Domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between people who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality and are over 16 years old. People below the age of 16 can still seek and receive specialist support.
Survivors of domestic abuse are likely to have experienced, or currently be experiencing, one, some or all of the following types of abuse:
- Controlling and coercive behaviour
- Emotional and psychological abuse
- Physical and/or sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
- Harassment and stalking
- Online and digital abuse
A survivor of domestic abuse can be someone who has left an abusive relationship, or someone who is still in one.
How may abuse affect survivors?
Domestic abuse affects every person differently, and every survivor will been through a unique experience. Survivors of domestic abuse are never to blame for the abuse they suffered. Just like the type of abuse, the effects of abuse can be physical, mental, emotional and financial.
The process of coping with or recovering from domestic abuse can be a long, emotional and risky journey for survivors, as the perpetrator of the abuse may still be part of everyday life. There is a wide range of specialist support available to people who are in, who wish to leave, or who have left abusive relationships, and want help to cope with or recover from their abuse.
Because the perpetrators of domestic abuse are such a central part of a survivor’s life, it can be incredibly difficult to escape abuse. It is very normal for survivors to not escape abusive relationships or seek support first time round, or to re-enter abusive relationships. This would not stop a survivor from accessing support, as support is available at any point in the process and regardless of how many times it has been accessed before.
Survivors of domestic abuse may feel reluctant to report the abuse or seek help as while they want the abuse to end, they may not want to get the perpetrator in trouble, or may fear making the situation worse. The support available can be discreet, and focused on the safety of the survivor. Support organisations will always account for the wishes of a survivor, unless there is an immediate risk to life.
What support is available to survivors?
Speaking to someone about experiences can help survivors feel less alone and can support survivors in understanding the safest options in trying to escape abuse, cope with or recover from abuse.
As domestic abuse impacts so many people and has such a broad definition there are a number of different specialist support options available.
Anyone can make a self referral to Outreach Services, who work with survivors in the community. Survivors felt to be at high risk of harm can also be referred by a professional to the Independent Domestic Violence Advisory Service (IDVA Service) in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, which provides one-to-one support.
Some support is available at times of crisis, while other support is available long term. Some support helps survivors with the practical aspects of everyday life, while some helps with emotional recovery. Specialist support is also available for children and young people who have witnessed or been affected by domestic abuse. There is a Young Persons IDVA who supports those aged 13-19 (or up to 24 for those with special needs) who are or have been in abusive intimate relationships. Specialist support is also available for LGBT+ survivors of abuse.
It can be overwhelming to try and work out what type of support is the right support. The Victim and Witness Hub can provide independent, free and professional advice on getting the right support first time round. The support directory also provides a list of organisations, the type of support they offer and how to contact them.
What else should survivors should know about?
DVPNs and DVPOs: The police can issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) banning the perpetrator from returning home or contacting the survivor for 48 hours, to help protect survivors after a domestic abuse incident. The police can then apply to the magistrates' court for a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) to extend this for 28 days. If the perpetrator does not keep to the Order, they can be arrested and brought before the court.
DVPNs and DVPOs allows survivors breathing space to consider their options with the help of a support agency.
Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme / Clare’s Law: Under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, also known as Clare’s Law, anyone can find out about a partner's history of domestic violence from the police. The police will give you information if it is necessary to protect you. The police can also pro-actively warn you about an individual if they think you are at risk of domestic violence.
Homelessness and housing: Local authorities have a legal duty to provide help to certain people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Survivors will normally be considered to be legally homeless if it is not reasonable for them to occupy their home because of the risk or fear of domestic violence. Local authorities, should deal sympathetically with applications from survivors who are in fear of violence. Survivors can ask for a private interview, with someone of the same sex, and can take a friend for support.
Controlling behaviour Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.