Advice and Information on Domestic Abuse
Anyone can experience domestic abuse
Domestic abuse happens in all social, racial and ethnic groups. Research repeatedly shows that 80% of victims of domestic abuse are women and 20% are men.
Abuse of vulnerable people does not have to be deliberate, malicious or planned. It sometimes happens when people are trying to do their best, but do not know the right thing to do, and it can be difficult for these groups of people to tell someone about it, or find out where they can get help. Sometimes the person causing harm does so because of frustration even in the context of caring for the person. Many people find it hard to understand why someone would want to abuse a vulnerable person, however, vulnerable people can often be the perfect target because often they cannot defend themselves, may not be able to get away or fear they may not be believed.
Make an Action Plan
If you or someone you know wants to leave a violent or abusive relationship, it helps to make initial plans:
- Always carry with you a list of emergency numbers
- Get an extra set of keys cut for your home and car and leave them somewhere safe, perhaps with a trusted friend or relative
- Keep a set of clothes for you and your children packed and ready and leave them somewhere safe, perhaps with a trusted friend or relative
- Keep documents somewhere safe and ready (birth certificates, benefit books and passports)
- Try to save a small amount of money for bus, train or taxi fares
If there is more time to plan, try to do as much of the following as possible:
- Leave when your partner is not around
- Take your children with you
- Take all important legal papers and documents
- Take any personal possessions that have sentimental value
- Take any medicines you or your children might need
- Take clothing to last several days
- Arrange for pets to be cared for; a local animal charity may be able to help
People stay in abusive relationships for many reasons. Not everyone recognises or “labels” what is happening to them as being domestic abuse. It is important to note that many people DO leave abusive and violent relationships.
Contributing factors that may cause an abused person to remain with, or return to, their abusive partner can be complex but may include:
- fear of retaliation or reprisals either from the abuser and their friends or family
- financial or emotional dependency
- lack of social/family support network
- low self-esteem and blaming oneself
- social stigma
- lack of acceptance with one’s own social sphere
- beliefs about marriage, for example “sticking together through thick and thin”
- children – if they leave, they lose their parent, home, friends, school life, toys and possessions
- caring responsibilities – for relatives or pets
- giving up everything they may possess/personal belongings
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY ‘DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE'?
The Government definition of Domestic Violence and Abuse (as of 31 March 2013) is: Any incident of pattern of incidents, of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence are abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been intimate partners or family members* regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: Psychological, Physical, Sexual, Financial and Emotional.
*Family members are: mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister and grandparents; directly related, in-laws or step-family
If you or someone you know is being abused remember:
- The victim is never to blame for the abuse
- Only the abuser can change the abusive behaviour
- Ignoring violence is dangerous
- There is life after an abusive relationship
- DON’T remain isolated – break the silence!
Your Health Matters
A violent relationship will affect you both physically and emotionally; you may feel tired and run down, or depressed and unable to cope. You may feel ashamed of what is happening to you and some people turn to alcohol and drugs to try and get through it. Although it is difficult, remember that your health is important.
Your GP, Practice Nurse, Health Visitor or School Nurse will listen to you and support you. If you are pregnant or have recently given birth, you can talk in confidence to your midwife. Seek medical attention for your injuries from your GP, or the Hospital Accident & Emergency Department and don’t be afraid to tell the truth about what has happened. Your confidentiality will be respected, even if you want no action taken against the abuser, it is worth getting the reason for your injuries noted in case you decide to take action at a later date. It is certainly important to ensure that any injuries sustained are treated as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of complications at a later date.
Contraception and sexual health services are available to all regardless of age or sex and are confidential and non-judgemental
ACT NOW – STOP THE HURT
Domestic abuse can have lasting effects on the victims and their families, for generations to come; experts have confirmed the devastating effects domestic abuse can have on children. In January 2005 the definition of “Harm” within the Children Act 1989 was extended to include the “witnessing of ill treatment of another”.
1. The Law protects victims of Domestic Violence
The Family Law Act 1996, Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and Domestic Violence, crime and Victims Act 2004 are all laws designed to provide protection for the victims of domestic abuse. Free advice on how the law can assist is available from many solicitors and the local Citizens Advice Bureau.
2. Seeking legal advice at an early stage will help
Don’t let fear and ignorance be the reason for the violence to continue. Reliable information will reduce fear; knowing all the options will enable choices and action to be taken to stop the abuse. If the situation is urgent, seek legal advice straight away, emergency remedies are often available.
3. Leaving a violent relationship does not necessarily mean leaving home
Consult a solicitor; action can be taken to secure the home for the victim and any children. Under the Family Law Act 1996 the Civil Courts have the power to remove a violent member of the family from the home and even to exclude them from the vicinity of the home – breaking such orders will lead to punishment of the perpetrator and protection for the victims.
4. Recording evidence of abuse is simple and effective
Having evidence could provide the courage and confidence the victim needs to leave an abusive relationship. Where there is evidence any case before a Court is more likely to succeed. All too often, domestic abuse takes place without independent witnesses and behind closed doors.
The victim fears that they will not be believed and perhaps they also worry that they will be criticised or will find themselves in trouble.
If there has been a history of abuse, evidence of this will help put the record straight. And it’s easy…
- Keep a diary or notebook with dates and times of incidents and what took place
- Photograph injuries or damage to property, with dates if possible
- Seek medical advice and be sure the cause of the injuries is recorded
Speak to Domestic Abuse and Safeguarding Officers at the local Police Station; they can offer advice and information about other organisations that can offer help and support. They can also record matters, even if there are no criminal damages.
For some victims of domestic abuse, it may be important to remember that computers keep records of sites that users have visited, which means that their abuser could become aware that they are seeking help via the internet. Pressing ‘delete’ after using a website does not necessarily mean that the file has disappeared from your hard drive.
It may be safer and easier for people seeking help via the internet to use a computer away from home such as a trusted friend’s house, your workplace (check employers internet policies) or at a public place such as a library. Other safety suggestions if using a computer at home are to: change your password often, do not pick obvious words or numbers for your password and pick a combination of letters and numbers for your password.
Work Place support for Domestic Abuse
Many victims of domestic abuse don’t tell their employer because they fear they won’t be believed, feel ashamed or fear that they will lose their job. The victim may be in danger at work if the abuser knows where she/he works and is able to gain access. Try and find out if there is someone you can talk to at work; perhaps the Human Resources or Occupational Health department, trade union rep or a trusted supervisor or manager.
If your employer is aware that you are having difficulties at home, they’re more likely to understand and offer support when you need it. Domestic abuse can impact on the work place in a number of ways, potentially affecting employees’ work performance, productivities, punctuality, attendance, career choices, job prospects and health and safety. Many workplaces are now developing Domestic Abuse Policies as part of their role in helping to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees.