Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is when someone close to you, often your spouse or partner, causes you physical, social, mental, financial or emotional harm. The violence and abuse can be actual or threatened and can happen once every so often or on a regular basis.

Protecting your children

In domestic abuse and addiction situations you may try to shield your children from what is happening by playing it down or not talking about it.

The truth is that most children are aware of the abuse. As many as 90% of children are in the same room or in the next room when domestic abuse occurs.

You may hang on to the hope that the behaviour of the abusing parent will eventually change and work to keep the peace instead of protecting yourself and your children. When this happens, you put yourself and your children at enormous risk. Even when things improve for a time, significant change can only occur if the offending parent has acknowledged the problem and is actively seeking professional help.

Your first priority should be the safety of yourself and your children. In many cases, this means involving the police and getting the protection of the legal system. A Resolution specialist lawyer can help you.

You should tell your solicitor if the other parent has threatened you, hurt you physically or sexually, controlled or isolated you or has behaved in an emotionally abusive way towards you.

Your solicitor will be able to advise you about getting an injunction, which would prevent further abuse or stop the other parent from coming to your home. Your solicitor can also advise you about making arrangements for your children and the other parent spending time together that do not expose either you or the children to these risks.

You may be eligible for legal aid for injunction proceedings, but if your income or capital is above a certain limit, you would have to pay a contribution.

As well as physically protecting children, it is very important that you offer emotional support to help them cope with difficult situations involving domestic abuse and addiction. Often children involved in these types of situation have mixed feelings about the other parent. Some may feel deeply responsible for a parent’s behaviour, while others may feel conflicted and worry about betraying one or both parents.

Getting legal protection

If you want to get legal protection you can apply to the civil court for an injunction order. An injunction order can provide a breathing space for you to recover and make decisions about the future. It can prohibit further abuse and exclude the perpetrator from the home.

Find a specialist family lawyer here.

Some information on your legal options is below. For information on other services, please see the list of useful organisations below.

Orders

Non-Molestation Order forbids the threat or use of violence and the use of intimidation, harassment or pestering. It can also prohibit specific behaviour. The court has to take into account all of the circumstances including the need to secure your health, safety and wellbeing and that of any children you may have.

An Occupation Order can be obtained where significant harm to you or your children is likely. Orders are usually made for a fixed period of generally no less than six months and may be extended.

The order may include:

  • A requirement that your partner leave the home
  • Suspension of your partner’s right to occupy the home
  • Exclusion of your partner from a defined area around the home.

Guidance on non-molestation orders and a helpful video can be found on the Advicenow website.

You can apply to the court for an order without notice to your partner. Non-Molestation Orders (and, in exceptional cases, Occupation Orders) can be granted by the court urgently on the day the application is issued.

Once you have a non-molestation order the police have the power to arrest in the event of a breach of the order, which is a criminal offence.

Breach of any Order is contempt of court and if your partner does breach an order they could be sent to prison by the civil court that made the order.

Power of Arrest can be attached to all or part of an Occupation Order. The police are then able to arrest your partner for breach of the Order.

Useful organisations

This list is not exhaustive. There is likely to be a support service in your area.

Women’s Aid

0808 2000 247

Offers a free 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline and an online guide ‘The Survivors Handbook’. Children may also benefit from visiting their kids’ website called ‘The Hideout’. Provides a list of regional centres and services – see the Domestic Abuse Directory.

Refuge 

0808 2000 247

Works in partnership with Women’s Aid to provide advice and support to anyone experiencing domestic violence. Provides safe, emergency accommodation throughout the UK.

Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline

0161 636 7525

Manchester-based organisation offering national advice, information and telephone counselling. Helpline open Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm.

MALE (Men’s advice line and enquiries)

0808 801 0327

Support and advice for male victims of domestic violence, information for their families and for men who want to change their violent and abusive behaviour. Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm.

Pathway Project

01543 676 800

Organisation based in Staffordshire offering a free national 24-hour helpline and refuge accommodation, as well as counselling and support groups, including children’s therapeutic play sessions.

Southall Black Sisters

0208 571 0800

Resource centre based in London providing a service for women who are experiencing violence or abuse. Offers advice, group therapy and counselling, including in Hindi and Urdu.

Shelter 

0808 800 444

Practical help for victims of homelessness. 8am to midnight seven days a week.

Everyman Project 

0207 263 8884

Offers counselling and support to men who want to change their violent or abusive behaviour.

Men’s advice line

0808 801 0327

A confidential helpline for any man experiencing domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner.

NSPCC

0808 800 500

Free access to current information on child abuse, child protection and safeguarding in England and Wales.

Respect phoneline 

0808 802 4040

Helpline for anyone concerned about their violence or abuse towards a partner or ex-partner.