Domestic abuse isn’t just physical. It can be sexual, emotional, psychological or financial.
It can include;
- Being forced or pressured to do things
- Make you feel like you’re walking on egg shells all the time, feeling frightened to say what you think
- Being watched and checked up on, having your freedom unreasonable restricted
- Isolation – being stopped from seeing your friends and family
- Being made to feel small
- Having no access to money and /or no control or influence over the household finances
- Forced marriage
- Violence, including honour based abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Threats to you, your family or pets or possessions
- Being made to feel too tired, frightened or depressed to fight back or leave
- Destructive criticism, disrespect and breaking trust
Anyone can be abused, no matter where they live or how much money they have.
It can affect anyone regardless of race, age, class or gender, religion or sexuality. It happens in all kinds of relationships; heterosexual, lesbian. Gay, bisexual and transgender.
If you recognise any of the warning signs, it is important to remember that you are not to blame.
For both female and male victims of abuse the message is the same;
Domestic abuse isn’t just physical
It is not your fault
Help is available
How to keep safe during a violent incident;
- If you are able, dial 999, try to leave the phone off the hook so that the operator can still hear you
- If you can’t dial 999, try to phone or text a friend or relative or neighbour with a pre-arranged code word indicating that you need help so that they can call the police for you
- Plan escape routes before you need to use them
- If you have been injured and you have not been able to call the police go to see your doctor or attend hospital as soon as possible
- Never be afraid to ask for help and in an emergency dial 999
I have decided to stay in my relationship, what can I do to reduce the risks
The most important thing is to tell someone you trust about what is happening so that a person outside of your relationship is aware. They may be able to help you during or after an incident of abuse.
If you decide to stay in your relationship, there are measures that you can take to reduce the risks;
- You can seek support from support agencies where you live
- Let the support agencies know how they can contact you safely e.g. at work or at a friend’s address
- Make sure you remove all traces of contact with support agencies
- Use the internet in your local library or internet café to avoid leaving a trace or if you log on at home, delete your computer history if you have accessed support agency websites
- If you have an android or smart phone be mindful of the location facility which gives information on where you have been and for how long.
- Dispose of phone records
- Keep a photographic record of injuries, these may be used at a later date to support court cases or rehousing applications. Report each incident to the hospital or your GP
- Try not to retaliate verbally or physically, but where you are in danger you have the right to defend yourself using reasonable force.
- Keep a diary of incidents, noting down times dates witnesses if any
- Talk to your children- make sure they know what to do if another violent incident takes place – keep safe, ring for help.
I have decided to leave my relationship what should I do;
You have made an important decision and there is help and support available to you.
If you haven’t already, make contacted with your trusted person and tell them that you have decided to leave. If suitable, they may be able to help you to leave.
There are things that you can prepare in advance to assist you to leave your home safely;
- Tell someone you trust that you are leaving
- Have a small bag packed with spare clothes, keys, phone numbers, money and identification documents such as passports/birth certificates, in case you need to leave quickly. If you’re afraid it will be found leave it at work or with a friend.
- Talk to your children beforehand about the possibility of leaving in an emergency if it’s appropriate
- You may want to agree a code word or a plan with them
- Make sure that you take your children with you when you leave
- Only leave when it’s safe to do so
- Consider what you may need to take with you that might help others protect you from the abuser such as a recent photo of the abuser.
If you later discover that you have left something behind, you can arrange to collect it with a police officer – do not return by yourself
Emergency living arrangements
Leaving an abusive situation may leave you needing emergency accommodation if you don’t have anywhere to go. You can apply for homelessness help from your local council. The council has to give you accommodation immediately while it makes enquiries into your situation.
If you are female you can contact the National Domestic Violence helpline on Freephone
0808 2000 247 to check if you can get a place in a women’s refuge.
If you are male contact the Men’s Advice Line 0808 801 0327 for further help and information
Help with housing costs
Housing costs could be one of your biggest expenses. You may be able to get housing benefit to help pay the rent. You can claim if you are working or claiming other benefits. The amount you get depends on your circumstances including your income, savings, and the people in your household. Don’t forget to tell the housing benefit office about any changes in your circumstances
If you have left your home because of domestic abuse, you can get housing benefit for both your old home and the home you are staying in now. You can get housing benefit for both homes for up to a year, as long as you intend to return to your old home. If you do not intend to return to your old home housing benefit is only paid on both homes for up to four weeks.
