Domestic Violence and Abuse
ADDITIONAL LOCAL RESOURCES
In February 2020, a link to the refreshed HM Government Strategy for Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 – 2020, was added into Section 1, Introduction.
The cross government definition of domestic violence and abuse is as follows:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
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.
While the cross-government definition above applies to those aged 16 or above, ‘Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse‘ (APVA) can involve children under 16 as well as over 16. See: Information Guide: Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA) Home Office.
The Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships. Controlling or coercive behaviour does not relate to a single incident, it is a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another. Such behaviours might include, but are not limited to:
- Isolating a person from their friends and family;
- Depriving them of their basic needs;
- Monitoring their time;
- Monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware;
- Taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep;
- Depriving them of access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services;
- Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless;
- Enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim;
- Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities;
- Financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing a person a punitive allowance;
- Threats to hurt or kill;
- Threats to a child;
- Threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g. threatening to 'out' someone).
- Criminal damage (such as destruction of household goods);
- Preventing a person from having access to transport or from working.
Professionals should be able to recognise all forms of domestic violence and abuse, including coercive and controlling behaviour, and they should know how to respond appropriately and sensitively, including how to approach the victim, without escalating risks for victims.The government definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so called 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.
The majority of domestic violence and abuse is committed by men towards women. However, it can also involve men being abused by their female partners, abuse in same sex relationships, and by young people towards other family members, as well as the abuse of older people in families. Domestic violence and abuse occurs irrespective of social class, racial, ethnic, cultural, religious or sexual relationships or identity.
Where there is domestic violence and abuse, the wellbeing of the children in any household must be promoted and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn babies. In addition agencies should seek to support perpetrators of abuse to address their behaviour in a way that does not compromise victim and child safety.
No one agency can address all the needs of people affected by, or perpetrating, domestic violence and abuse. For intervention to be effective the agencies need to work together, and be prepared to take on the challenges that domestic violence and abuse create.
For more details of the national plans to tackle domestic violence and abuse see: Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 – 2020 (refresh 2019) which sets set out a life course approach to ensure that all victims – and their families - have access to the right support at the right time to help them live free from violence and abuse.
2. The Child
Prolonged or regular exposure to domestic violence and abuse can have a serious impact on a child’s development and emotional well-being, despite the best efforts of the non-abusing parent to protect the child.
Domestic violence and abuse impacts on children in a number of ways. The impact of domestic violence and abuse is likely to be exacerbated when combined with any form of substance misuse or mental ill health.
For children living in situations of domestic violence and abuse the effects may also result in behavioural issues (including anti social behaviour), absence from school, difficulties concentrating, lower school achievement, ill health, bullying, substance misuse, self-harm, running away, anti-social behaviour, depression and anxiety and physical injury.
Domestic violence and abuse may have a long term psychological and emotional impact as a result of:
- Children experiencing distress by witnessing (seeing or hearing) the physical and emotional suffering of a parent, or witnessing the outcome of any assault;
- Children being pressurised into concealing assaults, and experience the fear and anxiety of living in an environment where abuse occurs;
- The domestic violence and abuse impacting negatively on an adult victims parenting capacity, emotional well being and their capacity to make informed and safe decisions;
- Children being drawn into the violence(e.g. stepping in to stop a violent incident) and become victims of physical abuse or face allegations of criminal activity by the abuser.
During pregnancy domestic violence and abuse can pose a threat to an unborn child as assaults on pregnant women often involve punches or kicks directed at the abdomen, risking injury to both the mother and the foetus. In almost a third of cases domestic violence and abuse begins or escalates during pregnancy and it is associated with increased rates of miscarriage, premature birth, foetal injury and foetal death. The mother may be prevented from seeking or receiving anti-natal care or post-natal care. In addition if the mother is being abused this can affect her attachment to her child, more so if the pregnancy is a result of rape by her partner.
