Domestic Abuse

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is a pervasive issue affecting individuals in England. While this advice primarily pertains to England, guidance specific to Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales is available for those regions.

Domestic abuse encompasses a range of harmful behaviors perpetrated by family members, partners, or former partners. Importantly, it can impact individuals regardless of their gender, and it may manifest in various forms:

  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Violent or threatening behavior
  • Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Coercive behavior, exemplified by humiliation or intimidation
  • Controlling behavior, which can involve diminishing someone’s sense of importance or fostering dependence
  • ‘Economic abuse,’ a form of control over possessions or financial resources

Moreover, domestic abuse extends to include harassment, stalking, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, ‘honour-based’ abuse, and even trafficking. If you suspect that you have been subjected to trafficking, it is crucial to seek assistance.

It is imperative to recognize that if a child under the age of 18 witnesses or hears domestic abuse within their family, it constitutes domestic abuse. When children themselves experience such abuse, it falls under the category of child abuse. Guidance on how to report child abuse is available for those who need it.

If you’ve been affected

If you’ve experienced the impact of an abusive relationship, consider the following steps:

  1. Seek a safe place to stay.
  2. Decide whether to remain in your residence and request the person responsible for harming you to vacate.
  3. Report the acts of violence to law enforcement.
  4. Pursue a court order to prevent your abusive partner from further harm or threats.
  5. Explore legal avenues for resolution.
  6. Reach out to a charitable organization or another support group.

No matter your choice, numerous organizations are available to offer guidance and assistance.

Finding somewhere safe to stay

You might require a secure place to reside, either by yourself or with your children. If you wish to remain at your current residence, you have the option to obtain legal safeguards to keep the abuser at a distance.

In the event you cannot stay at your home, here are some alternatives:

  1. Seek refuge with relatives or friends.
  2. Consider staying in a shelter designed for individuals in similar situations.
  3. Explore emergency accommodation provided by the local authorities under the homeless persons’ law.
  4. Explore the possibility of securing privately rented accommodation.

Finding a refuge 

Refuges offer a secure haven for individuals and their children to find respite and plan their next steps.

The dedicated staff at refuges provide essential assistance to those who have endured domestic abuse. They offer both emotional and practical support, such as guidance on claiming benefits, recommendations for solicitors, and, if required, advice on contacting the police.

If you are a woman seeking assistance, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline. The helpline personnel can inform you about refuge availability and are readily available to address any inquiries you may have.

Going to the local authority or Housing Executive

Local authorities are obligated by law to assist individuals who are homeless or facing the threat of homelessness. You are generally deemed legally homeless if it is unreasonable for you to stay in your home due to the risk or fear of domestic abuse.

In cases where there is a fear of violence, local authorities are expected to handle applications with empathy. You have the option to request a private interview, conducted by someone of the same gender, and are permitted to bring a friend for support.

While the local authority assesses your legal homeless status, they may have a responsibility to provide emergency accommodation for you.

If the situation arises outside regular office hours, it is advisable to contact the local authority’s emergency out-of-hours number for assistance with emergency housing.

Check if you can apply for homeless help

Going to privately rented accommodation

Opting for privately rented accommodation may not offer a swift resolution, as arranging such accommodations typically involves a more time-consuming process. However, it could present a viable option if you find yourself with the luxury of time to strategically plan your departure. In such cases, the extended timeframe allows for a more deliberate and thoughtful consideration of available rental options, potentially resulting in a more tailored and suitable housing solution.

Reporting the violence to the police

Various forms of domestic abuse constitute criminal offenses, and law enforcement has the authority to take action against perpetrators, including arrest, caution, or charges.

Many police stations are equipped with specialized units such as Domestic Violence Units or Community Safety Units staffed by trained officers specifically handling cases of domestic violence and abuse.

In case of an emergency, dial 999, or for non-emergencies, call 101. Alternatively, you can personally visit a police station to report an incident or click here  Find your nearest police station. Locate your nearest police station through the UK Police Service Portal. It is crucial to inform the police about the details of the incident and express any concerns regarding your safety.

The decision to arrest the abuser rests with the police. Even if an arrest does not occur, there may still be avenues for obtaining legal protection through the court system. For instance, you could seek an order restraining the abuser from approaching your residence.

Should the police arrest and charge the perpetrator, they will determine whether to keep them in custody or release them on bail. Typically, conditions will be imposed on their bail to ensure your protection from further abuse. Obtain your crime reference number, as it may be required when seeking assistance from other agencies.

The Crown Prosecution Service or the police will make the final decision regarding prosecution based on the severity of the offense. If prosecution occurs, you may be required to testify in court. If this prospect is worrisome, you can access free help and support from the Citizens Advice Witness Service. Detailed information on the criminal prosecution process can be found on the Women’s Aid website.

Additionally, the police can offer guidance on crime prevention and assist in obtaining a police marker for your address, ensuring a prompt response from officers if needed.

Get legal protection

You have the option to request the court to:

  1. Prevent your partner from causing harm or making threats against you, known as a ‘non-molestation order.’
  2. Require your partner to vacate your home or prohibit their return, referred to as an ‘occupation order.’

Utilize the CourtNav, a free tool managed by RCJ Citizens Advice, a specialized Citizens Advice office in legal services, to apply for either a non-molestation order or an occupation order.

The CourtNav system assists in determining the most appropriate course of action and checks if you qualify for legal aid to support your legal expenses. It will guide you to:

  • Find a legal aid solicitor if you are eligible for legal aid.
  • Assist you in submitting an application to the court on your own.

When applying, provide an address where you are currently staying, and you have the option to keep this address confidential from your partner.

Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Orders

In the event of experiencing or facing the threat of domestic abuse, the police have the authority to issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice, providing you with 48 hours of protection from abuse. If the police assess that the danger persists, they may seek approval from the magistrates’ court for a Domestic Violence Protection Order.

A Domestic Violence Protection Order serves to shield you from ongoing abuse. If you share a residence with the perpetrator, it can also prohibit them from returning home and contacting you. Failure to adhere to the terms of the Order may lead to the perpetrator’s arrest and subsequent court proceedings.

The protective coverage of a Domestic Violence Protection Order spans up to 28 days, affording you the necessary time to explore available options and seek additional support.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme

Through the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, you have the option to access information from the police regarding a partner’s history of domestic abuse. The police may provide this information if they deem it essential for your protection. Additionally, they have the authority to issue warnings if they believe you are at risk of domestic abuse.

It is important to note that the individual in question may still have a domestic abuse history, even if the police do not disclose such information. The police might refrain from providing details for reasons such as:

  1. They do not believe it would contribute to enhancing your safety.
  2. The domestic abuse incidents were not reported to the police.

Starting legal action

If you require additional assistance, it is advisable to seek advice from an independent domestic abuse adviser or a family law solicitor with expertise in the field. This support may be crucial in various situations, such as:

  1. Reclaiming your property or establishing legal ownership of your home.
  2. Making decisions regarding the residence of your children and determining visitation rights.
  3. Initiating the process to end your marriage or civil partnership.

Local advice agencies, such as law centers or Citizens Advice, can assist you in locating a qualified solicitor in your area. In England and Wales, you can also refer to the Law Society website for further information.

Explore the possibility of qualifying for legal aid to alleviate your legal costs, covering advice and assistance during court proceedings.

Making an appointment at your earliest convenience is encouraged, and for added support, consider bringing someone with you during the initial meeting. The initial consultation is likely to be comprehensive, allowing the adviser to discuss available legal courses of action that may be applicable to your situation.

Going to a family court

Attending court proceedings can be a daunting experience, but you can alleviate stress by familiarizing yourself with the proceedings and preparing to present your side of the story effectively.

Court hearings may take place in person, over the phone, via video call, or a combination of these methods. If the court has not provided information on how to attend your hearing, reach out to them for guidance. You can find the court’s contact details on GOV.UK.

To better prepare:

  • If you’re attending in person, refer to GOV.UK for guidance on what to do when appearing in court face-to-face.
  • If your court hearing is scheduled by phone or video call, review the necessary steps to prepare for this specific format.

By proactively seeking information and understanding the format of your court appearance, you can navigate the process more smoothly.

If you don’t have a lawyer

You can represent yourself at court. Get help with representing yourself at court on the Advicenow website.

If the abuser will be at your court hearing

The court has the flexibility to implement changes during the hearing to ensure you do not have direct contact with the abuser, referred to as ‘special measures.’

Special measures encompass various arrangements, such as:

  • Allowing you to provide evidence via video or from behind a screen.
  • Allocating a separate waiting area for you away from the abuser.
  • Ensuring you do not arrive and depart from the court simultaneously with the abuser.

If you have experienced domestic abuse or are at risk of it, and the abuser is either the opposing party, a relative of the opposing party, or a witness in the case, you have the right to request special measures. It is advisable to contact the court before your hearing, preferably on the application form for your case, to allow sufficient time for preparation.

  • The court may decide against direct questioning between you and the abuser.
  • You can inform the court if you prefer not to question the abuser or be questioned by them, Download Form EX740 from GOV.UK. Submit this form to the court via mail or in person.

For cases initiated after July 21, 2022, the court may arrange for a legal representative to pose the questions on your behalf or for the abuser. This representative is appointed by the court, and you will not incur any costs. Their role is limited to asking questions and does not extend to providing advice on other matters.

If you need help communicating or understanding

If you have a health condition that might:

  • Pose difficulty for you in understanding the proceedings at the hearing.
  • Pose difficulty for others in comprehending your communication.

This encompasses conditions like learning difficulties or mental health conditions such as PTSD or severe anxiety. In such cases, you have the option to request additional assistance through an ‘intermediary.’ An intermediary is an individual who will communicate to the court the specific support you require. For instance, they can recommend how the court should phrase questions, identify when you need a break, and assist you in comprehending the questions and the overall proceedings during the hearing.

Check how to get intermediary support on GOV.UK.

If you’re from outside the UK

You might be able to apply to stay in the UK or get back to the UK if your relationship has ended because of domestic abuse.

If you’re the family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen

If you obtained pre-settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme as a family member, you are eligible to retain this status even if your relationship with your family member ended due to domestic abuse.

After residing in the UK for 5 years, you have the opportunity to upgrade your pre-settled status to settled status, granting you permanent stay in the UK.

If you have not yet acquired pre-settled status, you can still apply under the following conditions:

  • You are a family member of an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen who was residing in the UK by December 31, 2020.
  • Your relationship with your family member concluded due to domestic abuse.

While the deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme was June 30, 2021, the government acknowledges domestic abuse as a valid reason for submitting a late application for pre-settled status.

If you have a partner visa

In the event that your relationship with your partner has terminated due to domestic abuse, both you and your children have the option to apply to stay in the UK or return permanently.

If you currently hold a partner visa in the UK, you can seek ‘indefinite leave to remain.’ This application is applicable whether you are within the UK or outside, provided your last UK visa was a partner visa. Notably, this option is not available for those on a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner visa.

For eligibility, your partner must fall into one of the following categories:

  • A British or Irish citizen
  • Someone settled, indicating they possess indefinite leave to remain or settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme
  • An EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen with pre-settled status
  • A person who has served in the British Armed Forces for a minimum of 4 years
  • A refugee or an individual with humanitarian protection

To apply for indefinite leave to remain following separation due to domestic abuse, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain visit GOV.UK for the necessary procedures. download the form to apply for a 3-month extension on GOV.UK.


When to tell the Home Office

You must tell the Home Office as soon as you separate – explain your circumstances and that you’ve experienced domestic abuse. The Home Office might end your permission to stay as a partner, so it’s important to make another application to stay as soon as possible.

It’s important to get advice from a specialist adviser or immigration lawyer as soon as you can. If you have no income or a low income, you can get legal aid to pay your lawyer’s fees.

