Given our current knowledge of the levels of domestic abuse within society based upon both research and reported incidents, it is likely that domestic abuse is prevalent in every parish community.
Such incidences may be recognised or brought to the attention of priests, religious, employees, volunteers or members of the parish community. In order to be able to respond appropriately, sensitively and effectively it is important to have an understanding of domestic abuse and of your role in supporting a survivor.
Domestic abuse manifests itself in a variety of ways:
- A partner in a marriage dominating and controlling their spouse in a variety of ways;
- Regular and repeated physical abuse within a marriage where there may be children affected as well;
- An older relative being physically or emotionally abused;
- An elderly relative being financially exploited;
- A lone parent experiencing bullying and intimidation from a teenage child.
For further details and definitions of domestic abuse see Domestic Violence and Abuse Procedure.
- Every person has a right to live their life free from violence, abuse, intimidation and fear;
- One in four women experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives;
- Each week in the United Kingdom two women are killed by a partner or ex-partner;
- 1 in 40 of the elderly population experience mistreatment from a relative, friend or care worker;
- Domestic violence accounts for 15% of all reported violent incidents;
- Domestic abuse is not confined to any socio economic class, race or age. Women however are more likely to be subject to domestic abuse than men;
- Where domestic abuse occurs it is entirely the responsibility of the abuser. There are no acceptable excuses;
- In nearly all scenarios there are steps that can be taken to increase safety for the survivor and other members of the household, such as children, who may be affected.
2. Your Role
If you become aware that someone within your parish or religious community is experiencing domestic abuse then a response is always required.
If you do not feel able to respond yourself, you should bring it to the attention of someone who may be able to help: a priest or deacon, a member of the parish council or pastoral team, the Diocesan or Religious Safeguarding Co-ordinator.
Whoever does respond must be clear about their role. This is:-
- To focus on the safety of the survivor and any children where they are involved
NB: Where there are children in the household, concerns must be passed to the statutory authorities. This can be done via the Safeguarding Co-ordinator;
- To provide a safe space for survivors to disclose abuse;
- To support and reassure with non-judgemental attitude;
- To provide information about sources of support or how to refer to relevant agencies;
- Where appropriate to provide religious guidance emphasizing aspects of our Catholic beliefs which prioritise equality, the dignity of our lives, the rights to be free of violence and intimidation.
The Role is Not:
- To instruct or advise about a particular course of action. Rather to encourage the survivor to examine and explore options;
- To act as a caseworker. You can help a survivor access appropriate help from relevant domestic abuse services.
3. Don't be Afraid to Ask
If you are concerned that a person is experiencing domestic abuse do not be afraid to ask direct questions.
People who experience this type of abuse are often reluctant to name their experience or may indeed not realise what is happening to them.
Do not assume that people will be offended about being asked. For example, research has shown that over 90% of women who were asked sensitively were not offended even when the question did not apply to them.
Even where someone may respond in an upset or hostile manner does not mean you should not have raised the issue. They may come back to you when they are ready to discuss the matter. Questions should be non-judgemental such as:-
- It sounds as if/I sense your home life is difficult for you at the moment?
- It sounds as if /I sense home has become a frightening place for you. Maybe someone is hurting you there?
- I’ve found it helpful to have a plan for sorting out family arguments. Do you do the same?
- It sounds as if someone has hurt you or, perhaps, even been violent towards you?
If someone answers yes to these types of questions you should check to see if they want support or help from e.g.:
- A refuge or local domestic violence agency if it is a partner in a marriage or relationship;
- Adult Social Care agencies if it is an older or elderly person being abused or exploited;
- Children's Social Care Services should always be informed if a child is involved.
It is important to realise that patience is called for. People experiencing domestic abuse, especially those in a marital relationship or partnership where their partner is the abuser, can only discuss or accept help in their own time.
You should never take sides but should let them know you are there if they want to talk or want help and support to contact helping agencies.
If they do want to talk through their experience, these gentle, non-judgemental questions may assist.
- What can I do to help?
- How is this affecting you?
- How have you been coping with the abuse?
- What can you do to make yourself safer?
- Do you know when an incident is going to happen? Is there a pattern?
- What are your worst fears for yourself/your children?
- Who else is around to help you cope (support networks of friends and family for instance)?
- Can I help you find out information about what choices you may have?
- Would you like me to go with you to find out some more information?
4. Privacy and Confidentiality
It is important to create safe time and places for people to have an opportunity to disclose what is happening to them. For this to happen will also be dependent upon whether you are perceived as someone who can be trusted. This trust is often about being able to keep information to yourself and only share it when permission has been given or where safety reasons override this.
All conversations should be conducted in private and reassurance should be given that any disclosures will be treated confidentially (unless children are involved when there is an obligation to report).
You should be clear to the person when explaining limits to confidentiality.
Information should never be shared for the sake of it, only where either:
- Consent is given;
- The need to protect children overrides confidentiality;
- To enable a professional/agency to work safely to support the survivor.
5. Support Services
The range of services available will depend upon the circumstances of the domestic abuse and where the individual lives.
Domestic Abuse and Support Services
|Action on Elder Abuse|
T: 0208 765 7000
Elder Abuse website
Freephone Number: 0800 999 5428
Broken Rainbow website
|Eaves Women’s Aid and Eaves Supported Housing|
T: 0207 735 2062
Eaves for Women website
|Ending the Silence - LGBT Domestic Abuse Project|
T: 0141 548 8121
LGBT Domestic Abuse website
|Greater London Domestic Violence Project (GLDVP)|
T: 0207 785 3860
GLDVP is a second tier charity that works to ensure that good practice in domestic violence work is transferred across London, bringing together key agencies to develop London-wide policies, raise awareness about domestic violence and increase the effectiveness of multi agency work. The Stella Project is a partnership between GLDVP and GLADA.
|Hidden Hurt - Domestic Abuse Information|
Hidden Hurt website
|London Irish Women’s Centre|
T: 0207 249 7318
London Irish Women's Centre website
|Men’s Advice Line|
Helpline: 0808 801 0327
Men's Advice Line website
T: 0207 395 7700
T: 0207 383 0700
Helpline: 08457 90 90 90
Helpline: 0845 30 30 900
Victim Support website
|Women and Girls Network|
T: 0207 610 4678
Woman and Girls Network website
|Women’s Aid Federation of England|
Helpline: 0808 2000 247 (24 hours)
Women's Aid Federation of England website
East T: 0208 522 7856/7455
Women's Trust website
T: 0207 650 3200
The Hideout website
Child Protection Helpline: 0808 800 5000
|The Tulip Project|
T: 0151 637 6363
|Children’s Legal Centre|
T: 01206 872466 (head Office)
Children's Legal Centre website
|Community Legal Advice|
T: 0845 345 4345
Community Legal Advice website
|The Law Centres Federation|
T: 0207 387 8570
The Law Centres Federation website
|Rights of Women|
T: 0207 251 6575/6
Rights of Women website
T: 0870 011 3335
|Gay Men’s Shared Housing|
T: 0208 743 2165
Provides accommodation based medium term temporary housing and support to gay men who have been the victims of same-sex domestic violence, homophobic violence and/or gay related hate crimes in the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Hammersmith and Fulham.
T: 0207 960 3010
Homeless Link website
|Resource Information Service (London Hostels Directory)|
T: 0207 939 0641
Resource Information Service website
Shelterline: 0808 800 444