What is domestic abuse?
Many people think that domestic abuse has to involve physical violence. Whilst this is certainly a serious threat and never acceptable there are other kinds of abuse which can be experienced.
Domestic abuse can involve controlling behaviour, such as restricting another person’s movements or finances, or involve psychological or verbal abuse. Domestic abuse often occurs between couples but it can also occur between parents and children, brothers and sisters, family relations and anyone else who lives together.
What are the first steps for victims?
Victims of domestic abuse often feel they’re alone but they can reach out for help and advice. The police, solicitors, advice services like the Citizens Advice Bureau and domestic abuse charities all provide advice and assistance in the strictest confidence.
If you are involved in an abusive relationship you may need to find somewhere safe to stay. This could include a friend or relation’s house, a refuge or privately rented accommodation. Local authorities also have a legal obligation to provide help to certain people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. This will usually apply if it is not reasonable for you to occupy your home because of the risk or fear of domestic violence.
How can the law help?
In some cases, solicitors can go to court on the same day to put an emergency order in place to ensure the safety of a victim of domestic abuse. Longer term victims might also need help if they are divorcing or separating from an abusive partner.
They can also get help in keeping violent partners or ex-partners away, protecting them from violence, threats and harassment. They may also need help with finances, securing access and rights to the family home and in resolving child access and custody issues.
As well as dealing with specific legal issues, legal experts will be able to put victims in touch with charities and other agencies that can help.