Young women in the 16 to 24 age group are most at risk of being victims of domestic violence and abuse, some of whom may be teenage mothers. Young people aged 13-24 who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse can be referred to the Young People’s Violence Advisor.
Young people themselves can be subjected to domestic violence and abuse perpetrated in order to force them into marriage or to punish them for ‘bringing dishonour on the family’. This abuse may be carried out by several members of a family increasing the young person’s sense of isolation and powerlessness. It is particularly important in these cases that professionals take care not to share information with family members or others in the local community. See also Forced Marriage Procedure and Honour Based Violence Procedure.
The key imperatives of any intervention for children living in households affected by domestic violence and abuse are as follows:
- To protect the child/ren, including unborn child/ren;
- To assess the level of risk to the children (and the non abusive parent / carer);
- To empower the adult victim to protect themselves, their children and any other dependants;
- To hold the abusive partner accountable for the violence and provide opportunities for change.
Clarity about information sharing is essential and all agencies, including all refuge projects and non statutory services, should ensure that in sharing information they do so in line with agreed local protocols - see Information Sharing Procedure.
Professionals must ensure that their efforts to support victims do not trigger an escalation of violence; care should be taken to discuss domestic violence and abuse only when the child or adult victim are safely on their own. However, it is essential that professionals are realistic and honest about the limits of confidentiality. In some cases a child may be in need of immediate protection, and a referral will need to be made to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust.
When a referral is made to the Children’s Services Trust, there must be clarity about who in the family is aware that a referral is to be made – this is particularly important where Honour Based Violence is thought to be an issue. Any response by Doncaster Children’s Services Trust should be discreet, in terms of making contact with the adult victim in ways which will not further endanger them or their children.
See also Referrals Procedure.
4. Assessing Concerns of Domestic Abuse and Violence
Professionals in all agencies should be alert to the signs that a child or adult may be experiencing domestic violence and abuse or experiencing coercive and controlling behaviour.
A disclosure may be prompted during routine questioning or be unprompted. Professionals should never assume that somebody else is addressing the issue of domestic violence and abuse. This may be first or only disclosure made by the child, adult victim or perpetrator.
Research suggests that women experience on average 35 incidents before reporting any abuse to the Police. Professionals should therefore, in conducting assessments, routinely offer children and adults the opportunity of being seen alone, and ask whether they are experiencing, or have previously experienced, domestic violence and abuse. This type of routine enquiry is particularly useful for health providers, for example when midwives are working with pregnant women.
Concerns about domestic violence and abuse may also be reported to a professional by a third party such as extended family member, neighbour or community member. Information from the public, family or community members must be taken seriously by professionals in statutory and voluntary agencies and responded to in accordance with these procedures.
Considerations in assessments where domestic violence and abuse may be present include:
- Asking direct questions about the relationship without alienating the person e.g. ‘is everything ok with your relationship? Asking the children, e.g. what happens when mummy and daddy have a disagreement?
- Checking whether domestic violence and abuse has occurred whenever child abuse is suspected (routine enquiry) and considering the impact of this at all stages of assessment, enquiries and intervention;
- Safely and appropriately challenging at the time any abusive behaviour you may witness, whether verbal, emotional or physical. Training is available on challenging abusive behaviour;
- Recognising the different types of domestic violence and abuse, including indicators of coercive control, and that both parents may present a risk to the child;
- Identifying those who are responsible for domestic violence and abuse, in order that relevant support to change behaviour can be offered and / or family law or criminal justice responses may be made;
- Providing victims with full information about support available, their legal rights, and about the extent and limits of statutory duties and powers;
- Helping victims and children to be safe and stay safe, by providing relevant practical and other assistance; Where possible any help provided should be in line with the victim’s wishes, and includes supporting them if they want to stay in the relationship;
- Taking into account that there may be continued or increased risk of domestic violence and abuse towards the abused parent and/or child after separation. Post-separation child contact arrangements should be carefully risk assessed, and the wishes of the children listened to in regard to this. The possibility of children being harmed as a way of controlling /punishing the victims who have left an abusive relationship must not be underestimated.
- Working separately with each parent where domestic violence and abuse prevents non-abusing parents from speaking freely and participating without fear of retribution;
- Working with parents to help them understand the impact of the domestic violence and abuse on their children.
Professionals in contact with children and families who identify that there are, or have been, domestic violence and abuse incidents should consider the type of abusive behaviours experienced and their severity, frequency and duration. A Dash Risk Assessment should be completed by a trained professional. The risk assessment can then be used by the professional and the victim to develop a Safety or Risk Management Plan. The Safety or Risk Management Plan should incorporate any strategies the victim has already developed to keep the family safe.
The Early Help Assessment can be used to explore and assess any concerns that practitioners may have about children or young people. It can also be used to assess the degree of exposure of each child in the family to the domestic violence and abuse, the impact on them, the risks involved, and any protective factors bearing in mind the ages of the children. This should include physical and emotional impact, and the effect on parenting capacity, as well as any other risks posed by the perpetrator. A separate assessment form should be used for each child. If a threat to the child’s safety is identified at any stage refer to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust.
4.1 Assessing the Needs of Children and Young People Living with Domestic Violence and Abuse
When assessing harm and the needs of children or young people living with domestic violence and abuse, the following factors should be considered:
- Frequency and severity of the abuse, how recent and where it took place;
- Whether the child was present or has ever been present when abuse has occurred;
- The age and vulnerability of the child;
- What does the child do when the abuse is happening?
- Has the child ever intervened, or are they likely to in future?
- Has the child been physically threatened or sustained any injury?
- The child’s description of the effects upon them, their siblings, and upon their parent/carer;
- Is the child being made to participate in or witness acts of abuse against their parent?
- Is the child used physically or emotionally to exert control over their parent?
- Is the non-abusing parent able to meet the child/ren’s immediate and longer term needs?
- Has the adult victim and/or child/ren been locked in the house or prevented from leaving it?
- Is the abuse connected with any other factors that undermine parenting capacity (such as alcohol or substance misuse or mental health)?
- Have any weapons been used or has there ever been a threat to use a weapon?
- Is actual or threatened ill treatment of animals used to control the child/ren and or other parent / carer?
- Has physical abuse or threats been directed towards a pregnant woman and her unborn child?
- If a threat to the child’s safety is identified at any stage refer to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust.
Throughout the assessment process, and within any services being provided, the needs of the child must not become overshadowed by the focus on the adults and the range of services being provided must include support and services for the children in the family. However, the most effective responses are those which are coordinated by a range of agencies and consider all risks and needs within the family. Managing risks to the children cannot be done in isolation.
The assessment should include contact with a range of support services such as refuge projects and the voluntary sector as they may hold further information about the family.
The Police, local domestic abuse services or health providers (including the ambulance service, hospital emergency departments and GPs) are often the first point of contact with families in which domestic violence and abuse takes place although. When responding to incidents of domestic violence and abuse, the agency in question should always find out if there are any children in the household or any children who would normally live in, or are frequent visitors to, the household.Specific concerns about the safety and welfare of a child, must always result in a referral to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust. A referral will always be made where:
- The child made the original call (usually to the Police);
- The child has been injured;
- The child has been used as a shield;
- A pregnant woman is involved in a violent incident;
- An incident of domestic violence and abuse has been reported to the Police and a child is living in the household;
- A domestic violence and abuse specialist is working with a family and deems that the child/ren is/are at risk of harm;
- A multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) is convened and there are children in the household;
- Any other circumstances, which are judged by a professional to warrant a referral.
4.2 Assessing the Needs of Children and Young People in Contact with a Parent who Perpetrated Domestic Violence or Abuse
In situations when the adult victim has left the perpetrator taking the child/ren, professionals need to be alert to the on-going potential for risk. The dynamics of domestic violence and abuse are often based on the perpetrator maintaining power and control over their partner. Challenges to that power and control, for example, by separation may increase the likelihood of escalating violence. Statistically the months following separation are the most dangerous time for serious injury and death. Professionals in contact with children and their families in these circumstances may decide that a referral to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust is required and in all cases should consider:
- The previous level of physical danger to the adult victim and in particular the presence of the child during violent episodes;
- The previous pattern of power, control and intimidation in addition to the physical violence;
- The level of coercive or manipulative behaviour of the parent who was violent;
- Any threats to hurt or kill family members or abduct the child/ren;
- Any information about parental drug or alcohol misuse, or poor mental health;
- Any reported harassment, stalking or obsession about the separated partner or the family;
- The motivation of the parent in seeking/ maintaining contact with the child/ren - is it a desire to promote the child’s best interest or as a means of continuing intimidation, harassment or violence to the other parent;
- The child/ren’s views about contact and whether they have any worries about the contact taking place;
- Has there been a shared decision regarding the arrangements for contact including location;
- The likely or reported behaviour of the parent during contact and its effect on the child;
- The partner's level of care and supervision of the child/ren in the past;
- The attitude of the parent to their past violence, their capacity to appreciate the impact it has on their family and whether they are motivated and have the capacity to change;
- Be alert to cultural issues when dealing with ethnic minority victims and that in leaving a partner they may be ostracised by family, friends and the wider community increasing the risks to their safety. Bear in mind the 'one chance rule', and obtain as much information as possible as there may not be another opportunity for the individual reporting to make contact.
5. Managing Risk and Levels of Intervention
South Yorkshire police use the Dash Risk Assessment as do other agencies in Doncaster. Any risk assessment tool being used should be both culturally sensitive and explicitly consider the risks to the children. It should not be exclusively adult focused. The use of any risk assessment tool should be underpinned by a thorough analysis of the information otherwise available such as past history of offending. The risks should be interpreted to also determine the potential dangerousness of the alleged perpetrator.
The following guidance explores areas of risk and protective factors in relation to perpetrators, victims and children and suggests levels of intervention. The younger the children in the family, or the presence of special needs, the higher the risk to their safety.
Babies under 12 months old are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse. Professionals who become aware of an incident of domestic violence and abuse in a family with a child under 12 months old (even if the child was not present) or in families where a woman is pregnant, should always complete a risk assessment to determine what action is required including consideration of whether a referral to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust is required.The following indicators are provided to aid professional judgement when assessing risk and the appropriate level of intervention in response to reported incidents of domestic violence and abuse. These indicators align with DASH Risk Assessment thresholds; however professional judgement remains crucial in determining the level of risk to both the adult victim and any children in the household.
Level 1: Factors which may indicate the potential risk of harm to the child/ren to be Low Risk.
- Single or up to 3 minor incidents of physical violence which were short in duration and the victim did not require medical treatment;
- Occasional intense verbal abuse;
- Children were not present or not drawn into the incident;
- Victim’s relationship to the child is nurturing, protective and stable;
- Abuser accepts responsibility for the abuse/violence indicting remorse and willingness to engage in services to address abusive behaviour.
The professional should consult with the manager/child protection adviser within the agency and check if an Early Help Assessment has been completed by another agency. With the parents' consent complete an Early Help Assessment if one has not been completed.
A child in this situation is likely to need targeted family support interventions. The professional needs to consider what their own agency can contribute as part of any interventions and/or make a referral to another agency to offer interventions. The Early Help Plan will need to include safety planning for the child/ren and victim, and consideration of a referral to an appropriate resource for the perpetrator if there is a willingness to engage with services to address abusive behaviour.
If consent to an Early Help Assessment is not obtained, then the case should be reviewed with the manager/child protection adviser the potential level of risk to the child. A reluctance to engage in an assessment of the needs of the child may give cause to raise the level of concern and a referral to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust may be required.
Level 2: Factors which may indicate the potential risk of harm to the child/ren to be Medium Risk.
- History of minor/moderate incidents of physical violence of short duration;
- Victim received minor injury that did not lead to medical attention being sought;
- Wilful destruction of property especially belonging to the victim;
- Family, relatives, neighbours report concerns regarding the victim and children;
- Intense verbal abuse;
- Abuser attempts to control victim’s activities or movements;
- Children were present in the home during the incident but did not directly witness it;
- Mental health issues for victim or abuser;
- Substance misuse for victim or abuser;
- Victim’s relationship to the child is nurturing, protective and stable and despite abuse was not prevented from attending to the child/ren’s needs;
- Significant other nurturing adults in the child’s life provides protective factor;
- Older children able to identify coping/ protective strategies.
At Level 2 the professional should consult with the manager/child protection adviser within their agency and check if an Early Help Assessment has been completed by another agency; if not, with the parents' consent, complete an Early Help Assessment or refer under local arrangements for an Early Help Assessment to be completed. If the parent does not consent to the completion of an Early Help Assessment make a notification or referral to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust.
The professional should share information with relevant multi-agency professionals, convene or attend a multi-agency Early Help meeting and consider what their own agency can contribute as part of any multi-agency Early Help interventions. A child in this situation will have additional needs. The child/ren and their parents are likely to need family support interventions offered by more than one agency, which are co-ordinated by a lead professional. The intervention and support may also include Doncaster Children’s Services Trust delivering services following a Children and Families Assessment.
Planning at Level 2 must also include safety planning for the child/ren and victim and consideration of referral to an appropriate resource for the perpetrator if there is willingness to engage with services to address abusive behaviour.
Level 3: Factors which (in the absence of protective factors) may indicate the potential risk of harm to the child/ren is assessed as High Risk. High risk incidents should be referred to Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) regardless of any activity undertaken to reduce the risk once the DASH assessment has been undertaken.
- Incidents of serious and/or persistent abuse which are increasing in severity, frequency and duration;
- Victim and/or children indicate that they are frightened of the abuser;
- Victim required medical attention or explanation for injuries implausible;
- Requests for Police intervention;
- Incidents of violence and abuse occur in presence of children;
- Threat of harm to children/and or adult victim;
- Physical assault on a pregnant woman;
- Abuser has history of domestic violence and abuse in previous relationships;
- Mental health issues for victim or abuser;
- Substance misuse by victim and/or abuser;
- Strong likelihood of emotional abuse of children e.g. may display behaviour problems/ self harm;
- Abuser suspected of physically abusing child/ren;
- Minimisation by abuser, lack of remorse/guilt;
- Any professional identifies the level of risk as High on a DASH assessment and there are children in the household.
In situations where protective factors are limited and the children may be suffering or be at risk of suffering Significant Harm, a referral should be made to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust.
In cases where a referral is made for a Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) to plan intervention in relation to a high risk domestic violence and abuse situation, a referral must be made to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust if there are children in the household. In Doncaster referrals to MARAC can be made by any agency.
See also Section 10, Safety Planning.
6. Referral to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust
Whenever a professional becomes concerned that a child is, suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral must be made to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust.
Normally, one serious or several lesser incidents of domestic violence and abuse within a 3 month period where there is a child in the household would mean that the Children’s Services Trust should carry out Children and Families Assessment and consult existing records.
The Children’s Services Trust may assess the child/ren to be child/ren in need, and offer services under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. However, child protection intervention (i.e. under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989) may be necessary if the threshold of Significant Harm is reached. The Children’s Services Trust will convene a multi-agency meeting following the appropriate level of assessment and initiate safety planning for the child/ren and adult victim.
