The definition of domestic violence and abuse now includes young people aged 16 - 17 and aims to increase awareness that young people in this age group do experience domestic violence and abuse.
"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."
This 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.
Where there is domestic violence and abuse, the wellbeing of the children in the household must be promoted and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn child/ren.
The offence of coercive or controlling behaviour came into force on 29 December 2015 (Serious Crime Act 2015). The legislation enables charges to be brought where there is evidence of repeated, or continuous, controlling or coercive behaviour within an intimate or family relationship.
Traditionally, domestic violence and abuse have been understood to be an incident or series of incidents of physical violence perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner. The term Coercive Control helps us understand domestic violence and abuse as more than a "fight", by identifying that it is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim's liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self and violate their human rights.
Coercive Control is the range of tactics used by perpetrators and the impact those actions have on victims/survivors. It highlights the important role control plays in abusive relationships. Sometimes no physical violence is used at all, or the violence that is used may appear 'minor', but behind that is the element of control exerted by the perpetrator.
The perpetrator creates a world in which the victim is constantly monitored and criticised; every move is checked against an unpredictable, ever-changing, unknowable 'rule-book'. Violence is used (or not) alongside a range of other tactics – isolation, degradation, mind-games, and the micro-regulation of everyday life, e.g. monitoring phone calls, what they wear, when and what they eat, socialisation.
The perpetrator sets the rules on how their partner should behave towards them, rules about how the partner cooks, cleans, takes care of the children, performs sexually and socialises. Surveillance continues even when the perpetrator is not present, e.g. constant phones calls or texts, using children to report on the victim's activity. The perpetrator can come to appear omnipotent, often aided by modern technology and social media.
Fear and confusion are central to our understanding of coercive control with the victim feeling like she is walking on eggshells and living in constant terror.Children growing up in this environment also live with constant fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
The emotional responses of children who witness domestic violence and abuse may include fear, guilt, shame, sleep disturbances, sadness, depression, and anger (at both the abuser for the violence and at other parent for being unable to protect).
Physical responses may include stress-induced aches and pains, bedwetting, and inability to concentrate. Some children are the direct victims of other types of abuse or injured while trying to intervene on behalf of their parent or sibling.
The behavioural responses of children who witness domestic violence and abuse may include acting out, withdrawal, or anxiousness to please. A change in behaviour or achievement, including over-achieving, at school can be an indicator of problems at home.
Domestic violence and abuse may have a long term psychological and emotional impact in a number of ways:
For children living in situations of domestic violence and abuse, the effects may result in behavioural issues, absence from school, difficulties concentrating, lower school achievement, ill health, bullying, substance misuse, self-harm, running away, anti-social behaviour and physical injury.
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 people themselves can be subjected to domestic violence and abuse perpetrated in order to force them into marriage or to punish him/her 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.
Professionals should be alert to the signs that a child or adult may be experiencing domestic violence and abuse, or that a partner may be perpetrating domestic violence and abuse. Professionals should always consider during an assessment the need to offer children and adults the opportunity of being seen alone and ask whether they are experiencing, or have previously experienced, domestic violence and abuse.
Professionals who are in contact with adults who are threatening or abusive to them need to be alert to the potential that these individuals may be abusive in their personal relationships and assess whether domestic violence and abuse is occurring within the family.
Considerations in assessments where domestic violence and abuse may be present include:
Domestic violence and abuse is a complex issue that needs sensitive handling by a range health and social care professionals. The cost, in both human and economic terms, is so significant that even marginally effective interventions are cost effective. (NICE 2014)
Working in a multi-agency partnership is the most effective way to approach the issue at both an operational and a strategic level. Initial and ongoing training and organisational support is also needed. (NICE 2014)
When responding to incidents of domestic violence and abuse, the practitioner should always find out if there are any children in the household or any children who would normally live in the household. The Police or other agencies should ensure the children are seen and their safety established whenever they attend a domestic violence and abuse incident. Where there are concerns a referral should be made to Children's social care in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.
MARAC (Multi-Agency-Risk-Assessment-Conference) is a fortnightly meeting (N.B. this is a weekly meeting in North Tyneside) where information is shared on the highest risk domestic abuse victim/survivors aged 16 and above. Representatives of local police, health, child protection, housing practitioners, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors attend the meeting and develop plans to reduce the risk level for the victim.
In all 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 if there are children in the family, a referral must be made to Children's Social Care.
To make a referral into MARAC, speak to the MARAC Single Point of Contact (SPOC) within your agency.
The Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence - Risk Identification Checklist, (DASH – RIC) was developed by Safelives (formerly CAADA) as a common checklist for identifying and assessing risk, which will save lives.
This form was also designed for agencies that are part of the MARAC process and is used by professionals and agencies across the Northumbria Police area to assess the level of risk of victims of domestic violence and abuse and for referral into MARAC, as appropriate.
The Safelives DASH RIC (including in languages other than English) can be found on the SafeLives website.
The primary purpose of the RIC is to identify risk to the adult victim. It should be used as a starting point for all disclosures of domestic abuse and enable an offer of appropriate resources/support, and this will be in the form of the MARAC process for the high risk cases. Furthermore, the information from the checklist enables agencies to make defensible decisions based on evidence from extensive research of cases, including domestic homicides and 'near misses', which forms the basis of the most recognised models of risk assessment.
