Domestic Abuse

NOTE

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021. This procedure will continue to be updated as the various provisions of the Act come into force.

See also: Domestic Abuse Act: overarching Documents and Factsheets (GOV.UK).

The Government's updated Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Strategy sets out the government's strategy including planned legislative provisions to tackle issues such as child marriage and 'virginity testing'.

AMENDMENT

In October 2022 additional links were added in Further Information.

1. Definition

NOTE: The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 creates a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, coercive or controlling, and economic abuse, and recognises children who experience domestic abuse as victims in their own right.

This chapter will be updated as the legislative provisions come into force.

Statutory Definition of Domestic Abuse under Section 1 of Domestic Abuse Act 2021

  • Behaviour of a person ("A") towards another person ("B") is "domestic abuse" if:
    1. A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other; and
    2. The behaviour is abusive.
  • This includes physical, emotional, economic, sexual abuse and controlling and coercive behaviour;
  • 'Personally connected' means: intimate partners, ex-partners, family members or individuals who share parental responsibility for a child.

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.

With effect from 29 April 2021, section 71 Domestic Abuse Act 2021 removed the so-called 'rough sex gone wrong' defence. Where a person inflicts serious harm (wounding, actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm) on another person, it is not a defence that the victim consented to the infliction of the serious harm for the purposes of obtaining sexual gratification.

With effect from 29 June 2021, section 69 Domestic Abuse Act 2021 expanded so-called 'revenge porn' to include threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.

Coercive and Controlling Behaviour

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 they are walking on eggshells and living in constant terror.

Children growing up in this environment also live with constant fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

2. Risks

The emotional responses of children who experience 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 experience 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:

  • Children may be greatly distressed by witnessing (seeing or hearing) the physical and emotional suffering of a parent, or witnessing the outcome of any assault;
  • Children may be pressurised into concealing assaults, and experience the fear and anxiety of living in an environment where abuse occurs;
  • The domestic violence and abuse may impact negatively on an adult victim's parenting capacity;
  • Children may be drawn into the violence and themselves become victims of physical abuse.

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.

3. Indicators

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 to ask whether they are experiencing, or have previously experienced, domestic violence and abuse. To complete the Safe Lives Risk Identification Checklist and safety plan if domestic violence and abuse are disclosed, to appropriately sign post of refer to specialist support and MARAC.

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:

  • Checking whether domestic violence and abuse has occurred whenever child abuse is suspected and considering the impact of this at all stages of assessment, enquiries and intervention this should include checks with the Police multi-agency safeguarding hub (or equivalent locally named team) and any domestic violence and abuse screening process;
  • Identifying those who are responsible for domestic violence and abuse, in order that relevant family law or criminal justice responses may be made;
  • Providing victims/survivors with full information about their legal rights, and about the extent and limits of statutory duties and powers;
  • Completing the Safe Lives Risk Identification Checklist and supporting victims/survivors and their children to get protection from violence, by providing relevant practical and other assistance, including safety planning and referrals to specialist support services and MARAC if high risk;
  • Supporting non-abusing parents in making safe choices for themselves and their children, understanding the impact controlling and coercive behaviour has on their ability to make choices;
  • 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 especially in connection with post-separation child contact arrangements;
  • Working separately with each parent when domestic violence and abuse has been identified is essential to ensure the safety of the victim/survivor;
  • Working with parents to help them understand the impact of the domestic violence and abuse on their children.

4. Protection and Action to be Taken

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 or vulnerable adults in the household or any children or vulnerable adults who would normally live in the household. The Police or other agencies should ensure the children and vulnerable adults 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 and/or Adults Social Care in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.

MARAC

MARAC (Multi-Agency-Risk-Assessment-Conference) is a weekly meeting 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/survivor.

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 a Risk Identification Checklist (RIC) and MARAC referral form will need to be completed and submitted to the agency MARAC SPOC, speak to the MARAC Single Point of Contact (SPOC) within your agency for further information regarding referral criteria. Contact the MASH support team for SPOC contact details.

Assessing the risk to the adult victim using the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence Risk Indicator Checklist (DASH-RIC)

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.

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.

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.

The Safelives DASH RIC (including in languages other than English) can be found on the SafeLives website.

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 abuse, 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.

Risk and safety after separation

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:

  • The previous level of physical danger to the adult victim and in particular the presence of child/ren 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 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 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 abusing parent to their past violence and abuse, their capacity to appreciate its effect, 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.

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 questions 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?
  • Determine whether there is a safety threat present. If a threat to the child's safety is identified at any stage refer to Children's Social Care Services.

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/safe accommodation and outreach support.

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 or vulnerable adults in the household or any children or vulnerable adults 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.

5. Domestic Violence Protection Orders and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme ('Clare's Law')

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

NOTE: Domestic Violence Protection Orders will be replaced by Domestic Abuse Protection Orders and Domestic Abuse Protection Notices under Domestic Abuse Act 2021. This chapter will be updated as the legislative provisions come into force.

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.

Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme ('Clare's Law')

Note Domestic abuse disclosure scheme (Clare's Law) now on statutory footing under Domestic Abuse Act 2021 (point 77 in Section 7 of the Act).

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.

Requests for Clare's Law disclosures can be made via Northumbria Police website.

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.

6. Issues

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 of vicarious trauma on professionals in planning their involvement in situations of domestic violence and abuse.

Local Information

Regional

MARAC Referral Forms:

MARAC Case Research Form for MARAC Checklist Lead

Police and Crime Commissioner Training Prospectus

Gateshead

Operation Encompass Website Information

Operation Encompass Gateshead - Strategic and Operational Framework

Domestic Abuse Team

Newcastle

Domestic Violence Training

Safe Newcastle delivers a Domestic Violence and Abuse Multi-Agency Training Programme across a range of topics including:

  • Domestic Violence Awareness;
  • Children Living with Domestic Violence;
  • Assessing and Managing Risk in Domestic Violence and Abuse cases;
  • Working with Male Perpetrators;
  • Responding to Domestic Violence and Abuse.

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:

Joanne Douglas
Workforce Development and Training Officer (Domestic and Sexual Violence)
0191 211 5872 / 07881 686 568
joanne.douglas@newcastle.gov.uk

Domestic Violence and Abuse Services in Newcastle

South Tyneside

Domestic Abuse Handbook

MARAC Quick Summary for Staff

MARAC Referral After Risk Indicator Checklist

Young Persons Violence Advisor Service Referral Form

Flowchart: Disclosure of Domestic Abuse from a Young Person Aged 13-17 Years

Emergency Safety Plan for Young People

Sunderland

Sunderland Multi-Agency Domestic Abuse Referral Pathways and Staff Guidance

Sunderland Multi-Agency Domestic Violence and Abuse Referral Pathway

Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Procedures Protocol