Every person has a right to live their life free from violence, abuse, intimidation and fear.
People experience domestic abuse regardless of their social group, class, ethnicity, age, disability or sexuality. Most abuse is carried out by men against female partners, but abuse can be inflicted by women on men, and can also occur in same-sex relationships. Some parents are abused by teenage children and some elderly people are financially, physically or sexually abused by other family members.
Where domestic abuse occurs it is entirely the responsibility of the abuser and there are no acceptable excuses.
Incidences of domestic violence and abuse 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 violence and abuse and of your role in supporting victims and survivors.
Children in the family are also victims of domestic abuse, directly and indirectly. Section 120 of the Children and Adoption Act 2002 defines 'harm' to include 'impairment from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another'. Being a victim or witness of domestic abuse can have a severe effect on a child's behaviour, health and educational attainment, including low self-esteem, withdrawal or anxiety, and behavioural problems, being overly anxious to please and unnaturally well-behaved.
Children are often more aware of the abuse than their parents realise.
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.
Where there are children in the household, concerns must be passed to the statutory authorities. This can be done via the Safeguarding Co-ordinator.
Recognising domestic violence and abuse
Domestic violent and abusive behaviour covers a broad remit and can be:
such as, hitting, pushing, retraining, kicking, punching, imprisoning, forced use or removal of drugs/medication, assault with implements, etc. Domestic abuse also refers to 'female genital mutilation', forced marriage and 'honour'-based violence;
such as, blaming, demeaning, shouting, frightening, ignoring, humiliating, threatening harm to children, using the children as a weapon, ridiculing appearance and skills, setting rules about sleep, leisure time, contact with others, isolating from family and friends, threatening suicide or self-harm, and 'gaslighting' (manipulating someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity);
such as, illegal or unauthorised use of someone's property, money, keeping in poverty, demanding to know what they spend, taking over finances etc.
such as, forcing sexual activity without consent, sexual name calling, imposition of dress codes, knowingly passing on STIs, involving partner in sex trade or pornography etc.
depriving someone of food, shelter, access to medical care etc.
not allowing worship, using faith as a weapon for abuser's personal pleasure or gain, using religious teaching to justify abuse or to compel forgiveness.
For further information see the Domestic Violence and Abuse Procedure.
2. Your Role
If you become aware that someone within your parish or religious community is experiencing domestic violence and abuse then a response is always required.
Where there are children in the household, concerns must be passed to the statutory authorities.
If you do not feel able to respond yourself, you should bring it to the attention of someone who may be able to help such as a Priest or Deacon, a member of the parish council or pastoral team, the Diocesan or Religious Safeguarding Co-ordinator.
The role of the person making a response is to focus on the safety of the victim or survivor and any children where they are involved. The role is not to instruct or advise about a particular course of action or act as a caseworker.
Guidance on supporting someone experience domestic violence or abuse
- Talk to the person and help them to open up. You may have to try several times before they will confide in you;
- Try to be direct and start by saying something like, "I'm worried about you because ….." or "I'm concerned about your safety…";
- Do not judge the person;
- Listen to and believe what the person tells you – too often people do not believe the person when they first disclose abuse;
- Reassure the person that the abuse is not their fault and that you are there for them;
- If the person has not spoken to anyone else, encourage them to seek the help of a local domestic violence agency that understands what they are going through and offers specialist support and advice;
- Don't tell the person to leave or criticise them for staying. Although you may want the person to leave, they have to make that decision in their own time (research shows an abused woman is at most risk at the point of separation and immediately after leaving an abusive partner). Leaving takes a great deal of strength and courage. An abused person can face huge obstacles such as nowhere to go, no money and no-one to turn to for support;
- Talk about how the person can keep themselves and their children safe:
- Talk about how it isn't children's responsibility to protect their parent but in an emergency they could call for help from the police, go to a neighbour, or a relative or someone they trust;
- Suggest a code word or action that is only known to the person and somebody who is supporting them so they can signal when they are in danger and cannot access help themselves;
- Find out information about local services and suggest they identify somebody that can keep spare sets of keys or important documents, such as passports, benefit books, in a safe place so that they can access them quickly in an emergency.
- Focus on supporting the person and building their self confidence;
- Acknowledge their strengths and frequently remind them that they are coping well with a challenging and stressful situation;
- Where appropriate, 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;
- Be patient. It can take time for someone to recognise that they are being abused and even longer to take be able to take safe and permanent decisions about what to do. Recognising the problem is an important first step.
3. Privacy and Confidentiality
It is important to create safe times and places for people to have an opportunity to talk about what is happening to them.
When a report is made about risks of harm to a child or an adult the person making the allegation or raising the concern is often concerned to do so 'in confidence'. It needs to be made clear that full confidentiality can never be promised.
Where you have reasonable cause to believe that a child or young person may be suffering or may be at risk of suffering significant harm, the matter must be referred to the Safeguarding Co-ordinator who will consider the need to refer the concerns to children's social care or the police.
Information should be shared in accordance with the Information Sharing Protocol. It is important to explain why, as well as how, the information that is about to be shared will be managed. Reassurance should be given that the information will be shared only with people who need to know in order to take action to intervene and protect the child or adult.
Giving reassurance about the timing of interventions and feedback to the person raising a concern will assist in managing the process.
4. Protection in the Family Court
If an individual needs to apply for court action to prevent abuse ongoing, there are two types of injunctions that they can apply for in the Family Courts:
- An occupation order to exclude someone from their home;
- A non-molestation order to prevent someone from being violent, threatening violence, harassing or intimidating them.
The thresholds are high for these orders so victims and survivors may need to be supported in producing appropriate evidence for the authorities.
For advice about eligibility for and support in seeking these, the individual should contact the National Centre for Domestic Violence.
5. Support Services
The type 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
|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