy your home because of the risk or fear of domestic violence.
Going to privately rented accommodation
If you decide to go into privately rented accommodation you will be unlikely to be able to arrange it quickly. This is really only an option for people who have time to plan their departure and can afford this accommodation.
Longer term solutions
Once you have found a safe place to stay short-term, you will need to think about what to do in the longer term. You will need to consider:-
• Whether you wish to permanently separate from your partner. You should seek legal advice, see under heading Getting help from a local domestic violence service or a solicitor
• Whether you want to take action to keep the violent partner away from you. This could include getting an injunction to protect yourself from more violent behaviour (known as a non-molestation order), or a court order to sort out who can stay in the family home, for example if you want to stop your violent partner from returning home (known as an occupation order). You can find more information about injunctions on The Rights of Women website www.rightsofwomen.org.uk. If you're considering these options, it's best to seek legal advice, see under heading Getting help from a local domestic violence service or a solicitor
More about occupation orders
• Housing - Your legal rights to the family home will depend upon the type of housing, the legal status of your relationship and whether or not you have children. You should get legal advice to ensure that you do everything possible to protect rights to the family home. You should seek advice about the family home even if you are leaving permanently because, if your partner sells the home, you may lose money and possessions
More about relationship breakdown and housing
• Children- If you have children you will need to decide if you are taking the children with you. It may be unsafe to leave them behind. You may need to use the courts to resolve who the children should live with and with whom they should have contact. You should seek legal advice, see under heading Getting help from a local domestic violence service or a solicitor
• Money - You will need to sort out your benefit entitlement and tax arrangements and whether or not to apply to court for maintenance for yourself. You may also want to apply to the Department of Social Security for them to arrange maintenance for your children.
Safeguarding Children and Adults
This service provides social work support to vulnerable adults, older people, adult’s with learning disabilities, their families and their carers within the community. The service provides assessments of needs for both service users and their carers. It offers support and advice, and provides other social work support for those in need, It also works in partnership with other agencies and prepares reports on social housing.
The Care Agency works to promote the welfare of children generally and in particular those considered being ‘in need’. As far as possible, it enables children to be brought up by their families by providing a range of support services. The Child in Need team deals with all incoming referrals concerning children; they carry out initial assessments in order to gauge the child’s situation. Children and families that need help may be offered advice, counselling, and guidance on parenting amongst other services. The Child in Need Team can also seek the assistance of other departments and agencies. Sometimes, protection plans may be made in order to safeguard a child’s wellbeing. The Child in Need Team strives to undertake these in partnership with parents or carers, and generally involve other professionals.
For General Enquires call 20078528
For Adult Services call 20046016
For Children Services call 20050816
If you need further help, you should get advice from a solicitor who is experienced in family law.
For a look at the Domestic Violence & Matrimonial Proceedings Act, please click on the link below:
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