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Domestic abuse and violence

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is any controlling, coercive, threatening or violent behaviour between those aged 16 or over, who are (or have been) intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

Types of domestic abuse

There are many types of domestic abuse, including:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial or
  • Emotional

Get help if you're afraid

If you are afraid of someone with whom you have had, or are having, a close personal relationship, whether they live with you or not, you are entitled to support and information to help you make choices about your safety.

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Urgent help

  • If you are in immediate danger call the police on 999
  • If you urgently need to leave your home and go to a place of safety, call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. This service is free and is open 24 hours a day
  • You can also call Berkshire Women’s Aid Helpline on 0118 950 4003 - available Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm and 24 hours in emergencies
            

For more help visit the Berkshire Women’s Aid website.

General housing advice

If you need general advice about accommodation, call us on 0118 974 6000 or email: housing.needs@wokingham.gov.uk.

Leaving your home

If you think you need to leave your home, get advice from our Housing team. Do not place yourself at risk. If you are in danger, calling the police emergency number 999 should be your first action. 

You can visit our Housing team in person, Monday to Friday. If you are in an emergency situation, you will be given advice and support on the day.

Not everyone who has to leave home due to violence is entitled to emergency accommodation.

Who to contact

  • If you are a Wokingham Council tenant, contact your Housing Officer to discuss the matter in confidence
  • If you are in temporary accommodation provided by Wokingham Borough Council, contact your temporary accommodation provider or the Council’s temporary accommodation compliance team
  • If you are a Housing Association tenant, contact your Housing Manager at the association

Try to take essentials like a change of clothes, toiletries and any medication you need to take regularly with you. You should also try to take important items such as your passport, bank and credit cards and your mobile phone.

Do not make a decision to give up your home permanently until you have spoken to an advisor and considered all your options.

Refuge

To find out about refuge contact:

Berkshire Women’s Aid
35-39 London Street
Reading
Berkshire
RG41 4PS  

Remaining in your home

If you do not want to leave your home, there are options available to minimise the risk to you.

Get homelessness help from the council

You can apply to Wokingham Borough Council housing solutions as a homeless person if you can't stay in your home. We will have a duty to assess the circumstances of your homelessness, identify what your housing and support needs are, and to work with you to try to prevent your homelessness or support you to find somewhere to live.

Some people are entitled to emergency accommodation while we assess whether we have a duty to find them somewhere more settled to live. You will be asked to provide details of your situation.

You may be asked for supporting evidence, which could include details and dates of incidents. In most cases where people are entitled to emergency accommodation, we will initially try to help you find refuge accommodation as this provides you with a place of safety, security and support.

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Emergencies

In an emergency always call 999.

Personal safety plan    

Having a personal safety plan is essential if you or your children are suffering abuse or living in a violent home. In an emergency the single most important factor is your physical safety and the safety of any children you may have. Every person's situation is different, so you may need to take all or only some of these steps recommended in this section.

Safety during a violent incident

If an argument seems unavoidable, try to have it in a room or area where you can exit quickly and easily. Try to stay away from the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom or anywhere else where weapons might be available.

  • Practice how to get out of your home safely. Identify which doors, windows, lifts or stairwell would be best
  • Have a bag packed and keep it at a relatives or friends home in order to be ready to leave quickly
  • Identify one or more neighbours you can tell about the violence and ask that they call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home
  • Devise a code word to use with your children, family, friends and neighbours when you need them to call the police
  • Decide and plan for where you will go if you have to leave home (even if you don't think you will ever need to)
  

If the situation is very dangerous, consider giving the abuser what they want to get them to calm down. You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.

Always remember that you don't deserve to be hit or threatened.

After a violent incident

  • Get to a safe place
  • Call the police
  • If injured, see your doctor or go to hospital as soon as possible
  • Think about speaking to a police officer from the Community Safety Unit
  • Consider seeking advice from a solicitor
         

Preparing to leave

Open a savings account and/or credit card in your name to start to establish or increase your independence. Think of other ways in which you can increase your independence.

