Domestic abuse is not acceptable; anyone experiencing domestic violence and abuse is not to blame and is not alone. Help and support is available.

Live Fear Free Helpline

Live Fear Free can provide help and advice to:

  • anyone experiencing domestic abuse
  • anyone who knows someone who needs help. For example, a friend, family member or colleague
  • practitioners seeking professional advice.

All conversations with Live Fear Free are confidential and are taken by staff that are highly experienced and fully trained.

Call: 0808 80 10 800

Available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
About the helpline

Text: 07860077333

Available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
About the text service

Email: info@livefearfreehelpline.wales

Available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
About the email service

Live chat service

Common questions

Abusive relationship advice

Staying safe

If you are concerned about your safety or well-being and need advice and support call us at the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.

If you are concerned specifically for a child contact the NSPCC Helpline - 0808 800 5000.

If you feel unsafe

If you feel unsafe and want to know what your options are, or you need access to a place of safety in an emergency, day or night, call the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800. The Helpline is open 24 hours and can put you in touch with safe, emergency accommodation through a national network of refuges across Wales and the UK.

The Helpline is for anyone who is experiencing, or has experienced domestic abuse, or for anyone who is worried about domestic abuse happening to a friend, family member or colleague. It is free, confidential and the number will not show up on a telephone bill.

If you are a child or young person

You can also call ChildLine on 0800 1111. This UK-wide free and confidential Helpline which provides help for young people of all ages who are in distress or feel in danger.

Keeping yourself safe

Making a personal safety plan is a way of helping you to protect yourself and your children and helps you plan in advance for the possibility of future violence and abuse.

A safety plan helps you to think about how you can increase your safety either within the relationship, or if you decide to leave.

You cannot control your abuser or the abuse; only they can do that. But you can change how you respond to and think about the abuse and take steps to increase your safety. You may already have tried various strategies and have some that work some of the time.

Some questions to help you get started:

  • When was the most recent incidence of violence or abuse? Frequency, severity, where/when? Are there any patterns?
  • What do you currently do to keep you and your children safe? What works best?
  • Do you have important phone numbers available e.g. family, friends?
  • Do the children know how to contact friends/family?
  • Could you teach your children to call 999 in an emergency, and what they would need to say (e.g. their full name, address and telephone number).
  • Who can you tell about the violence – someone who will not tell your partner / ex-partner?
  • Are there neighbours you could trust, and where you could go in an emergency? If so, tell them what is going on, and ask them to call the police if they hear sounds of an attack. Consider establishing a signal that means they should call the police.
  • Is there a code word or phrase you can agree with a friend so that they know to call the police if they hear you say it or you text it to them? 
  • If you left, where could you go? What if it was at night?
  • Do you ever know in advance when your partner is going to be violent? E.g. after drinking, when they get paid, after relatives visit?
  • When you suspect they are going to be violent can you go elsewhere? If not, is there anywhere in the house which is safer? (e.g. where you won’t get trapped, where there are fewer weapons and hard edges)
  • Can you keep an old mobile charged and hidden to use in an emergency if your current phone gets broken?
  • What is the most dangerous part of your house to be in when he is violent?
  • Is there somewhere for your children to go when your partner is being violent?
  • Can you begin to save any money independently of your partner?
  • Can you rehearse an escape plan, so in an emergency you and the children can get away safely?
  • Are you able to keep copies of important papers with anyone else? E.g. passport, birth certificates, benefit book?
  • Is it safe for you to pack an emergency bag for yourself and your children, and hide it somewhere safe (e.g. at a neighbour's or friend's house)?

If you need help the Live Fear Free Helpline can put you in touch with an appropriate service near you to help you develop a safety plan.

Leaving the abuser

The most important thing to do is to leave safely. You may think it’s the decent thing to end the relationship in private and in person but the safest way is to leave when your abuser is not around. 

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, making a decision about whether to stay or leave the relationship can be really difficult, involving emotional and practical considerations. You may also fear losing family or friends if you leave.

Often, leaving a violent partner only signifies the end of the relationship - not the end of the violence or abuse. Abusers rarely end the relationship because in most cases they psychologically need the partner more than you need them.

They can be quite successful at hiding their dependency on you and their fear of losing you.  Whether you stay or leave, it is wise to have a safety or crisis plan to maximise your safety. If you are experiencing any form of domestic abuse you might consider making a crisis plan.

Crisis plan

A crisis plan can set out what you could do under certain circumstances to help reduce the risk of emotional or physical injury to yourself (and your children).

Your plan can include ways for reducing risk to yourself from your abuser, or it may outline how you could get away. You can make a crisis plan on your own or speak with a trusted friend or a domestic abuse worker. Even if you don’t currently plan to leave, making a crisis plan is a way of feeling more in control and giving you more confidence.

If you have time, try to take as many of the items listed below as appropriate. Your safety must come first so only take the items below if you have time to do so. This is just a suggested plan of action which you can add to or change to suit you.

If you are planning ahead of the day you plan to leave, make sure you conceal these items somewhere safe where your abuser will not find them. In the case of documents, the actual documents will be more useful but if in doubt, take photographs of them and send them as attachments to a safe email address that you can access from anywhere (don’t forget to delete the photos).

  • Locate somewhere you can quickly and easily use a phone (neighbour? relative? other contacts?) in case you forget your mobile or it is broken.
  • Make and always carry with you a list of numbers for use in an emergency, include friends, relatives, local police, Welsh Women’s Aid, Live Fear Free Helpline (even well known numbers can be forgotten in a panic).
  • Try to keep aside some money for bus, train, cab fares.
  • Have an extra set of keys for house, car etc.
  • Keep the keys, money and a set of clothes for you and the children packed ready in a bag that you can quickly get and take.
  • Explain to your children who are old enough to understand that you might have to leave in a hurry and will take them with you or will arrange for them to join you. Discuss the escape drill.

If you have more time to plan your leaving, do as many as possible of the following:

  • Take all of your children with you; it will be harder to get them back later if you leave without them. If they are at school, make sure that the head and all your children's teachers know what the situation is, and who will be collecting the children in future.
  • Take your legal and financial papers such as marriage and birth certificates, Court orders, national health cards, passports, driving licence, benefit books, address book, cheque books, credit cards, rent book or mortgage papers, birth certificates etc.
  • Keys to the house, car and place of work.
  • Address book.
  • Take any of your personal possessions which have sentimental value – photographs or jewellery for example.
  • Take favourite toys for the children.
  • Take clothing and toiletries for you and the children for at least several days.
  • Take any medicine you or your children might need.
  • Any documentation relating to the abuse such as police reports or injunctions.

If you do leave and later discover you have forgotten something, you can always arrange for the protection of a police escort to return home to collect it.

Safety after you leave the relationship

If you have left your home, but are staying in the same area or at the same job or your children are staying at the same school, you might be able to increase your safety in the following ways:

  • Try to alter your routines and avoid places that you used when you were together.
  • If you have any regular appointments that your partner knows about (for example, an exercise class) try to choose a safe route to arrive and leave or consider changing to a new location.
  • Tell your children's school, nursery or childminder what has happened, and let them know who will pick them up. Make sure they do not allow anyone else to collect them or give your new address or telephone number to anyone. (You may want to establish a password, or give copies of any court orders, if you have them.)
  • Tell your employer or colleagues at your place of work. They will be better prepared to help you in an emergency and may be able to put some additional security measures in place.
  • If you have an injunction, make sure that your local police station has a copy, and that the police know that they need to respond quickly in an emergency. 
  • If you have moved away from your area, and don't want your abuser to know where you are, take particular care with anything that may indicate your whereabouts.

Remember:

  • If your abuser has had access to your mobile phone, they could have installed a tracking device. If you are in any doubt, change your phone.
  • Digital photographs often contain location data so take care (for example) if sending the abuser photographs of the children. 
  • Exercise caution when posting on social media so you don’t give away your location.
  • If you need to phone your abuser (or anyone connected with them), make sure your telephone number is untraceable by dialling 141 before ringing.
  • Change passwords for your email, online banking, social media and any website your abuser may know about. 
  • Talk to your children about keeping your address and location confidential.
  • Try to avoid using shared credit or debit cards or joint bank accounts. You should also change the PIN for your debit card if you think your abuser may know it.
  • Talk to the police or your solicitor if you are going through any court action to make sure that your address does not appear on any court papers.
  • Victims of stalking and domestic abuse can join the electoral register anonymously to ensure they are not put at risk, and do not lose the right to vote.
  • If your ex-partner continues to harass, threaten or abuse you, make sure you keep detailed records of each incident, including the date and time it occurred, what was said or done, and, if possible, photographs of damage to your property or injuries to yourself or others. 
  • If your partner or ex-partner injures you, see your GP or go to hospital for treatment and ask them to document your visit.  If you have an injunction with a power of arrest, or there is a restraining order in place, you should ask the police to enforce this. If your abuser does not obey any court orders, you should also tell your solicitor.

In an emergency, always call the police on 999.

Life after domestic abuse

When you leave domestic abuse you often expect life to get much better but for many survivors, it is only when they are safe and away from the abuse that they can allow themselves to feel anything about their experiences.

You may have a sense of anti-climax. You may also experience grief, pain and a deep sense of loss. Your trust will have been betrayed, your self-esteem and confidence shattered. In many ways it is like being bereaved and, as with bereavement, healing will take time.

Treat yourself gently. Don't rush the healing process, and don't expect to achieve everything you want straight away.

Living with someone who is always putting you down, criticising you, controlling you and being abusive or violent towards you may have sapped your self-confidence and your belief in yourself.

  • You may find it hard (or impossible) to make decisions, even about small things - because your abuser did not allow you to make choices for yourself. 
  • You may find managing money very difficult: maybe your ex-partner controlled all the household finances; you are probably having to manage on a very limited income. 
  • Perhaps you have left many of your personal possessions behind.

You have already taken a huge step in leaving your abuser. Give yourself credit for that. Then think of all the other things you have achieved in your life, and build up a mental list that you can return to when you are feeling low.

It is important that you give yourself time to decide what you want to do: there is no fixed timetable for ‘getting over it’ – everyone is different. If you don't want to change anything else at this point, that is fine. Be kind and patient with yourself. Only you can decide what you want from life and what is best for you.

When you do feel ready to make further changes you might want to consider joining local organisations, returning to education, looking for a new or different job. These changes can make a positive impact on your life which is an important part of getting your life back on track.

It's good to have hopes and ambitions for the future, but try to set realistic goals and move at your own pace, rather than doing too much.

Some of the things you might like to do:

  • Take time and space for yourself each day. 
  • Reward yourself – it doesn’t have to involve a lot of money – maybe a walk in the park, cooking yourself a special meal or buying a bunch of flowers. 
  • Do something you enjoy and are good at. 
  • Take regular exercise (for example, try swimming, dancing, walking or climbing). Try yoga, meditation or self-defence. 
  • Practice relaxation exercises (for example, breathing exercises, tai chi, self-hypnosis or massage). 
  • Be creative: try drawing, painting, writing. 
  • Make sure you eat well and to get enough sleep.

Some people find it useful to talk about their experiences with others who have had similar experiences for example, as part of a support group. Others may prefer to explore how they are feeling on a one to one basis with a counsellor or therapist. 

Being in a violent relationship is difficult, painful and stressful but life after abuse can give you the opportunity to take control of your life and time to overcome some of the painful experiences. You can also develop your own ways to live with your experiences and move on to a more positive life.

Building Better Relationships programme

There are a number of programmes being offered across Wales (whether on a voluntary basis through a domestic abuse service or via the Courts/probation service). None of these guarantee saving your relationship –you should continue to prioritise your own and your children’s safety. 

If your partner’s commitment to change is genuine, they will accept that you need to feel and be safe. 

Domestic abuse preventative programmes are designed to help abusers take responsibility for their behaviour and to learn new skills that will enable them to behave non-abusively. This takes time and there’s no ‘quick fix’.

Programmes vary between 12 - 28 sessions and most are delivered in a group format. Usually both you and your partner will be linked in with a ‘safety worker’ whilst the group is ongoing. This is to ensure that your safety is maintained so that you can share concerns with them, and they can share concerns with you.  

Only you can decide if the changes your partner makes are enough for you to carry on with the relationship.
More information will be available by your local domestic abuse service.

 

About domestic abuse

What is domestic abuse?

The cross UK government definition of domestic violence and abuse defines Domestic abuse as:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour,  violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”.

There are many different forms of domestic abuse, these include but are not limited to:

  • coercively controlling behaviour emotional / psychological abuse
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • financial abuse
  • harassment and stalking.

Domestic abuse may also include a range of behaviours that, when viewed as isolated incidents, do not seem much, If they involve a pattern of behaviour that result in you feeling fear, alarm or distress, it is abuse.

