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Domestic Abuse – FAQs

My partner hasn’t hit me but they check my texts and tell me what to do. Is this abuse?

Checking texts, monitoring your movements and telling you what to do are signs of jealous, controlling and abusive behaviour. This behaviour can become worse over time and leave you isolated from your friends and unhappy. Relationships should be equal and supportive and you should feel comfortable to see who you want to and go where you choose. If you can’t talk to your boyfriend about his behaviour, think about ending the relationship.

What happens when the police become involved in a domestic abuse incident?

If the police become involved, they have a duty of care to you and your family.

You may be asked to give a statement about what happened, and photographs may be taken. Some information the police record may be passed to other agencies (e.g. education and health related) so that they too can offer you support.

The police may take action you did not expect, such as arresting the abuser.

An arrest is not a criminal conviction, and nor does it mean that the abuser will be charged and go to court. Initially, the abuser will be interviewed to see what they say happened.

If the abuser admits their behaviour, they may be cautioned instead of going to court. A caution is a formal police warning.

Alternatively, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) may be asked to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to charge the abuser. If there is, they may be charged with an offence and go to court.

Sometimes there isn’t enough evidence for the police to take any further action (e.g. caution or charge) and so the abuser will be released from police custody, often known as NFA (no further action).

To give the police time to make further enquiries (e.g. obtain statements, review CCTV, obtain forensic evidence) the abuser may be bailed from the police station, meaning they will be released but must return at a later date, set by the police.

Bail is often granted with conditions attached e.g. ordering the abuser not to contact you or go near your address. The police will always tell you if bail is granted and if the abuser has been given bail conditions.

What happens if the matter goes to court?

If the case goes to court, you will only have to attend if the abuser pleads not guilty, in which case there will be a trial.

If there is a trial and you are asked to go to court to give evidence, arrangements can be made for you to visit the court
beforehand, so that you can see who sits where and see how the court works.

You may be entitled to “special measures” e.g. giving evidence from behind a screen or from a separate room via video link.

A trial does not always result in a prison sentence. Sentences may include sending the abuser on a programme to help them
manage their behaviour and relationships, a community order, a suspended sentence etc.

The police can also ask the court on your behalf to issue a restraining order, which requires the abuser to keep away from you and not to contact you for a period of time.

What non-criminal (civil action) options are open to you?

You can take civil action without reporting things to the police. You may be entitled to Legal Aid to help pay for such action. A civil family law solicitor will advise you about the best option, or contact the National Centre for Domestic Violence for free advice (see ‘Further Advice & Support’ sheet).

Civil action includes:

  • Non-Molestation Orders / Injunctions –  An injunction is a court order telling the abuser to stay away from you and not to use violence, threaten, harass, pester or intimidate you. If the abuser breaches the order they may be arrested. If a restraining order has already been granted, there is no need to obtain a civil non-molestation order as it serves the same purpose.
  • Occupation Orders – Formally require an occupant to leave the home, whether it is rented or mortgaged.
  • Child Contact / Residence Order – Give parents a formal framework and agreement for child contact.

What should I do if I am being harassed/stalked?

This is when another person deliberately does things to cause you alarm, harassment or distress, which may make you feel you have to change your normal routines. Examples might include the abuser turning up at places you wouldn’t expect them to without good reason, or sending text messages or e-mails indicating they know your movements.

Keep a diary and report each incident to the police, and keep text messages as they may be required as evidence.

If harassment is via Facebook or other websites, you may need to print posts, pictures etc. in case they are removed before the police can access them. You should consider blocking or removing the offender – see www.facebook.com/help/safety

Texting may not necessarily be harassment. Consideration is given to how many are sent, over what period of time and whether they are aimed at causing upset.

How can domestic abuse affect my children?

Domestic abuse can affect your children in many different ways even if they are not directly hit or verbally abused. Many children hear or witness the abuse and this can leave them traumatised.

Common effects include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns, including nightmares and flashbacks
  • Physical symptoms such as stomach aches
  • Bed wetting
  • Temper tantrums
  • Regressing into much younger than they are
  • Displaying aggressive behaviour or alternatively withdrawing from people and relationships
  • Low self-confidence or self-worth
  • Older children may also have problems with school or begin to engage in risk taking behaviours such as misusing substances, or self-harming.

There are a number of online resources and support services to help children understand domestic abuse, click here for more information.

Will social services take my children away if I tell someone about the abuse?

Seeking help and support if you are being abused means that you are taking active steps to protect and care for both yourself and your children. Social services will see this as a positive. However, we could only offer advice on this if we know more about your individual circumstances.

What can I do if I believe someone I know is, or may be, experiencing domestic abuse?

You can call the free and confidential Live Fear Free helpline on 0808 8010 800 (lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) or email an adviser:info@livefearfreehelpline.wales More information available on the Live Fear Free website.

If you believe someone you know at immediate risk of harm, please always dial 999 for an emergency response.

I believe my new partner may have been abusive to a former partner – can I check if they have a track record of domestic abuse?

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme – often known as Clare’s Law – gives you or a concerned third party (family member, friend) the opportunity to make enquiries about your partner if you are worried that they may have been abusive in the past.

If police checks show that your partner has a record of abusive behaviour, or there is other information to indicate that you may be at risk from your partner, the police will consider sharing this information with you.

The scheme aims to help you to make a more informed decision on whether to continue a relationship, and provides further help and support.

Find out more about the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme.