Domestic Abuse: What do I do if this is happening to me?

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Domestic abuse will not end until someone speaks out - either the victim themselves or a relative, friend or neighbour.

Tell a family member, friend or neighbour

Are there friends or neighbours you could tell about the abuse? Ask them to call the police if they hear angry or violent noises.

Ensure that you have a support system in place - family, friends and professionals (such as your doctor, solicitor, the Citizen's Advice Bureau, Housing or Victim Support) who can assist you. Your abuser may try to keep you away from people who love and care for you. This is a way of making you more dependent on them.

Phone numbers

Write down the contact details of friends, family or colleagues that you trust or professional organisations that offer help and keep the numbers in a safe place. Plan how to get to a phone, from which your call cannot be traced by your abuser, for example use a payphone to avoid the number showing on your bill.

Have a code word

Have a prearranged keyword or signal, which you can use on the phone to let family, friends or a neighbour know you are in danger and need help.

Teach children how to get help

If you have children, teach them how to dial 999 to ask for the police. Make up a code word that you can use when you need help.

Also encourage your children to keep themselves safe by finding places to hide in the house or running to a neighbour's house.

Safer places in the home

Think about safer places in your home where there are no weapons. If you feel abuse is going to happen try to get your abuser into one of these safer places.

How could you get out safely?

Even if you do not actually plan to leave the home, think about how you could do it and where you could go. Practice ways of getting out by doing things that get you out of the house - taking out the rubbish, walking the dog, going to the shop.

Keep a packed bag in a safe hiding place - perhaps at a trusted neighbour's house. The bag should include all your essentials such as:Clothes

  • Toiletries
  • Medication
  • Form of identification
  • Child benefits books and birth certificates
  • Child's favourite toys
  • List of phone numbers
  • Money for phone calls and a bus or taxi journey
  • Keys
  • Chequebook

Safety for pets

In some cases, family pets can be used to blackmail you into returning to the family home as threats could be made against their safety, so make arrangements for a safe place where your pets can be cared for.

What to do if an argument starts

Get out of danger if you can and go straight to a safe place. If this is not possible, try to keep as calm and rational as you can. Keep your body language, movement and tone of voice as non-threatening as possible.

Try to keep at least 2-3 feet (45-90cm) distance between you and your partner. Encroaching on their personal space may increase their anger and put you in greater danger. If you are able to, try to avoid standing eye-to-eye or toe-to-toe with your abuser, as this may send a challenging message.

If matters do become more serious, try to keep yourself between your partner and any escape route, such as the front door, in case you need to get out quickly. Avoid the bathroom, kitchen or garage, or anywhere near potential weapons.

If violence does occur and you are in danger, call 999 immediately.

You should gather together as much evidence as possible relating to the abuse. This may include a diary, text messages, emails, medical and police reports or photographs. Al though you may not be ready to take action against your abuser on that occasion, the evidence you gather can often be used in later proceedings.

If you have made the decision to leave...

Arrange for a place to go. It is best if this is a place unknown to your abuser. Remember that friends may sometimes be reluctant to assist you in this way because of concerns for their own safety. If you need somewhere to stay at short notice, contact Women's Aid direct or via the police, your doctor, the housing department or social services, who provide refuge facilities in most areas. You can stay there for a few days or even months to allow you time to consider your future. You should also pre-plan childcare resources if necessary.

Help and support when building your new life

If you are living without your abuser after separation you need to consider the following to ensure your safety:

  • From June 2011, Domestic Violence Protection Orders will be piloted in Greater Manchester. The orders will bar the abuser from the home for up to 28 days, giving vital respite to the victims of abuse and giving them time to consider their options. If abusers breach the Order it could then lead to a prison sentence. As part of the scheme, victims will also be offered help and advice by caseworkers on the options open to them if they left the relationship - including securing a longer-term injunction.
     
  • Many forms of harassment, intimidation and abuse can continue after you have left. A number of options exist to prevent this from happening. Your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau and family solicitors will be able to advise you on the best way to combat any problems you may be experiencing.

  • Safety precautions are crucial at this stage. Personal protection devices such as locks, alarms and mobile phones can be helpful. Be vigilant about your personal safety, and if possible always travel with a friend or colleague. Notify your neighbours, employers and schools about any injunctions that are in place, and ask that they notify the police if the abuser is seen near to your home. Ensure that schools know who has authorisation to collect the children.

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