Types of domestic abuse

Coercively controlling behaviour emotional / psychological abuse

Coercive control is when a person with whom you are personally connected, repeatedly behaves in a way which makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated, humiliated or scared.

The following types of behaviour are common examples of coercive control:

  • isolating you from your friends and family
  • controlling how much money you have and how you spend it
  • repeatedly putting you down, calling you names or telling you that you are worthless
  • monitoring your activities and your movements
  • threatening to harm or kill you or your child
  • threatening to publish information about you or to report you to the police or the authorities
  • damaging your property or household goods
  • forcing you to take part in criminal activity or child abuse
  • isolating you from sources of support.

Physical abuse

Can range from your partner using force/ violence or objects to hurt you. Physical abuse can include:

  • slapping and/or punching
  • kicking
  • burning
  • shaking
  • strangling
  • throwing items
  • use of knives or other weapons.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is any sort of non-consensual sexual contact and could include:

  • being touched in inappropriate/unwanted ways
  • unwanted sexual demands
  • being purposely hurt during sex
  • being pressured to have unsafe/unprotected sex
  • being pressured to have sex
  • forcing you to have sex
  • forcing you to engage in prostitution or pornography
  • preventing you from using birth control
  • videotaping or photographing sexual acts and posting it without your permission
  • rape.

Financial abuse

Domestic abuse can also include financial abuse such as:

  • keeping you short of money
  • taking your money
  • preventing you from getting or keeping a job
  • destroying possessions
  • refusing you access to a bank account 
  • running up debts in your name.

Harassment and stalking

This may include the abuser:

  • sending repeated texts, emails, letters, cards or ‘presents’
  • following you or turning up at your home or workplace
  • harassing friends, family and neighbours
  • vandalising property.

Who can be affected by domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone regardless of; age, gender, nationality, ethnicity or ability and is regardless of Income, class or status, immigration status, sexual orientation or heath issues (including pregnancy).

Domestic abuse can happen between people who:

  • are/have been in an intimate relationship together 
  • are/have lived together
  • have children together
  • are of close family relations.

Domestic abuse often continues once the relationship is over.

Child to parent abuse

As well as living in fear of assault, parents who are abused by their children may experience feelings of shame and blame, and can be reluctant to report the problem.

Adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) can be referred to in a number of different ways, including ‘parent abuse’, ‘child to parent abuse’ (CPV), or ‘battered parent syndrome’.

APVA is likely to involve a pattern of behaviour, which can include physical violence  and other types of abusive behaviours towards a parent (including damage to property, emotional abuse, and economic/financial abuse). Violence and abuse can occur together or separately.

Some families experiencing APVA have a history of domestic violence and abuse. In other cases the violence may be linked to other behavioural problems, substance abuse, mental health problems, or learning difficulties.

It is important that both the individual being abused and the young person who is using abusive behaviour receive the right support.

Contact NSPCC trained helpline counsellors for 24/7 help, advice and support for any concerns about a child help@nspcc.org.uk  or on 0808 800 5000.

 

Help and support

Professionals that can help

Sometimes, talking about domestic and sexual abuse is very difficult because people feel ashamed, embarrassed or scared. Sometimes it is because making changes seems too complicated or even impossible. Seeking help can be particularly difficult where children are involved.

As well as contacting us at the Live fear free helpline there are also a number of other people and agencies that can help you / someone you are concerned about:

  • local specialist domestic abuse services
  • GP
  • health visitor, midwife, community nurse
  • police
  • citizens advice bureau
  • employer
  • sexual abuse referral centres (SARC)
  • counsellor
  • family/friends 

Safe houses and refuge

Local domestic abuse and violence against women services in Wales can support you (and your children if you have any) with a range of support to meet your needs. They can offer support with a range of issues including:

  • housing
  • legal issues
  • immigration
  • support through the justice system,
  • finance and debt,
  • health and wellbeing,
  • accessing education, employment, learning and skills
  • access to counselling support.

Some services offer independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs) for those at high risk of harm.

Service available may include:

Emergency accommodation (refuge)

Refuge is a safe house where people who are experiencing domestic abuse can stay free from abuse, either in a crisis or to help them move on and recover from abuse.