7. Managing Risks in Child Protection Conferences
Where a Child Protection Conference is held, the Conference Chair, in consultation with the professionals, must assess the risks carefully in relation to the participation of the violent or oppressive parent/carer, the non violent parent/carer and the child/ren.
It is not only issues of safety at the Conference itself but any travel arrangements before and after as well as the contents and addresses (including schools) on the minutes of the meeting which may pose a risk if disclosed.
The same careful approach to disclosure of information should be adopted with the records of all meetings, i.e. Core Group, Planning meetings etc.
All arrangements to contact family members that are made as part of any plan for the child, whether person to person directly or via letters, emails, telephone including mobile phone calls and text messages, must be carefully assessed bearing in mind the safety of the children and the non-abusing parent/carer.
8. Safety of Professionals Working with Domestic Violence and Abuse
Care must be taken to assess any potential risks to professionals, carers, foster carers or other staff who are involved in providing services to a family where domestic violence and abuse has occurred. This includes support services offered to a victim or child following separation, and any risks to family members and friends who are supporting the adult victim. In general perpetrators do not pose a specific risk to professionals, as they usually want to appear reasonable and compliant. However, each situation must be assessed on its own merits to minimise any potential risks to either service user or staff member.
If someone intends to visit or collect the child’s belongings from the family home where the abusive parent/ partner resides or has access, it should never be the case that one person does so on their own. A risk assessment should be undertaken prior to the visit and appropriate measures put in place to safeguard staff. The assistance of the Police should always be requested in these circumstances.
9. Domestic Violence Protection Scheme and the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DADS)
9.1 Domestic Violence Protection Notices and Domestic Violence Protection Orders
Domestic Violence Protection Orders provide protection to victims by enabling the Police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence or abuse incident.
The Police can issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice in order to prevent further violence or an escalating threat of violence in certain domestic situations.
Usually this will be between two people who are in a relationship or have previously been in a relationship.
A notice can be served on anyone aged 18 or over who the Police reasonably believe has been violent or has threatened violence against the other person.
The notice must be authorised by a Police superintendent. It serves as a summons to court and the subject will be required to appear at a specified time and date before a Magistrate's court within 48 hours. The magistrate can then issue a Domestic Violence Protection Order that will last for between 14 and 28 days.
Both the notices and the order act as temporary restraining orders. They place certain conditions on the subject which can include:
- Prohibiting a person from entering, and being within a certain distance, of their home;
- Prohibiting a person from making the other person leave or excluding them from their home;
- Requiring a person to leave your home.
9.2 Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme enables people to make informed decisions about the status of their intimate relationships.
- Under the right to ask, if a victim is concerned about the behaviour of an intimate partner then they can ask the police to disclose to them any information about the partner’s abusive past. Family members or friends who are concerned about a potential victim of domestic abuse may also request a disclosure. In these circumstances if the police determine disclosure is appropriate, it disclosure will be made to the potential victim. To request a disclosure ring 101 and make a direct request to South Yorkshire Police;
- Under the right to know, professionals may be aware of a person’s abusive past and determine that this person’s current partner should be aware of this history. Professionals can request the Police disclose the information. In line with agreed protocols within South Yorkshire, professionals should not disclose the information but rather should allow the disclosure to be Police led. If your professional judgement indicates such a disclosure should be made, then you should discuss this, with the agreement of your manager, with the Police Safeguarding Adult Team or contact the Police Central Access Point on 0114 2196954.
Once requests for disclosures are received by South Yorkshire Police, they will liaise with key partner agencies and determine if there is relevant information to be disclosed and to whom. Professionals are requested by South Yorkshire Police to allow disclosures to be Police led as any disclosures they make will be undertaken in partnership with victim support services.