If you can’t apply for indefinite leave or to the EU Settlement Scheme

If you have a child under 18 who lives in the UK and has permission to stay, check if you can apply for a family visa on GOV.UK.

If you can’t go back to your home country because you fear persecution and want to stay in the UK as a refugee, check if you can claim asylum on GOV.UK.

If you find yourself without accommodations and financial resources, you may qualify for assistance through the Support for Migrant Victims scheme. This program offers potential financial support and assistance with securing accommodation. To access this scheme, you must be referred by an adviser, so it is advisable to engage with a professional adviser for guidance and referral – talk to an adviser.

If you recently arrived in the UK

You can find information about your rights if you’ve experienced domestic abuse on the Housing Rights Information website.

Economic abuse

Economic abuse occurs when an abuser utilizes financial tactics to exert control over you, and it may involve any of the following:

  1. Preventing you from working.
  2. Exerting control over your household finances, including wages, benefits, and bank accounts.
  3. Compelling you to surrender wages and money.
  4. Persuading or coercing you to take out loans and credit in your name.
  5. Restricting your access to essential resources such as transportation or the phone.
  6. Hindering your ability to receive your mail.

If you’ve been coerced or bullied into taking out loans or credit in your name, it’s worth noting that the debt may be deemed should talk to an adviser

The domestic abuse charity Refuge has produced a financial guide for women experiencing domestic abuse at

If someone stops you getting your post, you might not see important information about your money or debt – this is economic abuse. You can have your post delivered to a different address that only you can access. Find out how you can protect your post on the Surviving Economic Abuse website.

Honour-based abuse

Honour-based abuse is characterized as an incident or criminal act committed to safeguard or defend the honor of a family or community. It occurs when an individual is subjected to punishment by their family or community for actions that deviate from the traditional beliefs of their culture. Examples of such actions may include:

  1. Resisting an arranged marriage
  2. Resisting a forced marriage
  3. Having a partner from a different culture or religion
  4. Living a lifestyle that aligns with Western norms
  5. Seeking a divorce

Honour-based abuse encompasses various forms of harm, including domestic abuse, sexual or psychological abuse, physical assault, forced marriage, or compelling someone to return to their country of origin.

Honour-based abuse may include domestic abuse, sexual or psychological abuse, assault, forced marriage or sending someone back to their country of origin.

The Honour Network Helpline is a specialist organisation which advises victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour-based abuse. You can contact the Honour Network Helpline on their website.

Forced marriage

A forced marriage occurs when you are coerced into marriage against your will, often through emotional blackmail or physical threats, typically perpetrated by your family. It is important to distinguish between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage, as the latter involves both parties being aged over 18 and mutually consenting to the marriage.

As of February 27, 2023, arranging a marriage for an individual under 18 is deemed illegal. Even if you agree to the marriage without external pressure, it will be considered a forced marriage under this law.

In England and Wales, forced marriage is recognized as a criminal offence. Perpetrators who force someone into marriage may face imprisonment for a maximum of seven years.

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the non-medical removal or injury of part or all of a girl or young woman’s genitals. Alternately known as ‘female genital cutting’ or ‘female circumcision,’ specific communities may use local terms such as ‘sunna’ to refer to FGM. It is crucial to note that FGM is a criminal offence.

Harassment and stalking

Harassment happens when you receive unwanted behaviour from another person which alarms or distresses you. Examples of harassment include malicious phone calls, threatening texts, threatening and insulting language and damage to property.

Stalking is a form of harassment and may include behaviour such as following, contacting or attempting to contact you, monitoring your email and internet, watching and spying on you and other similar behaviour.

It is a criminal and civil offence for another person to harass or stalk you. You can report the matter to the police. Many police forces have a specialist police officer who deals with harassment or stalking.

You may also be able to get an injunction in the civil courts to stop the harassment or stalking taking place and claim damages. If an harasser breaches an injunction, it is a criminal offence.

You can get further information and guidance on how to deal with harassment and stalking from the National Stalking Helpline. Go to

Also Read:Domestic Abuse Wheel Of Power and Control

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