The type of refuge your local service offers can vary. Most refuges in Wales accommodate around 3-6 families at a time (women with children and those without children). Some refuges consist of self-contained family units but most will give you your own room to share with your children, whilst sharing other rooms (the living room, kitchen, playroom, etc.) with the other refuge residents. 

Access to refuge is available via the Live fear free helpline or your local group and is available 24 hours a day/365 days a year. There is a UK wide network of refuges so, subject to availability, you can choose whether you stay somewhere away from your home, or remain in the same area. The refuge provider will carry out their own individual assessments.

There are refuges for Women and Men in Wales. 

Community based support (outreach or floating support)

Specialist support and advocacy for victims/survivors living within the community to help people move-on and stay safe, to achieve longer term independence and free from abuse.

Educational and prevention group programmes

Many services run a variety of group programmes aimed at supporting women after experiencing domestic abuse to reduce their isolation, increase confidence and help recover from their experiences of violence and abuse.

Children and young people services

Many services also provide support for children and young people who have been affected by domestic abuse. A range of age-appropriate programmes are available for supporting children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse and for mothers and children to help rebuild their relationships.

Help for domestic abuse perpetrators

Some services in Wales deliver accredited perpetrator programmes to challenge, manage risk, and change behaviour of abusers. 

Legal help

Domestic abuse is a crime and the police can assist with taking forward a case to the Crown Prosecution service. There is no specific offence of 'domestic violence' however charges such as: assault, harassment, criminal damage, stalking or threatening behaviour could be applied.

Most police stations have Domestic Violence Units or Community Safety Units with specially trained officers to deal with domestic violence and abuse.

You should call 999 in an emergency or 101 in a non-emergency, alternatively you can attend a police station in person to report an incident.

Domestic abuse should be treated as seriously as an assault or threat from a stranger. Each police officer can use his/her powers to intervene, arrest, caution or charge an abuser.

Suspects may be remanded or kept in custody or may be given bail before being charged, depending on the nature of the incident reported.

Domestic Violence Specialist Courts are available across Wales. District Judges, Court clerks and Crown Prosecutors are all specially trained to handle court cases in relation to domestic abuse and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors are trained to provide victim support

Domestic violence protection notices and orders

The police now have powers to serve a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) on an abusive partner who presents an ongoing risk of violence. This will be provided in writing and served to the abusive partner by a police officer.

The order lasts for 48 hours and requires the abusive partner to leave the premises and not contact the victim. This can be extended further (up to 28 days) by a magistrate at court, who can grant a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO).

Civil options

Survivors of domestic violence can apply to civil courts (family proceedings courts or county courts) for an injunction or court order to help protect them. The most common types of court orders are:

  • Non-molestation orders - This type of court order is aimed at preventing the abuser from using or threatening violence against you or your child, or intimidating, harassing or pestering you. It can also prevent them from coming within a certain distance of your home. Each order is unique and will take your individual circumstances into consideration. When making the order, the magistrates will take into account your health, safety and well-being, and consider any children involved. The magistrates will also assess how they think an order will help the situation. It is a criminal offence if the non-molestation order is broken and you can call the police to report this.
  • Occupation orders - Occupation orders state who can live in a property. Similar to non-molestation orders, they are tailored to your individual circumstances. The orders could say that the abuser must leave the property you live in. It can also prevent the abuser from coming within a certain area such as 200 yards of your home or a child’s school.
  • Prohibited steps order -  A prohibited steps order is granted by a court when threats have been made by your partner to take your children from you. It stops your partner from taking your child away from your care and control. It does not necessarily stop all contact with the children, but will determine how contact can be safely maintained.

This is not a comprehensive review and it is important that you seek professional legal advice before making any decisions.

Specialist domestic abuse services can help you and you may wish to speak with your Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) or Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) before making any decisions.
 

Help with housing

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence you may wish to consider changing your living arrangements.

Staying in your own home

If you want to stay in your own home you could get an injunction to keep your abuser away from you and an occupation order to exclude them from the property. If it is felt that you are at risk of attack in your own home, you may be eligible for ‘target hardening’ work to be carried out to increase the security in your home.

If you are in social rented housing your social landlord should be able to work with you and advise how your abusive partner can be removed from the tenancy agreement and out of the property.  

Leaving your property and finding alternative accommodation

If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence, you may wish to consider leaving the home that you share with the abusive partner. There are a number of options available to you if you feel that leaving the home will help to keep you and your children safe.