  • Get your own post office box. You can privately receive cheques and letters
  • Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents, medicines, clothes and sentimental items with someone you can trust so you can leave immediately
  • Determine who would be able to let you stay with them or lend you some money
  • Keep important contact numbers close at hand and keep some change or a phone card on you at all times for emergency phone calls
         

Leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time. Review your safety plan as often as possible in order to plan the safest way to leave your abuser.

Safety in the home

If you do not live with the abuser or he or she has left the home, it is important that you take some or all of the following steps to stay safe:

  • Discuss a safety plan with your children for when you are not with them
  • Inform the children's school or nursery about who has permission to pick up your children
  • Inform your neighbours and landlord that your partner no longer lives with you and that they should call the police if they see them near your home
  • Get in touch with the local police Community Safety Unit so they can ensure a speedy response to an emergency call from your address
  • Consult a solicitor to see if you are able to change the locks on your doors and, if you can, buy additional locks and safety devices to secure windows

Court orders

The local courts can grant a non-molestation or occupation order, commonly known as an injunction. This legally orders the abuser not to contact you in an aggressive way either directly or through another person. It also means they have to stay away from your home. Your solicitor can help you put an order in place.

If the court grants an injunction, remember to: 

  • Keep your injunction with you at all times
  • Call the police if your partner breaks the injunction
  • If you have a solicitor let them know if your partner breaks the injunction
  • Think of ways to keep safe if the police do not respond right away
  • Inform family, friends, neighbours, your doctor or health care worker and the people you work with that you have an injunction

Safety at work and in public

Decide who at work to inform of your situation. This should include office or building security. Provide a picture of your abuser if possible. Arrange to have an answering machine, caller ID or someone you trust to screen calls, if possible.

Make a safety plan for when you leave work. Have someone escort you to your car, bus or train and wait with you until you are safely on your way. Use a variety of routes to go home if possible. Think about what you would do if something happened during you journey.

Your safety and emotional health

If you are thinking of returning to a potentially abusive situation, discuss an alternative plan with someone you trust. If you have to communicate with your partner, determine the safest way to do so.

Have positive thoughts about yourself and be assertive with others about your needs. Read books, articles and poems to help you feel stronger.

Decide who you can talk to freely and openly to give you the support you need. Look into joining a group or counselling to gain support from others and to build confidence and self worth. If you are worried about staying at home alone ask a friend or relative to stay with you.

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Personal safety plan

If you are experiencing domestic violence or abuse the following checklist will help you to record what is going on, have a personal safety plan and take action:

  • Find out what support is available locally (drop in and community groups, counselling or advice sessions)
  • Keep a diary of all domestic violence incidents
  • Find somewhere you can quickly and easily use a phone
  • Make a list of telephone numbers to carry with you in case of emergency, including friends, relatives, the police Community Safety Unit, local police and Refuge helpline
  • Try to save some money for bus, train or taxi fares
  • Have an extra set of keys for your home and car
  • Keep keys, money and sets of clothes for yourself, and your children, packed in a bag and stored at a friend or relative's house
  • Leave when the abuser is not around
  • Pack your legal and financial papers, marriage and birth certificates, court orders, national health cards, passports, driving licence, benefit books, address books, bank books, cheque books and credit cards
  • Take your personal possessions which have sentimental value
  • Take favourite toys for the children
  • Take clothing for at least several days
  • Take any medicine that you might need
  • If you feel able, contact the police community safety unit

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Emergencies

In an emergency always call 999.

Report domestic violence

You can report any incident of domestic violence at any police station. If it is not an emergency you can also telephone 101 to speak to the police.

Help from social services

If you already receive support from either adults’ or children’s social services, your social worker may be able to help and advise you about any risk of violence or abuse.

