There are many different types of abuse, but it’s always about having power and control over you. Domestic abuse is controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse regardless of your sexuality or gender. It may be psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse. You may be a victim of harassment, stalking, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, trafficking and honour-based abuse these are all types of domestic violence and abuse.
Examples of emotional abuse:
- Your partner belittles you, or puts you down
- Your partner blames you for the abuse or arguments
- Your partner denies that abuse is happening, or plays it down
- Your partner isolates you from your family and friends
- Your partner stops you going to college or work
- Your partner make unreasonable demands for your attention
- Your partner accuses you of flirting or having affairs
- Your partner tells you what to wear, who to see, where to go, and what to think
- Your partner controls your money, or doesn’t give you enough money to buy food or other essential things
Examples of threats and intimidation by your partner:
- Threats to hurt or kill you
- Your belongings are destroyed
- Standing over you and invading your personal space
- Threats to kill themselves or the children
- By reading your emails, texts or letters
- You are harassed or followed
Examples of physical abuse, your partner may:
- Slap, hit or punch you
- Push or shove you
- Bite you
- Kick you
- Burn you
- Choke you or hold you down
- Throw things at you
Examples of sexual abuse by your partner:
- Being touched in a way you don’t want to be touched
- Your partner makes unwanted sexual demands
- Your partner hurts you during sex
- You are put under pressure to have unsafe sex, for example, not using a condom
- You are pressured into having sex. If your partner has sex with you when you don’t want to, this is rape
Women's aid have put together useful information to help you make a personal safety plan. This is an essential way of helping you to protect yourself and your children. It will help you to think about how you can increase your safety either within the relationship, or if you make the decision to leave.
You can also visit our web page 'Finding Emergency Accommodation' for your alternative housing options.
Separating joint finances
Having joint finances adds an extra layer of complication to a domestic abuse victim's circumstances and can even prevent them from escaping to safety. Some domestic abusers use coercive control with finances, the fear of violence and/or financial destitution are sometimes impossible barriers to overcome and escape domestic abuse.
Types of joint financial liability include:
- Joint Bank Accounts
- Joint investments or savings
- Joint benefit claims
- Joint mortgages
- Joint properties
- Joint loans
- Guarantor loans
- Shared cars
Safety issues with a joint bank account
If a domestic abuse victim has fled the situation and is staying at a safe address, use of a joint bank account could compromise that safe location in the following ways:
- cash machine withdrawals and card purchases may show the location withdrawals and purchases were made on joint banks statement. Any transaction on a joint account could be investigated by a joint party
- if you provide your safe address as a joint party to a bank account, your bank is unlikely to be able to guarantee that your address will not be available to the other joint party. You could provide a 3rd party address to handle your post.
Financial association and joint debts
Many banks refuse to remove a joint party to a bank account without the other person's signature and if there is any joint borrowing outstanding, they will refuse altogether. The same goes for a joint mortgage, often couples that have been divorced many years still have a financial connection through a joint mortgage.
It is possible to ask credit reference agencies for a disassociation from an ex-partner if you are no longer living with them but they are unlikely to agree to this where there is outstanding joint borrowing. Visit our web page 'Credit Reference Agencies' for more information.
Starting a single claim for welfare benefits is easier than dealing with financial institutions but you will usually need to provide evidence. If you need help to do this, contact Women's Aid or any other professional that has listened to and helped you with your domestic abuse.
Assigned policies or private pensions
It is common for couples to make financial provisions for each other an these can often be forgotten about once they are arranged. Examples include:
- Joint wills
- Life Insurance policies
- Private Pensions
Make sure you review any financial decisions you have made while you were a couple, it is best to check just in case something has been done without your knowledge, or you did not know what you were signing.
I f you have a joint property with your abuser, you must refer to a legal housing specialist or a solicitor. You should let a mortgage lender know of your circumstances as they might be able to give you some options to deal with the joint mortgage.
Marriage or civil partnership tax allowance
If your ex partner was from a civil partnership or marriage, and your income, you might have transferred your marriage tax allowance to your ex partner. You will need to cancel this if you want to separate your finances, visit: cancel any marriage tax allowance.
Wills, financial and care provisions for children
You might need to consider making a new will or amending an existing will to make new or revised financial provisions and or specify care instructions for your children.
During ‘Will Aid’ month (November) participating solicitors will do a free will but will also ask for a voluntary donation. Alternatively, you can use the 'find a solicitor' search to get advice and a quote for the service.
Online and electronic device security
It is surprising how much control a domestic abuser ends up having in a relationship and therefore it is important to think about everything they might have had access to while you were together. It is common to find that security passwords, access to email accounts, online banking and social media accounts have been compromised by a domestic abuser. Not only that but think of all the personal information they know about you and how easy it might be to provide your security information.
It is possible to add another person's fingerprint and their email account to devices such as a smart phone, tablet or computer and if you have a locator app on your device, such as Apple's 'Find my phone' app, you could be tracked wherever you go with your device.
Tips to improve your security and personal safety:
- Change all of your online account passwords and choose ones that cannot be identified with you
- Make sure you choose to 'sign out' of all devices
- Choose new security questions, ones that are not obvious to your ex-partner
- Check all the settings on each of your personal devices to make sure there are no additional persons that can recover your password or access your account
Supporting a friend
You may suspect or recognise that a friend or family member is being abused, you should initiate talks by letting them know you have noticed that something is wrong. You should try to find a quiet time, so they can open up and talk if they feel ready to.
If someone approaches you and is ready to confides in you that they are suffering from domestic abuse, you should do the following:
- Be a good listener, taking care not to blame them for what is happening
- Acknowledge it takes strength to open up and talk to someone about what they are experiencing
- Allow them space and time to talk, don’t push or force them to talk if they don’t want to or not ready
- You should acknowledge they’re in a frightening and difficult situation
- Express to them that nobody deserves to be threatened or beaten, despite what the abuser has said
- Be a supportive friend by encouraging them to express their feelings, and allow them to make their own decisions
- They have to make the decision to leave the relationship themselves. You cannot make them if they’re not ready to
- Ask them if they’ve suffered any physical harm or injuries and offer to go with them to a hospital or to see a GP if this is the case
- Help them to report the assault to the police if this is what they want to do
- Be prepared to obtain and provide information about organisations that offer help for people experiencing domestic abuse and violence
The police and the law
You have the right under the Domestic violence disclosure scheme to ask the police to check whether a new or existing partner has a violent past. This is known as ‘right to ask’.On checking records, the police will consider disclosing the information if they are concerned you may be at risk of domestic abuse from a partner. A disclosure can be made providing if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so. If you are a third party, such as a family member or friend you can also apply for the disclosure under ‘right to ask’. The police will release the information as long as it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so.
To make an application under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme you can contact the police using the following methods:
- By visiting any police station
- By telephoning 101
- You can speak to a member of the police on the street
- If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or in an emergency, you should always call 999.
Coercive control and the law
In England and Wales it is a criminal offence when someone subjects you to coercive control. If you or someone you know is experiencing this kind of abuse you can report it to the police. You may also be able to apply to the Family Court for protection.
Court orders you can apply for
You could try to gain some protection from your abuser by applying for a civil injunction or protection order.
An injunction is a court order that requires someone to do or not to do something.
There are two main types of injunctions available under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996:
A non-molestation order
A non-molestation order is aimed at preventing your partner or ex-partner from using or threatening violence against you or your child, or intimidating, harassing or pestering you, in order to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of yourself and your children.
An occupation order
An occupation order regulates who can live in the family home, and can also restrict your abuser from entering the surrounding area. If you do not feel safe continuing to live with your partner, or if you have left home because of violence, but want to return and exclude your abuser, you may want to apply for an occupation order.
Breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence; however, you should still be able to take your abuser back to the civil court for breaking the order, if you prefer to.
If you already have an injunction, you might have a power of arrest attached, and you can also have powers of arrest attached to an occupation order. These powers come into effect if your abuser breaks the order (see Powers of arrest).
Getting a court order might give you some protection, but it is not always helpful, sometimes it makes very little difference, and it can in some cases make the situation worse. It depends on your abusers fear of being arrested.
Power of arrest
If your abuser has used or threatened physical violence, and the court accepts this at a full hearing of the case, then it must attach a power of arrest to an injunction (unless it believes you will be adequately protected without this).
This means that a copy of the order will be held on record at the police station (you or your solicitor should make sure this happens), the police can then arrest immediately if the order is broken, even without a specific criminal offence having been committed.
A power of arrest may be attached even if the hearing was held “without notice” if the court believes you are likely to be at risk of harm otherwise.
Occupation orders require a separate ‘power of arrest’.
It is possible to get legal aid for domestic abuse.
Whether you qualify for legal aid will depend on:
- the type of case
- your financial circumstances
- Civil (non-criminal) cases
For civil cases like debt , housing or family problems, you need to prove that you cannot afford legal help and that you case is serious. You will need to provide details of your income.
Your financial situation is not taken into account for cases about:
- mental health tribunals
- children in care
- child abduction
You might have to provide evidence about your problem, for example in a divorce case by providing a court order or GP letter showing that you or your child have been a victim of abuse.
You can visit: https://checklegalaid.service.gov.uk/scope/diagnosis/ to check if you will qualify.
To find a local solicitor, visit: http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/
Destitute domestic violence concession
if you don’t have settled status in the UK, you may be eligible for help from UK Visas and Immigration and apply for settlement in your own right. If you are in an abusive relationship (and a victim of domestic violence) with a British citizen or someone settled in the UK.
The Destitute Domestic Violence concession, is provided by the government to help victims of domestic abuse who are in a relationship in which they are financially dependent on an abusive partner, who have been admitted to the UK with leave as spouses, unmarried partners, same-sex partners or civil partners of a British citizen or a person settled in the UK. Visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/application-for-benefits-for-visa-holder-domestic-violence to make an online application.
Access to benefits
If you are a domestic abuse victim the Destitution Domestic Violence concession will offer you three months’ leave outside the immigration rules and the ability to apply for access to public funds. This will give you the opportunity to gain a temporary immigration status and safe accommodation, independent of your abuser, whilst seeking indefinite leave to remain or deciding to return to your country of origin.
Help if you or someone you know is an abuser
Respect is a helpline for domestic abuse perpetrators directing them to programmes in their local area. The helpline also takes calls from (ex)partners, friends and relatives who may be concerned about a perpetrator. The telephone helpline number is: 0845 122 8606.
Additional help available
Childline - Domestic abuse
Aimed at children and young people living in homes where domestic violence is happening. The information includes getting support and making a safety plan.
Respect - for people concerned about an abuser
A helpline for domestic abuse perpetrators directing them to programmes in their local area. The helpline also takes calls from (ex)partners, friends and relatives who may be concerned about a perpetrator.
T: 0845 122 8606.
Women’s Aid - Recognising domestic violence
Includes questions, helping you recognise when you are in an abusive relationship.
Galop - Emotional and practical support for LGBT+ people experiencing domestic abuse
Abuse isn’t always physical - it can be psychological, emotional, financial and sexual too.
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
A range of measures designed to support people who flee violent and abusive households. Explains what counts of domestic violence and abuse, and what help you might get.
Rights of Women - Domestic violence short film
Links to a short film for survivors of domestic violence explaining the ways the courts can help make the process of going to court safer and make it easier for you to take part in court hearings without feeling intimidated.
Gov.uk Legal aid - eligibility for legal help
Explains the circumstances when you may be eligible for legal aid if you have experienced domestic abuse and the evidence you will need to show.
Refuge - domestic violence information
Organisation providing information about what to do if you have been the victim of domestic violence.
The NSPCC - keeping children safe
Explains what domestic abuse is, and contains links to its signs, symptoms and effects and keeping children safe.
English National Domestic Violence Helpline
T: 0808 2000 247
Galop (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people)
T: 0800 999 5428
Men’s Advice Line
T: 0808 801 0327
Rape Crisis (England and Wales)
T: 0808 802 9999
Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline
T: 0800 027 1234
Scottish Women’s Aid
T: 0131 226 6606
Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline
T: 0808 80 10 800
Women’s Aid Federation (Northern Ireland)
T: 0800 917 1414