10. Safety Planning
If the victim is staying with the abuser
You should ascertain the victim’s wishes in relation to the staying with the perpetrator or the family home. This will inform the development of a safety plan. Leaving may not be a viable option for the victim at this moment in time, and that even if the victim agrees to leave, they may return to the relationship. Unless the victim is completely committed to leaving their abuser then separation is not likely to be the best safety option. It is a professional’s duty to ensure that the victim feels understood even if they do not want to separate from their abuser. If this decision means the threshold for significant harm is met then a referral to the Children’s Services Trust should be made and the victim needs to be clear this is what will happen.
Safety planning with the victim in this situation should include, but is not limited to:
- Seeking professional advice and support from local support organisations and help lines but remember to support the victim with phone calls and safe storage of numbers the perpetrator should not be aware of;
- Considering how agencies can make contact with a victim safely – e.g. through work, a friend, trusted family member, use of a code word, etc.
- Considering the use of a “care of” or correspondence address;
- Considering where how the victim can quickly and easily use a telephone;
- If violence is unavoidable thinking how the victim can attempt to keep the risk of injury to a minimum (e.g. scrunch up in a ball, keep head covered, try to get their back against a corner, etc.).
For victims planning to leave their abuser
If victim decides to separate from their abuser, professionals must ensure there is sufficient support to implement the plan. Separation does not guarantee safety and frequently increases the risk to the victim. If it agreed that emergency safety of the victim and any children in the family would be best achieved through the provision of alternative accommodation and this cannot be achieved through family/friends of the victim, housing pathways or refuge, then Section 17 funding may secure this and should be explored through referral to Doncaster Children’s Services Trust.
The possibility of leaving an abuser should always be discussed with a victim of domestic abuse. This will enable a victim to prepare, in advance, for emergencies that could result in the victim having to leave their abuser and/or home at very short notice. Such advice can include:
- Taking care over who the victim trusts with any plans to leave;
- Consideration of whether or not a civil order (like a non-molestation order) is a viable option – seek legal advice;
- Making/keeping an extra set of keys for the car and the house and storing them somewhere safe;
- Making up a bag with spare clothes, favourite toys, comfort items, medication, telephone numbers, keys and money. Keeping this somewhere safe so you can grab it quickly, or keep it with a trusted friend;
- Consider who the victim will call in an emergency or in the night - some victims keep an address book in their bag, others keep a spare mobile phone that their abuser doesn’t know about with a number stored on it;
- If a victim has time to plan ahead then they can consider taking small items of sentimental value which could be destroyed by an abuser – jewellery, photographs, etc.
- Consideration of animal safety is also vital – if refuge is an option the victim needs to consider then there is every likelihood that pets will have to stay with the abuser unless pet fostering arrangements can be made. Consider how you can support this – do you need to speak with cat homes or the Dogs Trust?
- Talking to children in family– where it is safe and appropriate to do so – about the possibility of leaving. Wherever possible a victim needs to take the children when they leave (regardless of what the longer term arrangements may be);
Have the following available in case you have to leave quickly:
- Important papers (birth certificates, social security cards, driver’s license, car documents (if in your name), divorce papers, lease or mortgage papers, passports, insurance details, school and medical records, bank account number, immigration documents, proof of benefits, etc.) – if it is not safe for you to take the originals then try and obtain copies and take those instead;
- A statement of the family situation in English;
- Identification of an abuser that might help others protect the victim and children from the abuser – a photograph, details of any vehicles they may have access to; and
- Photographs of children in case others may need to find them if they are taken from you.