This is more likely to be the case if you:

  • Are elderly
  • Are under the age of 18
  • Have left care (or are about to do so)
  • Are in poor health
  • Have a physical or learning disability
    

Contact Social Services

Social services may be able to help and advise you about your -situation and support you in finding accommodation.

Refuges for women

Women experiencing domestic abuse may be offered accommodation in a women's refuge. Some refuges are specifically for women from certain backgrounds, such as Irish or Asian women. Staff at refuges can give you advice about your situation and discuss your options for moving on.

  • Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 for information about refuges
  • If you are in a same-sex relationship, call the National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 999 5428    

 

Help for men

If you are a man experiencing domestic abuse, call the Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327.

Help for children and young people

If you or someone else in your family is being hurt at home, you may not be sure what you can do about it. Domestic abuse is not your fault and you won't get into trouble for telling someone about it. The first thing is to tell someone else about what is happening to you. You can tell a teacher, a neighbour, a friend or a friend's parent.

  • Call Childline on 0800 11 11 for free
               

They won't tell anyone else you are calling unless you are in immediate danger. They can tell you about places where you can get help. Find out more from The Hideout about children and young people and domestic abuse and violence.

National helplines

Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 if you are a woman experiencing domestic abuse. You can talk confidentially to someone about your situation and to find out what your options are.

  • If you are a man experiencing domestic abuse you can contact the Men's Advice Line on 0808 801 0327
  • If you are in a same-sex relationship you can call the National LGBT Domestic Violence Helpline on 0800 999 5428
  • Call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 if you feel in despair and want someone to listen to you and provide emotional support

Support services

The following support services are available to help make the right decisions for you:

  • Kaleidoscopic UK website (for survivors of domestic abuse) - Email: kaleidoscopicuk@gmail.com      

  • Southall Black Sisters (Support for domestic violence victims from black and minority ethnic groups and advice on immigration issues. This is a women-only service) - Helpline: 020 8571 0800 (open Monday to Wednesday, and Friday, 9.30am to 4.30pm, closed 12.30pm to 1.30pm for lunch), General enquiries: 020 8571 9595

  • Eastern European Service (Support to domestic violence victims from the Eastern European Community. Women-only service.) - Call: 0772 524 5777 or email: EasternEuropeanIDVA@refuge.org.uk

  • Women and Girls Network (Providing advice and specialist support for victims of rape or sexual assault and operating a free domestic violence advice line. Women-only service.) Freephone advice telephone: 0808 801 0660 or email: advice@wgn.org.uk. Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, and Wednesday 6pm to 8pm

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Court injunctions

If you are experiencing domestic violence but do not wish to pursue a criminal case, you can still seek the protection of the civil courts by applying for an injunction against the person who is assaulting, molesting or harassing you.

Court orders usually cover a period of 12 months and can carry with them powers of arrest, which means that the abuser can be arrested if they breach the order.

Legal aid

You might be able to get legal aid if you have evidence that you or your children have been victims of domestic abuse or violence and you cannot afford to pay legal costs.

You do not have to get evidence before talking to a legal aid solicitor or Civil Legal Advice (CLA), but they’ll need to see it before deciding whether you can get legal aid.

What counts as domestic abuse for legal aid?

You or your children must have been victims of either:

  • Domestic abuse or violence
  • Financial control, for example being stopped from accessing a joint bank account

What counts as evidence?

You’ll usually need to show that you or your children were at risk of harm from an ex-partner.

You can ask for evidence from:

  • The courts
  • The police
  • A multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC)
  • Social services
  • A health professional, for example a doctor, nurse, midwife, psychologist or health visitor
  • A refuge manager
  • A domestic violence support service
  • Your bank, for example credit card accounts, loan documents and statements
  • Your employer, or education or training provider
  • The provider of any benefits you’ve received

When you have evidence show this to your legal aid solicitor or Civil Legal Advice (CLA) Adviser.

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