Domestic violence early warning signs and legal support available
An estimated two million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic violence in the year ending March 2018. Women were twice as likely to experience domestic abuse than men, equating to an estimated 1.3 million female victims and 695,000 male victims. Sadly, these figures have been under-reported as many victims don’t come forward.
When people think of domestic abuse they often focus on physical violence, but domestic abuse also includes bullying, coercive and threatening behaviour, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse and financial control. Abusive behaviour can be perpetrated by a family member, partner or an ex-partner.
Here are some early warning signs of domestic abuse – individual experiences may be different:
- You avoid saying or doing certain things because you’re frightened of upsetting your partner.
- You are becoming more self-critical and feel as though you can’t do anything right.
- You feel constantly stressed and are ‘walking on egg shells’.
- You are being pressured into doing things you don’t want to do.
- You have no privacy or freedom because your partner:
- Looks through your phone, social media pages and web browser history.
- Makes you feel guilty if you spend time with anybody except them.
- Your partner uses or misuses your money. This can include using credit cards without your permission, putting contractual obligations in your name or gambling with your joint assets.
Domestic abuse and violence can happen to anyone – male or female, in different-sex or same-sex relationships. It occurs across economic and ethnic backgrounds and age ranges. Abusive behaviour is never acceptable, no matter what. You deserve to feel safe, respected and valued.
How to get help if you’re experiencing domestic abuse
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, a lawyer can advise you on your rights and how to prevent further abuse. It might feel daunting to go down this route, but there is plenty of support to help you. As a victim of domestic abuse or violence, you might be able to claim Legal Aid to cover costs. To be eligible you will need to provide evidence that you or your children were at risk of harm. Evidence can come from:
- The courts or police
- Social services
- A multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC)
- Any health professional
- A refuge manager or domestic violence support service
- Your financial records – bank statements, credit card statements, loan statements or documents
- A benefits provider
- Your employer or an education or training establishment you attend
Eligibility will also depend upon your level of income and any benefits you receive. Talk to a lawyer who will guide you through the process – you do not need to gather evidence before you meet.
Legal options to prevent domestic abuse or violence
The legal measures you can take to protect yourself and your family include the below.
The aim is to stop your ex-partner from threatening abuse, intimidating, harassing or pestering you. It is a civil court order which means that you can take out this order yourself, with the support of a lawyer if you choose, through the courts rather than having to go through the police. It gives you the control to prevent unwanted actions from your abuser. Breaching a Non-Molestation Order is a criminal offence and your abuser will be arrested if they do so.
This stops your abuser from entering your home and can restrict them from entering the surrounding area. The order can also state who pays the rent, mortgage and other expenses associated with the property as well as what furniture and contents can be used. For extra protection, a Power of Arrest can be added to the order. This means that the police can arrest your abuser and bring them into custody without a warrant.
Prohibitive Steps Order
You can use this to prevent your abuser from carrying out certain action such as:
- Taking a child out of the country
- Relocating a child to a different area of the country
- Changing a child’s surname without your agreement
- Making a potentially harmful decision in connection to the medical treatment of a child
Child Arrangements Order
This specifies where a child lives and who they can have contact with. If the judge believes a child is at risk of harm, the decision may be taken that contact with your ex-partner is inappropriate or should only take place under supervision. The judge’s decisions are based on CAFCASS’s safeguarding report (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service). A CAFCASS officer carries out checks with the police and local authority and they also conduct family visits to establish whether there is any risk of domestic abuse. Decisions are always made with the wellbeing of the child the top priority.
QualitySolicitors’ family lawyers can advise you on the best legal steps to take to protect yourself in light of your specific circumstances. Court orders can last for weeks, months or a year, and you can ask for them to be extended prior to expiry if you need continued protection.
What to do if you suspect someone else is a victim of domestic abuse
Evidence shows that victims are more likely to confide in a friend than to police or other professionals. Find a quiet time to broach the subject face-to-face. Do not talk to your friend over the internet or phone because their abuser could be monitoring their communications, and never confront the abuser directly as this could endanger your friend and any children involved as well as yourself.
Approach the subject gently without using the words ‘domestic abuse’ because your friend may not identify with this label or have yet acknowledged what is happening. Use non-threatening, kind language to open the conversation: "I haven’t seen much of you lately. Is everything alright?"
If your friend opens up, don’t offer judgements or tell them to leave their partner because victims are more at risk at the point they leave a relationship.
Here is what to put across:
- Acknowledge that it has taken them a lot of courage to open up to you.
- The abuse is not their fault.
- You want to help and you believe in them.
- Let them know that there is professional, practical assistance available to them (see below).
- Encourage them to pack an emergency bag with clothes, medications and important documents such as passports, birth certificate and banking documents, and then to hide it in a safe place.
- Encourage them to have an emergency leaving plan in place – where they can go, how they will get there and who they can call. They will need to remember that their abuser will know some of the same people, so it’s important that they consider carefully who is privy to this information.
Helplines and websites
- Police (emergency): 999
- Police (non-emergency): 101
- National Domestic Violence 24-hour helpline: 0808 2000 247
- National LGBT and Domestic Abuse helpline: 0800 999 5428
- The Men’s Advice Line (for male domestic abuse victims): 0808 801 0327
- The Mix (free support for under 25s): 0808 808 4994
- Samaritans 24-hour helpline: 116 123
- Victim Support (freephone 24hr): 0808 16 89 111
- Legal advice (provided by QualitySolicitors): 08082747557
- Rights of Women: https://rightsofwomen.org.uk/get-advice/advice-lines/
- Women’s Aid: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/
There are smartphone apps available to protect women and men in dangerous situations.
The Hollie Guard app can be used to:
- Send out alerts to your emergency contacts
- Send location details to trusted contacts when you are travelling
- Attract attention with an alarm
- Record audio and video
Bright Sky enables you to find your nearest support centre and to log incidents of domestic abuse in audio, photo, text or video format, without storing any information on the device itself.
A refuge is a safe house for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. Find a local refuge through the organisations here:
- Refuge: http://www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/phone-the-helpline/
- Women’s Aid Directory: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-abuse-directory/
- Shelter: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/homelessness
Specialist support for children
- Childline: https://www.childline.org.uk/
- NSPCC Children’s Services: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/our-services/childrens-services/
- Women’s Aid (children’s page): http://thehideout.org.uk/
Swift, confidential advice
Everybody has the right to live in safety free from the threat of domestic abuse. The specialist lawyers at QualitySolicitors can help you to apply for court orders, organise child arrangements and resolve financial problems so you do not have to deal directly with your ex-partner.
Our family law specialists work sensitively to protect you and your children and to resolve your situation as quickly as possible. As well as providing legal advice we can put you in touch with organisations who will support you in practical ways, enabling you to move forward with your life and to heal.
Speak to us confidentially on 08082747557.
 Office for National Statistics, ‘Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2018’ https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2018#prevalence-of-domestic-abuse
 WebMD, What Are the Signs of Domestic Abuse? https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-domestic-abuse-signs#1
 Gov.uk, Legal Aid: Domestic Abuse or Violence https://www.gov.uk/legal-aid/domestic-abuse-or-violence
 Neighbourhood Watch, How to Help https://www.ourwatch.org.uk/crimes-archive/how-to-help/