You may wish to speak to one of the specialist services in Wales who will be able to provide you with further information on refuges or provide you with further advice on your housing options and help you to keep safe whilst making these decisions.  

Refuges/Supported Accommodation

If you feel that you have to leave your home urgently because your partner or family member is threatening you, you may be able  to move into a refuge/supported accommodation. These are safe, confidential places to stay with experienced staff that can help you. In an emergency you can ask the police or Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (IDVA) to help you find support or alternative accommodation such as a refuge/supported accommodation.

Homelessness Application

If you feel you have to leave your home because of the risk of violence or abuse and / or are in immediate danger your Local Authority Housing Department may have a duty to provide assistance to you and your household.

Part 2 Housing (Wales) Act 2014 places duties on Local Authorities to assess the needs of households who may be homeless or threatened with homelessness within the next 56 days.

Persons who are homeless as a result of domestic abuse should be provided emergency accommodation during the assessment stage. Following the assessment, if the Local Authority is satisfied that they owe the household a duty to provide help, the Local Authority must take reasonable steps to help resolve your housing problems.

Housing Associations and Registered Social Landlords

If you want to apply for social housing as a new applicant, you can register directly with a housing association or local authority in your area. Depending on availability you may have to wait some time for a suitable property to become available. However victims of domestic abuse can be a priority for re-housing depending upon individual circumstances.  

Information on which housing associations operate in your area can be found from your local authority, contact details for all local authorities can be found on the Welsh Government website. 

Transfer/exchange

If you are already renting a social housing property and you are the sole name on your tenancy you could apply for a transfer or mutual exchange. This is where you swap your home with another tenant. Your landlord will be able to give you further information on how the scheme works. The national HomeSwap Direct scheme can make it easier for tenants living in a Councill or housing association home to find a new property in another part of the country. This is a system across the whole of the UK, meaning that tenants looking to move should be able to see all available homes across the UK, not just those on the website subscribed to by their current social landlord.

Private Rented Housing

If you are living in private rented housing you can give notice and move out of your property at the end of the tenancy. Your tenancy agreement will tell you how much notice you have to give the landlord. You can also find your own private rented housing to move to. However many landlords will ask for a deposit before you can move in.

Rent

If you receive Housing Benefit and have left your address because of domestic violence and abuse you can apply for an overlap to cover both your original and temporary addresses for a short time while you sort things out, so long as you intend to return to your home address when it is safe to do so.

 

Help for children

Keeping children safe

Living with domestic or sexual violence is always harmful to children.

No parent or carer experiencing these issues or their children need to face domestic or sexual violence alone.  Anyone who is worried about a child can call the NSPCC free, 24 hour Helpline on 0808 800 5000.

What are the Consequences of Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is always devastating and those involved need support. Victims feel isolated, frightened, angry and upset, confused, powerless, tired and depressed, ashamed, and guilty. Those who have lived with an abusive partner may be unable to give their children all the care and attention they would like, and might lose sight of their children's physical and emotional needs.

Effects on Children

Domestic abuse can have a very damaging effect on children and young people who often know a lot more about what’s going on than you realise. It is very common for children to see or overhear physical violence, and they will also be able to pick up on how your partner treats you more generally. Children can get caught in the middle of domestic violence situations, and it can be very confusing and upsetting for them.  

Sometimes children can blame themselves for the violence, and they may hide their feelings and problems. It can have a serious impact on a child’s behaviour and wellbeing, even if they’re not directly harmed themselves.

Children who have witnessed domestic violence are often:

  • afraid 
  • withdrawn 
  • angry 
  • lacking in confidence 
  • suffering from health or sleeping problems 
  • struggling at school 
  • ashamed to bring friends home 
  • violent or showing other behaviour problems 
  • physically hurt or abused.

What can I do to help keep my child safe?

Talk to your children, if you can, and listen to how they feel. Understanding how they feel might help you make a decision about the best thing for you to do.

Asking for help and support will protect your children. Children are able to recover from the effects of domestic violence as long as they know they are safe and no longer feel afraid.

Support provided by the NSPCC

The NSPCC also offers a Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART) service, through which children and their mothers can talk to each other about domestic abuse, and learn to communicate and rebuild their relationship. To find out if DART is offered in your area visit the NSPCC website.

If you're worried about a child, contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Support available for children

ChildLine provides help and support for children and young people. It's a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19.

The ChildLine website and Helpline are always available for information and support on issues like domestic and sexual abuse.

Domestic violence is when a grown up threatens, bullies, or hurts another adult in the family. Sometimes it’s called domestic abuse. It can happen between parents, married couples, girlfriends and boyfriends, in gay or lesbian relationships, or after a couple has split up. Domestic violence can happen to anybody.

How does domestic violence affect you?

Even if the violence at home isn't aimed at you, it doesn't mean you don't get hurt too. If you’re in the same or next room when the violence is going on this can be extremely upsetting. Seeing or hearing domestic violence between adults that look after you is wrong.

You might also have been hurt or bullied as part of the domestic violence and feel worried about your own safety. Talking about how you feel can really help you to cope. ChildLine is always here for young people whenever they need to talk.

What can I do to make it stop?

The most important thing you can do is to keep yourself safe. Domestic violence isn’t your fault, and it’s not down to you to stop the fighting, violence or abuse. Don’t try to step in to stop violence or abuse - this could put you in danger.

The most helpful thing you can do is to talk to a trusted adult about what is happening. If you are worried for your own safety it is important that you talk to somebody as soon as you can. ChildLine is a safe space for you to talk about how you feel and to think about safety plans.

If you feel it’s safe, tell your parents how you feel about what's happening at home. They may not realise that you know what is happening or how scary it is.

The ChildLine website contains all of this information and more. You can visit the website for advice on what domestic abuse is, information about the different types of abuse, where to get help and steps to take to keep safe. There are also lots of links to other sources of support.

Children and young people can call ChildLine at any time on 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor. Calls are free and confidential. You can also send an email or have a one to one chat online.

Children in unsafe relationships

Domestic abuse can happen in any relationship, and it affects young people too. If you are worried about a child, or you work with children and need advice or information, call the NSPCC’s Helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Unfortunately abuse in relationships between young people under 16 does occur and that for both boys and girls, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse can be experienced from their partners. Research shows one in five teenagers have been physically abused by their boyfriends or girlfriends.

  • A survey with young people aged 13-17, across England, Scotland and Wales, showed that 21% of young people said they had been physically abused by their partners.
  • The NSPCC also surveyed young people accessing the Childline website from February to March 2013, and found that 40% of those who had been in a relationship had experienced some type of abuse in the relationship. 25% of who had experienced abuse said it happened too many times to remember.
  • Research focusing on children’s own views and experiences of the negotiation of gender, sexual identity and relationships, has shown that verbal sexual harassment is not uncommon in children’s boyfriend-girlfriend cultures, but few children can talk about it with a parent or teacher.  

The Warning Signs

Some of the common signs of relationship abuse for children and young people are:

  • physical signs of injury 
  • missing school 
  • grades / marking of school work may fall
  • changes in behaviour, mood and personality, becoming withdrawn and passive
  • depression 
  • bullying or being bullied 
  • isolation from family and friends 
  • inappropriate sexual behaviour, language or attitudes 
  • self-harm, eating disorders, problems with sleeping 
  • use of drugs and alcohol (especially where these haven’t been used before).

This list is not exhaustive and children and young people may respond differently to relationship abuse, or these could be indicators of other issues they are facing.

NSPCC Tools for Parents/Professionals

ATL and the NSPCC have also developed guidance to assist professionals and trusted adults on how to support a young person who is experiencing relationship abuse in developing a safety plan that meets the young person’s needs. Accessed via the ATL website. This guidance is in English only.

A useful safety plan template is also available on the ChildLine website. This document is in English only.

Advice for Parents and Professionals

Domestic abuse in relationships can have significant detrimental impacts on children and young people’s health and wellbeing. That’s why it’s important to know what to do if you are worried, or if a child reveals they are in an unsafe relationship. By being prepared, and knowing what help is available, you can make a real difference to a child's safety and wellbeing.

If you are worried about a child, or a child reveals violent abuse in their relationship, the NSPCC Helpline is open 24 hours a day on 0808 800 5000 and trained counsellors will be able to take your call and offer advice and support.

Other Sources of Support

ChildLine – 0800 1111

ChildLine is a private and confidential, 24 hour service for children and young people up to the age of 19. The ChildLine website also signposts a range of other sources of support and information on relationship abuse for young people.