Identify & Support Victims
Identifying and Supporting Victims of Domestic Abuse
What is domestic abuse?
The Home Office 2021 definition of domestic violence and abuse now states:
Behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected* to each other, and the behaviour is abusive.
Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following:
- physical or sexual abuse
- violent or threatening behaviour
- controlling or coercive behaviour
- economic abuse
- psychological, emotional or other abuse
It does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.
*Personally connected definition: They are, or have been, married; civil partners; have agreed to marry one another; have entered into a civil partnership agreement; are or have been in an intimate personal relationship; they have or have had a parental relationship in relation to the same child; or are relatives.
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.
Having a long-term illness or disability, including mental health problems, increases a person’s risk of experiencing domestic violence or abuse. The law emphasises freedom from abuse as essential to a person’s wellbeing (Care Act 2014) and highlights the harm to children who experience domestic abuse (Children Act 2004).
What Are the Signs of Domestic Abuse?
- Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting, mocking, accusing, name calling, verbally threatening you, making you feel bad about yourself.
- Pressure tactics: threatening to withhold money, taking away your phone or car, threats to commit suicide or take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with their demands.
- Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money from your purse without asking, refusing to help with childcare or housework.
- Breaking trust: lying to you, withholding information from you, being excessively jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises and shared agreements.
- Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.
- Harassment: following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you, embarrassing you in public.
- Threats: making angry gestures, using physical size to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your possessions, breaking things, punching walls, wielding a knife or a gun, threatening to kill or harm you and the children or pets and people you care about.
- Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex, any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.
- Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling.
- Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being publicly gentle and patient, crying and begging for forgiveness, saying it will never happen again.
- LGBT community specific signs: threatening/outing partner/family member, ridiculing body parts or assaulting medically altered body parts.
Asking about domestic abuse
Asking about a person’s experiences in their relationships and recognising the signs of possible domestic abuse are the first steps in making sure they receive the right help and support.
If you are concerned, they may be experiencing domestic abuse, offer to talk privately with them somewhere that they feel safe.
Ask sensitive questions that help the person talk about their experiences. Listen carefully and be careful not to make assumptions. Exercise ‘professional curiosity’.
If the person needs support to communicate, including an interpreter, use a professional who is impartial and has a duty to maintain confidentiality. Do not use family and friends.
Responding to a domestic abuse disclosure
Many people will be worried about sharing what is happening to them. Your response can help them know that they are not alone and to feel that they will be believed.
Validate what’s happening to the person:
- “You are not alone”
- “You are not to blame for what is happening”
- “You do not deserve to be treated in this way”
- “There is help available“
Assess and safety plan
If a person makes a disclosure of domestic violence or abuse, their safety and the safety of others, including any children who may be affected, is the first priority.
Check current safety:
- “Is the abuser here with you?”
- “Where are the children?”
- “Do you have any immediate concerns?”
- “Do you have a safe place to go to?”
Consider if there is an immediate risk and if the perpetrator(s) is present. Seek management support and call the police if there are immediate risks.
Check if they need any medical attention and support them to access help and support if needed.
Discuss Safety Planning with the victim. Click here for safety planning guidelines.
Explore options – Click Here to refer to help and support available for survivors page.
If the person needs access to Refuge accommodation, contact EDAN Lincs Refuge 01522 510041 or if outside of these hours contact the National Domestic Abuse helpline number 0808 2000 247.
Share information about specialist services and offer a referral, including to a domestic abuse service. Domestic abuse services can help address emotional, psychological, physical and sexual harm. They can offer advice, help develop future plans and increase the person’s safety.
Services include refuges, advocacy, outreach support, and tailored interventions, as well as housing workers, independent domestic violence advisors (IDVA) and a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) for people at high risk.
If the person appears to have additional needs associated with alcohol or drug misuse or mental health problems, offer to refer them to the relevant service, as well as to domestic abuse support.
Record your discussion and the actions you have agreed.
Click Here for further information about help available in Lincolnshire.
Click here – A guide for people who think their friend, relative, neighbour or colleague may be in an abusive relationship (Developed by Dr Alison Gregory in partnership with Bristol City Council and Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner ) via safe lives website (www.safelives.org.uk)