For those living without the abuser after separation – in their own home or after moving
Separation is a time when the risk of violence and murder is increased. This can be the case for a significant period of time after any separation. Separation can be a catalyst for the pattern of abuse to change. Risks to the victim needs to be monitored. Safety planning and advice needs to include:
- Seeking expert legal advice on child contact and residence;
- Seeking expert legal advice about the victim’s options for injunctions and residence;
- Changing telephone numbers to ex-directory, screening calls and pre-programming emergency numbers into the telephone;
- Changing locks on the victim’s property, if they have the legal right to do so, and installation of a security system, smoke alarms and an outside lighting system – consider approaching Community Safety for support;
- Considering the use of a personal attack alarm and keeping it handy;
- Notifying neighbours, employers and schools about any injunctions, and asking them to call the Police if they see the abuser nearby;
- Being sure that schools and those that care for your children know who has authorisation to collect them if the victim cannot – consider approaching the school’s Safeguarding lead;
- Employing safety measures before, during and after contact visits with children– consider liaison with the Lead Practitioner to confirm what these should be;
- Considering changing children’s schools, work patterns – hours and routes taken – and the route taken to transport children to and from school;
- Avoid banks, shops and other places frequented with the abuser;
- Making up a code word for family, colleagues, teachers or friends so that they know when to call the Police for help;
- Keeping copies of all relevant paperwork (including injunctions) and keeping written records of further incidents which includes the impact of the incident on the victim;
- Encouraging the victim to think about internet safety and how this is discussed this with any children, including advice on the of use “private” options – social networking sites and “YouTube” may be a way to trace families or monitor their activities;
- Discuss the possibility of your requesting the “tagging” of a victim’s address with the Police;
- Be aware that perpetrators have used government databases to trace victims. It may useful to suggest that the victim considers requesting details are removed from the open electoral role. Under The Electoral Administration Act 2006, if a victim can evidence the domestic abuse, they will not lose your right to vote. Similar applications can be made to the DVLA and the Benefits Agency, and details, if an application is successful, will be maintained clerically;
- Evidence can include a letter from a support worker. If you are asked to support these applications, seek agreement from your Senior DAN before providing letters of support.
Safety Planning for Emergencies
Emergency safety plans should be in place whilst any assessments, referrals and interventions are being progressed. Emergency safety planning advice should be given appropriate to the current situation.
In cases of severe risk of harm to children and a non-abusing parent, the safety plan should be to have no contact with the abuser if it is safe for the victim and children to follow this advice. However, the level of coercive controlling behaviour exerted by the perpetrator may render adherence to this advice extremely difficult, if not impossible. Professionals need to be mindful that this advice and the expectation it is followed, may result in the perception of others that the victim is not following safety advice and be seen to be not protecting themselves or their children. For example, asking a frightened and vulnerable victim to keep a violent and coercively controlling perpetrator out of her home may be difficult for the victim to implement. This advice should not form part of the safety plan. In addition, professionals should be mindful of their duty to consider the impact of coercive control and duress on a victim’s mental capacity to make decisions
Including and Engaging Children in Safety Planning
Safety plans for children should be considered dependent upon the level of age and understanding of the child. It must always be emphasised that the best thing a child can do to keep themselves safe is not to intervene but to keep safe, and where appropriate, to seek help – ensuring that the child is clear what this means and confirming they can do this (e.g. Do they know how to phone the police?).
Strengthening the relationship between the non-abusive parent and child after separation needs to be considered in terms of the impact of domestic violence and abuse.
Children also need support to recover emotionally and psychologically and this should be tailored to their assessed needs.
11. Engagement with Perpetrators
Whole family working requires perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse to be engaged and supported to access support to change their behaviour. It is imperative not to disclose any information to a perpetrator about the pattern of domestic violence and abuse given by the victim or give any indication of the support being provided to the victim as this is likely to increase risk to the victim and any children. This can also alert the perpetrator to which professionals are supporting the victim and may result in risk escalation.
Direct work with perpetrators may require joint working to ensure objectivity and prevention of the perception of collusion. Additionally, in line with guidance from Respect there is a need to monitor the risk a perpetrator poses to a victim of domestic abuse during and after work with a perpetrator has taken place.
It may be preferable to remove the abusive partner from the family home as opposed to the victim and children. Consider legal options or possibility of Domestic Violence Protection Notice/Order with South Yorkshire Police. If there are criminal processes already underway, then a Restraining Order can be imposed, even if an offender is found not guilty.