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Domestic Violence and Harassment

If you are subjected to Domestic Violence or Harassment by your partner or a family member, we can provide you with friendly advice and assistance.

You may be able to apply to the family courts for an urgent Non-Molestation Order to prevent the continuing violence or harassment.

We could also provide you with assistance to contact refuges, the police and other organisations to provide you with support.

If you have children from the relationship and are concerned about contact arrangements or any other aspects we can also assist. Please see our Children Law section What is Domestic Violence?

The Government defines Domestic Violence as any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

What types of Violence amount to domestic violence?

1. Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling.

2. 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.

But what if I am not suffering any actual violence?

Domestic violence does not always include physical harm.

Victims of domestic violence often question whether they are actually suffering domestic violence and whether help would be available.

The situation is that If you are suffering any of the following, then you are a victim of domestic violence:

a) Destructive criticism and verbal abuse shouting/mocking/accusing/name calling/verbally threatening

b) Pressure tactics: sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.

c) 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.

d) Breaking trust: lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises and shared agreements.

e) Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.

f) Harassment following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you, embarrassing you in public.

g) 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.

h) 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.

But I keep being told that I am to blame for the arguments

Blaming the victim is something that abusers will often do to make excuses for their behaviour and is, in itself, abuse. Blaming someONE [you or the children etc] or someTHING [their upbringing, drugs, alcohol etc] is an abuser's way of avoiding responsibility.

What are the effects of Domestic Violence?

a) Isolation from family and friends

b) Loss of income or work

c) Homelessness

d) Emotional/psychological effects such as experiences of anxiety, depression or poor health

e) Physical injury

f) If they are pregnant, they may miscarry or the baby may be stillborn

g) Time off work or study and long-term impact on financial security and career


Will I be taken seriously?

You need to know that you WILL be taken seriously. You WILL be supported and you WILL be able to take action to STOP Domestic Abuse

What could happen if I don't do something to STOP domestic violence?

a) The situation WILL get worse

b) You could be seriously injured or WORSE

c) You could lose your confidence

d) You could lose your job

e) You could lose your home

f) You could lose your CHIDREN [it is a well known fact that a large proportion of care proceedings, where children are removed from their families, involve domestic violence ' at least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. Nearly three quarters of children on the at risk register live in households where domestic violence occurs [Department of Health 2002]]

How can we help you?

We can obtain a Court Order to protect you and, if appropriate, your children:

Broadly, there are two types of Court Order:

1. Orders about the way your partner or your former partner should behave in the future:

- this is known as 'a Non Molestation Order'

2. Orders saying who has the right to live in the home

-this is known as 'Occupation Orders'

If the court grants an Occupation Order it will grant a Non Molestation Order with it

What if the person abusing me is not my partner?

It is still possible to obtain an injunction and we will be able to advise you how to do so

Do you only assist women victims of domestic violence?

No. We represent ANYONE who is a victim of domestic violence. No-one should be subjected to it. It just so happens that statistically it is more women who are victims than men but this doesn't mean that men cannot and should not seek help and we are just as willing to provide that help to men as well as women.

How will I pay for the services of a Solicitor to go to Court and obtain an Order for me?

Providing your financial circumstances are below a level which the Government considers appropriate to enable you to be publicly funded, you will be able to receive initial and preliminary advice FREE from us, as Solicitors, under what is known as 'Legal Help.' This will enable us to advise you as to what would be the appropriate course of action to take on your behalf. This could mean sending a 'warning' letter to the abuser or it could mean advising you to issue Court Proceedings. However, whatever we advise, ultimately the decision will be yours.

If you are not entitled to FREE preliminary legal advice we will advise you of the costs in advance and make every effort to accommodate your method of payment.

If you are advised and decide to go to Court, whatever your financial circumstances, you will be entitled to receive public funding, although in some circumstances, where your financial circumstances are above a level which the Government decides is appropriate you may have to contribute something towards your costs. We will be able to give you a clear indication about this before proceedings are issued.

If you are in receipt of welfare benefits, such as Income support or Job Seekers Allowance, Income Based Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee Credit you will be automatically entitled to FREE preliminary advice and FREE representation in Court.

What if I obtain a Court Order but my abuser ignores it [ie breaches it]?

Under the Domestic Violence Crimes and Victims Act 2004, if your abuser acts in a way that is contrary to a Non Molestation Order you obtained from the Court, the police have the power to arrest the abuser and take them before the Criminal Courts. If found guilty, your abuser could receive, up to, five years imprisonment.

It is also possible to issue further Civil Court Proceedings for Contempt of Court, for which they could also receive a prison sentence.

Is there other help available?

Yes, there is police action that can be taken, if you wish and there are many support agencies available. We will be able to advise you about this when we meet with you.

Why should I choose to instruct a Solicitor rather than simply call the police?

If you are being subjected to domestic violence, we would always recommend that you call the police. In an emergency situation you should dial 999.

However, whilst there is considerable more awareness among the Police about domestic violence and greater powers available to the Criminal Courts, the criminal route can be slower; more difficult to prove [because the Criminal Courts have to be 'sure' that the incidents complained about have happened whereas the Civil Courts need only decide on 'balance']; you will not be entitled to legal representation (because you are the victim), whereas your abuser will be entitled; there is a need for you to give evidence in a Criminal Court (in most situations) whereas in the Civil Courts and particularly when obtaining an Emergency Order, your evidence will be in a written statement, prepared by us without the need for you to say anything, at that stage in Court and most importantly, the remedy is quick. Providing the Civil Judge is satisfied that your application for a Court Order is justified, it will be granted there and then [on an emergency basis]. We will then make arrangements for your abuser to be notified of the existence of the Order and from that moment on, he or she is bound by it. We will also provide the police with a copy of the Court Order. If your abuser then breaches the Court Order you will be able to notify the police who are then bound to arrest them.

What is our overview of your situation?

a) You [and your children] don't deserve to be a victim of domestic violence

b) There is no justification for domestic violence

c) Putting a stop to domestic violence is your right

d) If you are a parent in a home where there is domestic violence, it is your responsibility to take action to stop domestic violence [if you don't and if Social Services have reason to become involved with your family, you could be seriously criticized for having failed to do so. It could even lead to your children being removed permanently from your care]

e) Help is available