Dealing with domestic violence: your rights and getting support
Many women are affected by domestic violence, and so are some men. Unfortunately victims of domestic violence, for understandable reasons, tend to be very reluctant to seek help.
On average women are attacked 35 times before they seek help and men are even more reluctant to do so due to social stigma and embarrassment. Domestic violence is a serious issue in the UK, and sometimes legal aid just isn’t enough to help victims.
Here we will answer some of the important questions that are involved in dealing with domestic violence and, in particular, we will focus on your legal rights and where you can find help from support groups.
What is domestic violence?
The government has stated that any behaviour that is threatening, controlling, coercive, abusive or violent and occurs within a current or previous intimate relationship, or between members of the same family, is considered to be domestic violence.
- Abusive behaviour can be psychological, sexual, physically, emotional or financial.
- Coercive behaviour includes assault, threats, intimidation, humiliation and any other behaviour that is intended to harm, frighten or punish.
- Controlling behaviour aimed at creating subservience by depriving the partner of the possibility of acting independently in their day to day life.
What are my legal rights?
You have legal rights under both criminal and civil law. It is a crime to assault someone, and that applies as much to someone you're in a relationship with as it does to a stranger. The police may arrest the offender and then along with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), may decide to prosecute them through the Magistrates' court or Crown Court.
Under civil law you have a right to protection. You can apply for an injunction at a Family Court or a County Court to prevent your abuser from harming you and to prevent them from visiting your home.
You also have a right to receive help for emergency or temporary accommodation.
If my partner attacks me, what can I do?
If you are attacked by your partner you should contact the police. If the police consider that your partner has committed a criminal offence, then they may arrest him or her. If you consider yourself to be in imminent danger then call 999.
How can I stay safe in the future?
It is essential to ensure that you remain protected. The best way is to apply for a Non-Molestation Order, which safeguards you from being harassed or assaulted, and/or an Exclusion Order which makes it illegal for your partner or former partner to visit your home.
How can I check to see if my partner has a record of domestic violence?
You have a legal “right to ask” the police if your partner has been involved in violence in the past. If the police then consider that you could be at risk, then they may decide to tell you, but they are not legally obliged to do so.
If the police have discovered through a third party or as part of their investigations that your partner is potentially dangerous, then they might inform you under your “right to know”.
I am not a British National; will I still be able to stay in Britain?
If domestic violence is the reason why your relationship with a British national has broken down then you might be able to apply to stay in Britain permanently. The government may provide help if you were admitted to the UK because you were a spouse or a civil partner of a UK national. If you struggle to get a right to stay after a bout of domestic violence, you may want to speak to an Immigration specialist.
Where can I find help and support?
There are a number of support groups and organisations that can help and protect victims of domestic violence. These include the charities and government agencies listed below:
English National Domestic Violence Helpline
0808 2000 247 - www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk
This is a 24 hour helpline formed by Women’s Aid and Refuge.
0808 2000 247 - www.womensaid.org.uk
Women’s Aid is a national charity that helps around a quarter of a million women and children a year who are victims of domestic violence. They will put you in touch with your local domestic violence service of which there are over 400 across the UK.
Men’s Advice Line
0808 801 0327 - www.mensadviceline.org.uk
Men’s Advice Line provides support for male victims of domestic violence both in heterosexual and same sex relationships.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, then the priority is to get immediate assistance to keep yourself and your children safe. Once you have done that you should contact a solicitor in order to consider your next steps; you might qualify for legal aid. Separation and divorce may be necessary steps if you are married or living together. You can find your local QualitySolicitors branch here.