Domestic abuse is behavior from a family member, partner or ex-partner that:
- is controlling, coercive, threatening, violent or abusive
- happens between people aged over 16
Domestic violence and abuse can happen to men or women. It includes the following types of abuse:
Domestic violence and abuse can include harassment, stalking, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honor-based abuse. It can also include trafficking – get help if you think you’ve been trafficked.
If you are the victim of an abusive relationship, you might want to:
- find somewhere safe to stay
- stay in your home and get the person who is harming you to leave
- report the violence to the police
- get a court order to stop your abusive partner from harming or threatening you
- take legal action
- get help from a charity or another organisation
Whatever you want to do, there are organisations that can give you advice and help.
Finding somewhere safe to stay
You may need somewhere safe to stay, either alone or with your children. You could:
- stay at home – if you think this is safe
- stay with relatives or friends
- stay in a refuge
- get emergency accommodation from the local authority under homeless persons law – this will usually mean a bed and breakfast hostel
- get privately rented accommodation.
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.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 your abusive partner is prosecuted – you might have to go to court if they are. If you’re worried about going to court, you can get free help and support from the Citizens Advice Witness Service. You can find more information on the criminal prosecution service on the Women’s Aid website.
The police can also give you advice on crime prevention and getting something called a police marker on your address, so an officer can get to your home as quickly as possible..
Taking legal action
If you need further help, you should get advice from an independent domestic violence adviser or a solicitor who is experienced in family law.
A local advice agency, such as a law center or Citizens Advice, should be able to help you find a local solicitor who is experienced in this area of the law. In England and Wales, you can also look on the Law Society website.
You may be able to get help with your legal costs – you can check if you qualify for legal aid.Legal aid helps you with your legal costs including advice and help if you have to go to court.You should make an appointment as soon as you feel ready, and could take someone with you for support the first time you go. The initial interview will probably last quite a long time, during which the adviser should discuss with you what courses of legal action are open to you