Staying safe after leaving
You may be worried that a violent or abusive person will try to find you or continue to harass or threaten you after you have left. Take steps to protect yourself from any further abuse, violence or harassment.
To reduce the risk of a perpetrator finding out your new address you can;
- Tell your children not to tell anyone where you are staying.
- Tell your children’s school and let them know who can collect the children from school.
- Tell only trusted friends what has happened and ask them not to pass on your new address or phone number
- Avoid using any joint accounts as this may reveal your location.
- Make sure your address doesn’t appear on any court papers, your solicitor, refuge worker or support worker can advise you how.
- Reduce the risk of meeting your abuser, try to avoid places where they might expect to find you, change your routines and reschedule any regular appointments. Change your mobile number and avoid social media. Dial 141 before you make a phone call to make sure your number is kept secret.
- If you have to go places where you think your partner might try and find you, try to go with someone else or let someone know where you are going. Chose a route where there are other people around.
Your financial situation is likely to change if you leave.
It is possible to get financial help as a single parent or a single person. You may be able to apply for tax credits or benefits to help with living costs. You may also be able to get a budgeting loan to help you pay for essentials. You can apply at your local job centre plus office either in person or by phone.
You must report your change in circumstances if you already claim benefits. Contact your local Jobcentre Plus to report changes
Information supplied by Shelter
To contact Shelter call 0808 800 4444 or visit www.shelter.org.uk
Domestic Abuse and Work;
Home and work issues can’t always be kept separate and domestic abuse can impact your work. It may affect your performance, timekeeping or attendance.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees as domestic abuse is a health and safety issue. Many organisations will have a domestic abuse policy, which will outline how they can support employees who are experiencing domestic abuse. Talk to your line manager about what is happening and seek their support to keep you safe.
For more information, you or your employer can visit the Refuge website, www.refuge.org.uk to obtain a copy of the Domestic Violence Resource Manual for Employers.
Domestic Abuse and Children
A common worry for victims of domestic abuse is the impact upon their children. Talking to your child/children about what is happening can help them acknowledge their feelings.
By listening to their concerns, you can reassure them that the abuse is not their fault and that they are not responsible for adult behaviour.
Encourage your children to talk about their wishes and feelings, you could do this perhaps by doing an activity together or encouraging them to draw or write about what’s happening and how they feel about it. Your child’s teacher may be able to help you with this.
Your child’s school may be told if the police have attended a domestic incident. This is so that the school can support your child if they are distracted or upset in class, or if they have forgotten their homework or PE kits because of what has happened or what they have seen or heard.
There are many organisations that can offer help and support to you and your child/children and work with you to provide a safe environment for your family.
Reporting domestic abuse
What happens after I or someone else on my behalf makes a report of domestic abuse to the police?
Regardless of who makes the report to the police, the welfare of the person who has suffered the abusive incident, and any children involved, is the priority.
When the police arrive at the incident, if there is evidence that a crime may have been committed than officers may arrest the alleged perpetrator. An investigation as to whether a crime has taken place will be carried out. You will be asked to provide a statement and any injuries you have received will be photographed or recorded on the officer’s body worn camera.
The police have a duty of care to you; for your protection, it is their decision and not yours, to make an arrest or to carry out an investigation.
When the investigation is complete, the police will submit the evidence to a Police Decision Maker (PDM) and where appropriate to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) The PDM and CPS will make a decision whether to charge the perpetrator based on the evidence presented to them.
Whilst there is no specific charge of domestic abuse, the PDM and CPS will identify the charge that best reflects the circumstances of the case, for example, coercive or controlling behaviour, assault, harassment, criminal damage.
Your views will be listened to throughout this process, but it is important to know that a decision on whether to prosecute the perpetrator will be made on the evidence available with a view to protecting you and any children involved.
What Happens if a Charge is Made?
If the PDM/CPS decide that there is sufficient evidence to charge the perpetrator, then the case will progress to court. During the period between being charged and the court date, the perpetrator can be released on bail with conditions, for example not to contact you or communicate with you in any way.
If the perpetrator pleads guilty, you will not be required to give evidence at court.
If the perpetrator pleads not guilty, you will be required to attend court and give evidence. Merseyside Police Witness Care Unit will support you through this process, alongside local support agencies and will keep you up to date about your case and how it is progressing to ensure your needs are met.
For more information for CPS about the court processes visit;
What happens if no charge is made?
