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26 Domestic Violence, Abuse and Harassment

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1 Introduction

2. What can I do if someone in my family is abusing me?

3. Practical things to do if you are being abused

The first thing is to make sure that you and any children are safe. If you need protection during a violent incident, call the police on 999. If you are using a mobile phone, tell the operator where you are immediately, because they cannot find out by tracing your call. The police have a duty to protect you and any children and make sure you are safe. They may arrest your partner. They may go with you to a safe place if you need to leave the home so as to be safe. They can tell you about emergency housing and refuges.

If you want help from the police at some point after you were abused, you can ring your local police station (their number is in the phone book) and ask to speak to the community safety officer (sometimes called the domestic violence officer), who will be able to advise you what to do. See also 'What the police can do for you'.

You may have to leave your home for a few days to go to a safe place, while you sort out your legal position. You will not lose your rights to the home if you do this. For help and advice, call the confidential 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline -see 'Further help' for details.

If you have been abused in the past, or you think you are going to be abused, you may be able to make a planned escape and leave with money, clothes and other things you will need. The things you should take on a planned escape are:

  • clothes;
  • toiletries;
  • passports - yours and any children's;
  • benefit books or details;
  • your National Insurance number;
  • savings books;
  • bank details;
  • your children's health record books;
  • any other personal identification, such as an official letter addressed to you at your home;
  • your children's favourite toys; and
  • a photograph (if you have one) of your partner.

Sometimes it is safer just to get out of the home with whatever you can grab. Don't panic; make sure you are safe first. The things you will need to sort out are described on the following pages.

What if I have to leave the children?
You will not lose your rights as a parent if you have to leave your children, but it is important that you see a solicitor as soon as possible so you can take steps to get back to them (if you want to). If you leave them for weeks or months with your partner, a court may feel that changing the situation would unsettle them.

What if I have been injured during the abuse?
If you have any sort of injury, you need to make sure you get it treated and recorded. Go to your GP or to the local hospital casualty department. It may be embarrassing, but tell them how the injury occurred and ask them to note this on your records. This is because you may need a medical report if your case goes to court. If your injuries are visible, like bruises or cuts, try to get a photograph of them. If you don't have a camera, you can use a photo booth, or buy a cheap disposable camera.

What should I do about money?
If you make a planned escape, before you go you may be able to get some money together to tide you over. If you have to leave in a rush this may be difficult. If your money is in a joint account with your partner, think about asking the bank to put a stop on the account so that your partner cannot take out money without you. However, this will mean you can't get money out either, so before you do this make sure you have enough for the time being. If you can, set up a separate bank account before you go. If you don't have any money of your own, call your local benefit office. You may be able to get a crisis loan if you need it, and you can apply for Income Support at the same time.

How can I find somewhere to live?
You may be able to stay with friends or family, but this may not feel safe enough, or you may not want to involve them. If you are escaping domestic violence or abuse, you can contact your local housing authority to see if they can find you a temporary home. (Look in the phone book under your local council's listings.)

Most areas also have women's refuges that offer temporary housing to women and their children. You do not have to have children to be able to stay there. Some are especially for women from a particular background or ethnic group. The staff in a refuge will give you advice and support and help you work out what to do next. You will be able to stay there until you can find somewhere safe to live. Refuges do not print their addresses or phone numbers for safety reasons. To find out about refuges near you, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline -see 'Further help' for more information.

Getting your things from home
If you have had to leave in a rush and need to go back home to get important things, the police will generally help you arrange this. They will find someone to go with you so that you can go home safely.

Dealing with drink and drugs
If you are being abused because you or your partner is using alcohol or drugs, there are several organisations you can contact for help. Alcoholics Anonymous can help someone who is drinking too much. Another organisation, Al Anon, can help the families of people who drink too much. If the problem is drugs, talk to your GP or your health visitor who will know what help is available locally.

4. Taking legal steps

5. What the police can do for you

6. What a solicitor can do for you

7. Court orders you can get to protect you

8. How a court order protects you

9. What if the person abusing me is not my partner?

10. How can I help someone who is being abused?

11. Terms used in matters to do with domestic abuse

12. Further help

13. About this leaflet

This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Imogen Clout, a solicitor specialising in family law.

Leaflet version: July 2019

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