Understanding what domestic violence is
Domestic violence can involve physical or sexual abuse, rape, emotional abuse and isolation, coercion, threats, intimidation, economic abuse, financial control, forced marriage and honour-based violence. Abusive, coercive and threatening behaviour can take place online and in text messaging, for example. It doesn’t have to be face to face.
People who experience domestic violence may have a range of responses to it. Fear, anxiety, isolation, depression, drug or alcohol misuse are all common reactions. And all too often the women feel blamed.
Men and women can be perpetrators and victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence can occur within heterosexual and same sex relationships. It can take place when people live together or apart. It can occur once couples have separated and it can occur between family members (e.g. a mother-in-law abusing her daughter-in-law or a son victimising his mother). Statistics show that in the majority of domestic violence cases, the perpetrator is male and the adult survivor is female. However, we do not disregard male survivors and female perpetrators, nor do we minimise the importance that fathers can play in protecting children.
Research shows that witnessing domestic violence can be very harmful for children. The legal definition of significant harm specifically includes the damage caused to a child by witnessing violence. It is one of the most common reasons why social workers become involved in the lives of young parents and their children.
Domestic violence – Frequently Asked Questions
My partner has told me the children will be taken from me if I report the violenceThreats of this kind are common in domestic violence situations. However, it’s very important they don’t stop you from seeking help.
You can discuss how to manage your situation by contacting a specialist domestic violence service. You can go to the Where to get further help page on Family Rights Group's website for a list of services.
What if I don’t see what happened between me and my partner as domestic violence?It’s hard being told you are a ‘victim’ when you don’t see yourself as one. But remember, a lot of women who have been subjected to domestic violence also didn’t see it that way at first.
If a professional feels domestic violence has taken place, it’s best to agree to a referral to a domestic violence service. You will be able to speak freely to the professionals there.
You may start to feel differently about your situation when you have spoken to them – or you may at least learn more about domestic violence, which may help you in the future.
Professionals will also want to see that you’re making every effort to ensure your children do not witness domestic violence. Otherwise they may consider your children to be at risk of harm.
Is it safe to allow contact between my child and their father following domestic violence?If your child’s father has been violent towards you, it is essential to make sure neither you nor your child is put at risk of harm if or when they have contact with him. You may need help and support with this. You can contact a specialist domestic violence organisation or talk to children’s services.
Your child could be harmed by witnessing further violence towards you or by being directly hurt themselves.
You may have many questions about how contact can be safely arranged between your child and their father. You may feel it’s in your child’s best interests to have a relationship with their father, but social workers disagree. Or you may be being asked to allow contact when you feel it isn’t safe to do so.
The Frequently Asked Questions on Family Rights Group’s Contact arrangements for children where there is domestic violence page will help you with these issues and other questions that you may want to think about.
I’m in an abusive relationship but I’m worried about my immigration status in the UK. What can I do?If you’re worried about domestic violence but feel scared to speak to a social worker or the police because you don’t have a right to be in this country, you can contact a specialist domestic violence helpline or an immigration advice service. They should be able to help you get the right advice for your situation.
You will find a list of the different advice services that may be able to help you on the Where to get further help page on Family Rights Group's website.
It is common for an abusive partner to tell a woman he will report her to the immigration authorities if she tells anyone about the domestic violence. If you are in this situation, it is very important to immediately contact the police or children’s services whenever you feel you or your child is at risk. You should receive some support to keep you and your child safe.
If you want to leave an abusive partner but you are worried that you won’t be able to stay in the UK because you entered as a spouse, civil partner, un-married or same-sex partner of a British citizen or someone present and settled in the UK, you must contact a specialist immigration adviser.
Under current immigration rules:
- If you have been here for more than two years, you may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain, even if you are no longer with your partner
- If you are still under a two-year probationary period, you may be able to apply to stay in the UK under the Destitution Domestic Violence concession, if you can show that you are a victim of domestic violence
- You may also qualify for some benefits for a temporary period of time such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit or Universal Credit which would also help you to access safe housing through a specialist domestic violence charity.
The rules are quite complicated and don’t apply to everyone. So it’s very important that you speak to a specialist immigration legal advisor as soon as possible to find out what your legal position is and how you go about making an application under the domestic violence rules.
If you cannot find the question and answer you are looking for, take a look at the domestic violence information pages on the main Family Rights Group website. You can also ring Family Rights Group's free advice line on 0808 801 0366 (Open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 3pm; excluding bank holidays) or seek advice and information from an organisations listed on the Where to get further help on Family Rights Group's website for a list of services.