If no charge is made at this time, it does not mean that charges cannot be brought in relation to any further reported incidents.
Anytime you feel that your life or the lives of any of any of your children are in danger, remember to dial 999. All incidents of domestic abuse should be reported to the police. We take all reports of domestic abuse seriously.
In cases where the PDM/CPS have decided that there is not enough evidence to support a charge and have recommended no further action, the police may be able you issue the perpetrator with a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN).
I want to withdraw my report of domestic abuse. What happens?
You will be required to provide a formal retraction statement to the police, dealing with the reasons why you want to withdraw you report.
The Crown Prosecution Service will take this statement into account but they may still require you to attend court.
Protecting against Domestic Abuse
I have experienced domestic abuse, what can the police do to protect me?
Merseyside Police take domestic abuse very seriously and it is an officer’s duty to investigate all reports of criminal activity. These laws are available to the police which are designed to protect those who are, or have, experienced domestic abuse. These include;
Offence of Coercive or Controlling Behaviour.
Officers will investigate, interview and, where there is enough evidence, seek to charge perpetrators who subject their partners/family members to abuse that stops short of physical violence, but amounts to extreme psychological and /or emotional abuse.
To report coercive or controlling behaviour, call Merseyside Police on 101. In an emergency call 999.
If the perpetrator is either acquitted or convicted at any court for any offence which relates to a domestic abuse incident, the police, with your consent, can apply to the court for a restraining order. A restraining order is an order that prevents a person continuing to pursue another person and the order can be for any length of time and in some cases, could be indefinite.
Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders
A Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) can only be served on a perpetrator where certain conditions are met and when a police officer not below the rank of Superintendent believes it is necessary to protect you. The notice will contain conditions or ‘prohibitions’ that the perpetrator must comply with, such as not living at their own address (if you live together), regardless of whose property it is, and stopping them having any contact with you.
Within 48 hours of issuing a DVPN, Merseyside Police can apply to the Magistrates Court for a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) if granted, the DVPO will last longer than the notice (between 14 to 28 days) and would contain similar prohibitions as contained in the DVPN.
The perpetrator can be arrested for breaching the DVPN and /or DVPO.
If the perpetrator breaches the DVPN, the hearing for the DVPO application will be brought forward, and the perpetrator will stay in police custody until that hearing.
If the perpetrator breaches the DVPO, they may be fined or sent to prison for up to 2 months.
The rime away from the perpetrator is designed to give you the space to consider your options and also receive advice and support from agencies including the Police. A DVPO being in place also means there is a greater chance that you will not have to leave your own home to flee the abuse.
A DVPN or DVPO can be issued with or without your consent.
Domestic violence disclosure scheme.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), sometimes known as ‘Claire’s Law’ is designed to provide you with information that may protect you from an abusive situation.
Under the scheme, you can request information about your partner if you are concerned that he/she may have a history of domestic abuse. Third parties such as friends or relatives can also make the application on your behalf.
If police checks show that your partner has a record of abuse or offers other information to indicate that you may be at risk from your partner, Merseyside Police will consider sharing this information with you. This aims to help you make a more informed decision as to whether to continue a relationship.
Even if the police have no information, or decide not to disclose any information help, this does not give a relationship a clean bill of health.
I have experienced domestic abuse, is there anything I can do to legally protect myself (and any children) from the perpetrator?
There is legislation available which enables you to obtain an injunction.
An injunction is an order from the court to the perpetrator, which sets out conditions that the perpetrator must comply with.
You can apply for an injunction if you’ve been the victim of domestic abuse. The injunction wither;
- Protects you or your child from being harmed or threatened by the person who’s abused you. This is called a non-molestation order.
- Decide who can live in the family home or enter the surrounding area – this is called an occupation order.
The person named in the injunction can be arrested if they breach the conditions of the order.
Non-molestation Orders and Occupation Orders are issued in the family court, and they are therefore civil matters. You will need to make an application yourself – the domestic abuse support services listed will be able to help you with this. Solicitors who specialise in Family Law will also be able to advise you.
To be eligible for public funding (formally legal aid) you have to have a legitimate legal problem (the merits test) and meet certain financial criteria (the means test) You can find out if you Are eligible for public funding by visiting; www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid
For more information about non-molestation orders and occupation orders or to apply visit;
The National Centre for Domestic Violence can also provide help and assistance in obtaining a Non-Molestation Order. For more information visit; www.ncdv.org