Help for victims of domestic abuse

editorial image

Q. I think my friend is a victim of domestic violence, I would like to give her advice on her options to leave the home. What can she do?

A. If your friend is a victim of an abusive relationship, she should get advice on her options, which may be to:-

*report the violence to the police

*leave home temporarily

*leave home permanently

*stay in the present home and get the person who is harming her to leave

take legal action.

Reporting the violence to the police

Many kinds of domestic abuse are criminal offences and the police can arrest, caution or charge the perpetrator. If the police arrest and charge a perpetrator, they will decide whether to keep them in custody or release them on bail. There will usually be conditions attached to their bail to protect the victim from further violence and abuse.

Make sure to ask for the crime reference number which may be needed if other agencies need to be contacted for help.

The police can also give advice on crime prevention and getting a police marker on your address, so an officer can get to your home as quickly as possible.

Finding somewhere safe to stay

A victim of an abusive relationship may need somewhere safe to stay, either alone or with their children. The options are:

*stay at home if this is safe

*stay with relatives or friends

*stay in a women’s refuge. This is only an option for women (with or without children)

*get emergency accommodation from the housing executive under homeless persons law

*get privately rented accommodation.

Women’s Aid Refuges

Women’s Aid provide somewhere safe for women and their children to stay and allow some time and space for the woman to think about what to do next.

Staff at refuges can give a lot of emotional and practical support, for example, advice on benefit claims, which solicitors to use and, if necessary, how to contact the police.

Going to the Housing Executive

The Housing Executive have a legal duty to provide help to certain people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. You will normally be considered to be legally homeless if it is not reasonable for you to occupy your home because of the risk or fear of domestic violence.

The Housing Executive may have a duty to provide emergency accommodation while they decide whether they are legally homeless.

If it is outside of normal office hours, you should telephone the local authority’s emergency out-of-hours number for help with emergency housing.

Longer term solution

Once your friend has found a safe place to stay short-term, they will need to think about what to do in the longer term. They will need to consider:-

*whether they wish to permanently separate from their partner.

*whether they want to take action to keep the violent partner away.

This could include getting an injunction to protect them from more violent behaviour (known as a non-molestation order), or a court order to sort out who can stay in the family home, for example if they want to stop the violent partner from returning home (known as an occupation order).

*housing. Legal rights to the family home will depend upon the type of housing, the legal status of the relationship and whether or not they have children.

Your friend should get legal advice to ensure that they do everything possible to *protect rights to the family home, even if they decide to leave the property.

*children. If your friend has children they will need to decide if they are taking the children with them.

It may be unsafe to leave them behind. It may need to go through the courts to resolve who the children should live with and with whom they should have contact.

*money. Benefit entitlements will need to be checked and whether or not to apply to court for maintenance. They may also want to apply to the Child Maintenance Service for them to arrange maintenance for their children.

Men can also be victims of domestic violence, please contact your local Citizens Advice who can signpost you to the relevant organisations.

Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice at www.citizensadvice.co.uk or for further information go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland