What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence encompasses physical, psychological, sexual and emotional abuse. It does not just mean one partner hitting the other. It may include constant breaking of trust, psychological games, harassment and financial control. Domestic violence is rarely just a one-off incident and is usually a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour. Adults in all types of relationships may be victims.
Domestic violence is much more common than many people realise. One in four women in the United Kingdom experience domestic violence in their life time.
Both men and women may experience violence within an intimate relationship although women are considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe violence, including sexual violence. They are also more likely to experience sustained violence which results in injury or death. Men who experience domestic violence may find it particularly difficult to report the abuse because of the stigma associated with it.
How are children affected by domestic violence?
Most children witness the violence if it is occurring within their family. They are often in the same or the next room. In about half of families where a parent is being abused children are also being directly abused themselves. Children can get caught in the middle of violent incidents and witnessing domestic violence is regarded as emotional abuse. Children living in households where domestic violence is happening are now legally identified as “at risk”.
Witnessing domestic violence can be very damaging for children. Individual children respond to trauma differently and some may be resilient and not experience any negative effects, while others may suffer long term harm.
If you are worried about how domestic violence may be affecting a child, contact the NSPCC or local Children’s Services. Children’s Services can conduct an assessment so that they can receive the help and support they need.
In an emergency, call 999.
Domestic violence is treated very seriously by the police. They will take action to protect you (or the victim if it is someone else) and get the help you need. They can also put you in touch with volunteer organisations that provide refuge accommodation
If it is not an emergency, contact your local police station or one of the independent organisations listed below and discuss the situation with them.
What you should do if you are in an abusive relationship
If you are in an abusive relationship, you should:
- recognise what is happening to you
- accept that you are not to blame
- get help and support.
This could mean leaving home temporarily or permanently, asking the person who is harming you to leave or taking legal action such as taking out a legal injunction.
If you know someone who is a victim in an abusive relationship
Approach them sympathetically and don’t blame them for the situation. They may feel scared, embarrassed or responsible and find it difficult to talk about the problem directly. Encourage them to seek help by contacting one of the organisations listed at the bottom of the page. Respect their choices and help them to take control of their life – but if someone is in immediate danger, contact the police.
Finding somewhere safe to stay
If the situation at home is unsafe, you or the victim may need somewhere safe to stay, alone or with their children. Possible options might include:
- staying with relatives or friends
- staying in a women’s refuge (with or without children)
- emergency accommodation from the local authority
See the Shelter website for further information about housing options in a domestic violence situation.
My daughter is a violent relationship. Why doesn’t she leave?
Victims often find it very difficult to leave an abusive relationship for a wide range of reasons, including fear or feeling they are to blame. The most dangerous time for a victim and their children can be when they are planning to leave or the actual departure. The perpetrator may threaten to harm or even kill their partner or children if they leave. Unfortunately leaving the relationship does not guarantee that the violence will stop, as perpetrators often pursue their victims, sometimes for many years, so it is vital to seek help.
Below is a list of organisations that may be able to help. If you require further help or information please ring our confidential helpline on 0300 123 7015.
The freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership beween Women’s Aid and Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, their families, friends and colleagues, and others calling on their behalf. The helpline provides confidential support, help and information and can help women find safe, emergency accommodation in refuges across the UK.
There are translation facilities if your first language is not English. The Helpline also offers BT Type talk for callers with hearing difficulties.
This website provides a wide choice of resources to help women and young people. This includes The Survivor’s Handbook which provides a range of information including your legal rights, housing options and tips on how to create a safety plan. It is available in 11 languages and in audio.
Womens’ Aid also has a website www.thehideout.org.uk which offers support to children and teenagers who may be living in a home affected by domestic violence, or who may be in a violent relationship themselves.
Rights of Women (England and Wales)
Family Law advice line: 020 7251 6577 (England and Wales) Tues-Thurs 7pm-9pm, Friday 12 noon-2pm; 020 7608 1137 (London) Mon 11am-1pm, Tues-Thurs 2pm-4pm
For advice on family law issues including domestic violence and abuse, relationship breakdown and issues relating to children.
Criminal Law advice line: 0207 251 8887 Tuesday 11am-1pm
For advice on criminal law issues including sexual offences, domestic violence, reporting offences to the police and the criminal justice system.
Rights of Women is a voluntary organisation, offering confidential legal advice to women. Rights of Women produces free information sheets on legal issues which can be downloaded from their website.
The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic violence and abuse. This includes all men, in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. They offer emotional support, practical advice, and information on a wide range of services for further help and support.
Helpline: 01823 334 244 Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm
The ManKind Initiative is a charity offering help, emotional support and practical information to all men who are victims of domestic abuse or violence.
Survivors UK offers a range of support services, including counselling and therapy appointments as well as web and sms chat, for men who have been victims of rape or sexual abuse.
For Women and Men
Northern Ireland Women’s Aid
Helpline: 0808 802 1414 (24 hours)
The helpline is open to anyone affected by domestic violence in Northern Ireland, regardless of gender, sexuality, disability, age and ethnicity.
Live Fear Free
Helpline: 0808 80 10 800 (24 hours)
Welsh Government website providing information and advice for those suffering with domestic violence, sexual violence and other forms of violence against women. The Live Fear Free Helpline is run by Welsh Women’s Aid.
National Centre for Domestic Violence
Freephone: 0800 970 20 70
Text: NCDV to 60777, they will call you back
The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) offers a free service to men and women, to help you get an emergency injunction if you’re experiencing domestic violence. If you are eligible for legal aid, a solicitor will provide you with publicly funded legal representation. If you can’t get legal aid, NCDV will allocate you a McKenzie Friend – a trained, experienced caseworker who can prepare the injunction application on your behalf and (in most circumstances) assist you at court.
Confidential and anonymous helpline for anyone concerned about their violence and/or abuse towards a partner or ex-partner. Respect offers information and advice to support perpetrators to stop their violence and change their abusive behaviour.
Action on Elder Abuse
Helpline: 0808 808 8141 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
The helpline provides confidential advice, support and information to older people who are suffering from violence or abuse and to others who are concerned about or have witnessed abuse.
The National Stalking Helpline provides guidance and information to anybody who is currently or has previously been affected by stalking.
Forced Marriage Unit
Helpline: 020 7008 0151
Trained professionals offer confidential advice and assistance to those who have been forced into marriage or are at risk of being forced into marriage, and to people worried about friends or relatives.
Organisations for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People
Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experiencing domestic violence.