PUT YOUR SAFETY FIRST. Make sure you have a safety plan in place even if you are not planning to leave straight away. Try to leave while the perpetrator is not at home so s/he cannot try to stop you. If possible, arrange a place to stay before you leave and get advice about custody if you have any children. If you have to leave in an emergency because your partner has assaulted you, call the police. They may be able to arrest her/him, which will give you some time to leave.
Domestic violence helpline for women and men
You can contact Live Fear Free, which is open 24 hours / seven days a week on 0808 80 10 800.
Staying in your home
If you have suffered domestic abuse or violence, you may want to stay in your home, get the perpetrator out and make your home safer to stay in, especially if you have strong family links or children’s schooling in the area.
Call the police:
In some cases, the best way to get the perpetrator to leave will be to get her/him arrested. This may only get her/him out of the way for a short time but, if s/he is charged, then s/he may be either held in custody or may be given bail only on condition that s/he does not go near you. If a criminal offence has been committed, s/he may also be prosecuted and given a custodial sentence.
Change the locks:
You may want to change the locks to stop the perpetrator getting into your home. However, you need to be aware of two things:
- simply changing the locks is unlikely to stop a determined attacker, except when combined with other security measures
- if the perpetrator has rights to occupy the home (if you have a joint tenancy, for example), you could be illegally evicting her/him.
Make your home safer:
There are several measures you can take to make you safer in your home, for example by:
- fitting more secure locks, door chains, and peepholes for the front doors
- reinforcing doors and door frames
- getting window locks, bars, and grills installed
- installing alarms, CCTV and security lighting
- improving fire safety measures
- having a reinforced and lockable safe room in the house, from which the police can be called
- letting neighbours know that the perpetrator no longer lives with you, and asking them to let you know if they see her/him hanging around
- changing telephone numbers and screening calls.
These measures can be used along with other legal measures to exclude the perpetrator (e.g. an Occupation Order or Non-molestation Order or an injunction). They will only protect you while you are inside your home though, so you may want to consider other security measures for while you are out (e.g. personal alarms, a mobile phone, self-defence classes). They can also be expensive although you might be able to get help paying for them from the council.
The police can give you further advice on security measures. Make sure your local police station knows that you have been a victim of domestic abuse. You should also give them a copy of any relevant injunction, especially if it has a power of arrest attached, so they are aware that they will need to respond quickly to any call from you.
Occupation Orders are court orders that extend or restrict a person's right to occupy a home. They can, for example, give you the right to stay in the family home where you didn't previously have that right (for example, where the tenancy is a sole tenancy in the perpetrators name), or exclude the perpetrator from the home.
An Occupation Order can be applied for separately, or as part of other family law proceedings (divorce or custody proceedings, for example). The details of the order you can apply for will depend on your relationship to the perpetrator and the type of accommodation you live in.
Occupation Orders can have a power of arrest attached so, for example, if the perpetrator has been excluded from the home, s/he can be arrested if she tries to break in. The perpetrator can be given a custodial sentence or fined for breaching the order.
You will need to seek the advice of a solicitor to get an Occupation Order. They cannot guarantee your safety, and will only last for a limited time, so you will need to take further action to settle who stays in the property in the long-term.
Getting an order or injunction
You will need to get advice from a solicitor who specialises in family law. The solicitor will help you to make an application to the court for an injunction. Sometimes, injunctions can be sought as a part of family law (divorce or custody) proceedings. The judge will consider the evidence of the violence against you, and whether:
- the behaviour you want to stop is unlawful
- the perpetrator is likely to carry out the actions
- there is a likelihood of harm to you
- the behaviour can be clearly explained so the perpetrator will understand what it is they are banned from doing
- the order or injunction is necessary for your protection.
Unlike in the criminal courts, the violence does not have to be proven 'beyond reasonable doubt'; the judge will just have to be satisfied that it is 'more probable than not' that the violence happened. The judge will then decide whether to make an order or injunction and, if so, what conditions to attach to it.
Getting help from the Housing Solutions Team
You can contact the team for help who can suggest improving security in your home as an alternative to accessing a place of safety. It is your choice if you do not wish to remain in the home, especially if you do not feel safe.
They can offer the following:
- homelessness advice and assistance
- accessing emergency accommodation or refuge
- advice on excluding the perpetrator from your home
- improvements in the security of your home (e.g. target hardening – alarms, locks, etc)
- emergency contacts and ongoing support
Please contact the team on 01352 703777.