Practitioners should complete a RIC and MARAC referral form and send to the agency Single Point of Contact (SPOC) to enable them to quality assure the forms and submit to the MASH Officer (Police).
The results from the checklist are not a definitive assessment of risk. However, they do provide a structure to inform professional judgement and act as prompts to further questioning, analysis and risk management whether via a MARAC or in another way. If a professional has completed the checklist, this gives additional valuable information to help in making a sound decision.
Practitioners must be aware that the DASH is a risk identification checklist and not a full risk assessment nor a case management form. It is a practical tool that can help identify who should be referred to MARAC or where appropriate in to domestic abuse or other support services.
Risk is dynamic and practitioners need to be alert to the fact that risk can change very suddenly. The presence of children increases the wider risks of domestic violence and step children are particularly at risk. However, this DASH RIC tool is not a full risk assessment for children. If risk towards children is highlighted, professionals should consider what referral is needed to obtain a full assessment of the children's situation.
Statistically the period following separation is the most dangerous time for serious injury and death. In situations where the adult victim has left the perpetrator taking the child/ren with them, professionals need to be alert that there is on-going potential for risk to the victim and any children.
The dynamics of domestic violence and abuse are based on the perpetrator maintaining power and control over their partner. Challenges to that power and control, such as the victim leaving the relationship, may increase the likelihood of escalating violence.
Professionals in contact with children and their families where there has been a separation would need to consider:
When assessing harm and the needs of children or young people living with domestic violence and abuse, the following questions should be considered:
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.
The assessment should include contact with a range of support services such as refuge provision and the voluntary sector.
The Police are often the first point of contact with families in which domestic violence and abuse takes place although the Ambulance Service and Accident and Emergency Departments can also often be involved as a first point of contact.
When responding to incidents of violence, the agency in question should always find out if there are any children in the household or any children who would normally live in the household. The Police or other agencies should exercise judgement in determining whether it is safe to leave the scene of the incident without having seen the children.
In addition, in situations where adults in a household where children live display intimidating or threatening behaviour towards professionals the possible impact of this type of behaviour should always be considered within the assessment of risk to the children.
Babies under 12 months old are particularly vulnerable to violence. 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 Children's social care should take place.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) were implemented across England and Wales from 8 March 2014.
They provide protection to victims by enabling the police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.
With DVPOs, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) (also known as 'Clare's Law') commenced in England and Wales on 8 March 2014. The DVDS gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic violence and abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.
Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the 'right to ask'. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.
Partner agencies can also request disclosure is made of an offender's past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as 'right to know'.
If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.
There are many risk assessment models and 'tools' available. Practitioners need to be confident that the use of a particular tool has been adopted and supported by the agencies in their area. Also that the risk assessment tool is both culturally sensitive and also explicitly considers the risks to children and is not exclusively adult focused.
The full extent of the impact on children of exposure to domestic abuse is often not fully understood until a child feels safe; they will need several opportunities over a period of time to talk about their experiences.
Children can also experience domestic violence and abuse within their own relationships. Girls are more likely than boys to report experiencing abuse in their intimate relationships, and younger adolescents are just as likely as older adolescents to experience it. Most children do not tell an adult about this abuse.
The issue of domestic violence and abuse should only ever be raised with a child or mother when they are safely on their own and in a private place; and separation does not ensure safety, it often at least temporarily increases the risk to the child/ren or mother.
Information from the public, family or community members must be taken sufficiently seriously by professionals in statutory and voluntary agencies. Recent research evidence indicates that failure to do so has been a contributory factor in a significant number of cases where a child has been seriously harmed or died.
Risk of violence towards professionals should be considered by all agencies who work in the area of domestic violence and abuse and assessments of risk should be undertaken when necessary. It is acknowledged that intimidatory or threatening behaviour towards professionals may inhibit the professional's ability to work effectively. The importance of effective supervision and management is highlighted and agencies should take account of the impact or potential impact on professionals in planning their involvement in situations of domestic violence and abuse.
The Hideout - a resource created by Women's Aid to help children understand domestic violence
NICE PH 50 Domestic Violence and Abuse - various tools and guidance
Royal College of Nursing - Domestic Abuse: Professional Resources
- provides links to websites and organisations providing relevant information and support to victims of domestic abuse.
MARAC Referral Forms:
Safe Newcastle delivers a Domestic Violence and Abuse Multi-Agency Training Programme across a range of topics including:
All of the courses are delivered in a multi-agency setting. Training is free to most organisations operating within Newcastle upon Tyne. Profit-making organisations and organisations operating outside of Newcastle are welcome to attend but will be expected to pay a fee.
In addition to these multi agency training events, Safe Newcastle can provide tailored training to meet an organisation's specific requirements. There may be a charge for this.
For further details on Safe Newcastle DVA Training, or to discuss your organisation's requirements and receive a quote for tailored training, please contact:
Workforce Development and Training Officer (Domestic and Sexual Violence)
0191 211 5872 / 07881 686 568
Only valid for 48hrs