If you suspect that someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, you may be unsure of how to help. You may not know what to say or are fearful of saying the wrong thing which therefore prevents you from reaching out. But, waiting for the perfect words could keep you from supporting a loved one.
Many domestic abuse victims, they can feel lonely and isolated, so reaching out to them could provide relief. In this guide, our experienced family law solicitors outline how you can support a victim of domestic abuse.
What is Domestic Abuse?
Domestic abuse is the term for when someone close to you, often a partner, causes you physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial harm. It can also include controlling behaviour. The violence and abuse can be actual or threatened and can happen once every so often or on a regular basis.
Types of Domestic Abuse
This is the most obvious form of abuse but doesn’t cover only hitting. This includes forms of abuse where items are thrown in temper, the partner pinches or shoves claiming it’s a ‘joke’ or “play fighting”
Coercive control often can’t be pinned down to one event in a relationship, but is the accumulation of words, behaviours, and threats that intimidate humiliate, isolate and control the victim – leaving them without freedom and very little of ‘themselves’ left. It can be just as harmful as physical abuse. Examples include calling them names, putting them down, making them feel like they are going mad and blaming them for the abuse, or controlling their every move through threats and intimidation.
Sexual abuse – including rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation – is commonly used as a way to control and abuse partners. Sexual abuse is any form of sexual activity (involving physical contact, words, or photographs) that takes place without the other person’s full and informed consent.
Financial abuse is a way of controlling a person’s ability to acquire, use and maintain their own money and resources. This can also include spending or taking money without consent, building debts up in their partner’s name, damaging possessions or property or, if the couple is separated, withholding child maintenance payments.
Spotting the Signs of Domestic Abuse
Each situation and relationship is different, so it is difficult to define a specific action or sign of domestic abuse. However, it is common in domestic abuse situations for some of the following to occur:
- The partner is possessive and/or obsessively jealous.
- Charming to friends and family, but sudden changes of mood behind closed doors.
- Stopping their partner from seeing family and friends and making them feel isolated.
- Constantly criticising and embarrassing their partner.
- Makes their partner second guess decisions.
- Controls money.
- Decide what their partner will wear.
- They monitor the movements of their partner, and check-ups via messages and social media.
- They look at their partner’s messages.
- They use anger and intimidation to frighten their partner.
- They can lose their temper and hit or throw items at their partner to hurt them.
- They blame their partner for their behaviour.
Physical Abuse Symptoms:
- Broken or fractured bones
- Burns or scalds
- Bite marks
Supporting a Victim of Domestic Abuse
According to the charity Refuge, almost one in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone. They report that only 24% of domestic abuse crime is reported. So it’s important that if you believe that your friend is suffering a form of domestic abuse you support them sooner rather than later.
Here are a few things that you can do to support a victim of domestic abuse:
Make Time for Them
When you decide to reach out to your loved one, make sure you put plenty of time aside in case the victim decides to open up. If they decide to disclose years of built-up fear and frustration, you will not want to end the conversation because you have something else on.
Start the Conversation
If you aren’t sure how to start the conversation, you can begin by saying ‘I’m worried about you’ or ‘I have noticed some things that concern me’. You can mention that you have noticed that the person has become unusually quiet or withdrawn. Make sure they know that you will be discreet with any information they give you, don’t force them to tell you anything, let the conversation unfold naturally.
Often, the victim is the only one who sees the dark side of the perpetrator. Many times others are shocked to learn that a person they know could commit violence. Due to this, victims can feel like no one would believe them. If you want to support the victim, believe them and their story and tell them you do, as this can bring them a sense of relief.
Offer the victim assurances like:
- I believe you
- This is not your fault
- You don’t deserve this
- If physical harm has occurred offer to go with them to the GP or hospital.
- Encourage them to seek legal support and go with them to speak to a Solicitor.
- Offer to keep an ‘emergency bag’ safe with cash, clothes, toiletries and personal belongings just in case.
Getting Legal Protection
We want to stress that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach as it does depend solely on the situation. But, no matter what, your loved one will need legal support to keep them safe.
There is legal aid available for domestic abuse cases, which is means tested, and we have a designated team of Solicitors who specialise in these cases.
If your friend wants to get legal protection they can apply to the family court for an injunction order. An injunction order can provide breathing space for them to recover and make decisions about the future. It can prohibit further abuse and exclude their partner from their home.
A non-molestation order forbids the use or threat of violence and the use of intimidation, harassment or pestering. It can also prohibit specific behaviour. The court has to take into account all the circumstances including the need to secure the health, safety, and wellbeing of the victim and that of any children that may be involved.
An occupation order can be obtained where significant harm to a person or your children is likely.
The order may include:
- A requirement that your partner leaves the home
- Suspension of your partner’s right to occupy the home
- Exclusion of your partner from a defined area around the home
Once you have a non-molestation order in place the police have the power to arrest in the event of a breach of the order, which is a criminal offence.
It’s important to contact a Solicitor as soon as possible, as they can advise and help apply for the order.
Charity Support Schemes
There are a number of support schemes that can help in situations of domestic abuse.
IDAS is the largest specialist charity in Yorkshire supporting people affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence.
0808 2000 247
Offer free counselling service online via email or instant chat https://chat.womensaid.org.uk/
Support for young women and their children who have been affected by domestic abuse
LGBT+ domestic abuse help
0800 999 5428
Sheffield Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service
0114 275 2157
Domestic abuse help
0808 2000 247 https://www.refuge.org.uk/
Contact Our Family Law Solicitors
Contact us on:
Sheffield – 0114 249 66 66
Barnsley – 01226 805 190
Rotherham – 01709 364 000
Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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