Am I a victim of domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse includes a range of abusive behaviours which are used by an abusive partner, ex-partner, or family member to maintain to maintain power and control over another.
It's rarely a one-off incident but rather an ongoing pattern of behaviour, and takes place regardless of social background, age, gender, religion, sexuality, or ethnicity.
The perpetrator of the abuse creates an environment of fear and uses this fear to control their victim(s). Domestic abuse is often about power and domination, like someone you know trying to control your life.
It isn't just physical violence; some of the most damaging forms of domestic abuse include financial, psychological, or emotional control.
Domestic abuse can take different forms including but not limited to:
Physical abuse: pushing, hitting, punching, kicking, choking, and using weapons.
Sexual abuse: forcing or pressuring someone to have sex (rape), unwanted sexual activity, touching, groping, or making someone watch pornography.
Financial abuse: taking money, controlling finances, not letting someone work.
Emotional abuse or coercive control: repeatedly making someone feel bad or scared, stalking, blackmailing, constantly checking up on someone, playing mind games. Coercive control is now a criminal offence under the Serious Crime Act 2015.
Digital or online abuse: using technology to further isolate, humiliate, or control someone.
'Honour'-based violence: this is abuse seen as 'justified' in order to protect the honour or respect of a family or community, such as forced marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM).
Abuse can affect you in the long term by damaging your self-esteem and wellbeing, and that of your children. Victims of domestic abuse can attempt to flee many times before they're successful. Isolation can keep someone in an abusive relationship for a long time.
Having the right information to understand domestic abuse can help you make choices and know how to do it safely. Whether you've lived with abuse for weeks, months or years, support is available to you.
Local support services
For all domestic abuse support contact - My Sisters Place
My Sister’s Place is an independent and confidential specialist domestic violence service for women.
They provide a same day service and offer:
- advocacy, advice and options to keep you safe and help plan for the future
- legal advice and support through court processes
- safety planning and practical security adaptations to your home
- outreach support and help with housing, money and emotional worries
- training for agencies and community groups
- women’s support groups
123 Borough Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 3AN
Contact number: 01642 241864
To access refuge accommodation contact - Changing Lives
Contact number: 01642 861 788
Out of hours: 07812 672 818
The Teesside Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), located at North Ormesby Health Village, Middlesbrough, provides 24 hour crisis intervention and support for anyone who has experienced a sexual offence, regardless of when the offence occurred, or whether the incident was reported to the police or not.
Crisis support workers will outline the options available and provide support throughout any subsequent process.
- confidential advice and support
- anonymous reporting to the police, if appropriate
- medical examination and health advice
- collection of evidence/information regardless of whether the police are involved
- referral to specialist services including sexual health, mental health, counselling, and advocacy services
If you've been a victim of a sexual offence, or are concerned about someone who has been, call the Teesside SARC-support service now for help and support on 03333 44 8283.
This is a free, independent, and confidential service supported by NHS England, and the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner.
Arch Teesside, rape and sexual abuse counselling and advocacy service
Arch provides specialist sexual violence services to people who have suffered rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, or childhood sexual abuse, no matter how long ago the experience took place.
The service is free and confidential and available to both women and girls, men and boys. They offer a range of services to support recovery including specialist therapeutic support, criminal justice advocacy and practical and emotional support.
The ISVA service (Independent Sexual Violence Advisors) works across the whole of the Teesside area and is available to children and young people as well as adults. The service can provide advocacy whether you have reported the incident to police or if you are thinking about reporting and can help by:
- Keeping you updated on the progress of the case
- Arranging for pre-trial visits to the court, and accompanying you there
- Accompanying and supporting you whilst at court
- Continuing to offer support after the court case if you need it
- Working on your behalf to ensure that your rights are met
Counselling support is sexual violence specific and Middlesbrough-based. It is available to people aged 14 years and over.
You can refer yourself using an Arch Teesside online referral form.
Contact number: 01642 822331
Opening hours: Monday and Friday, 8:30am to 5pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 8:30am to 7pm
National helplines and websites
All victims of domestic abuse
- The free national helpline for domestic abuse is 0808 2000 247 and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- The Men's Advice Line is 0808 801 0327 and is available Monday to Friday, 10am to 1pm then 2pm to 5pm.
- Mankind also supports male victims of domestic abuse. The helpline is 01823 334244 and is available Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm then 7pm to 9pm. Find out more on the Mankind website.
- Galop is the LGBT+ anti-violence charity. They can help people who have experienced hate crime, sexual violence or domestic abuse, and also support lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people who have had problems with the police or have questions about the criminal justice system. They run the national LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline. If you need help, you can call 0800 999 5428 or email email@example.com). Find out more on the Galop website.
- SignHealth provides advice and support for Deaf adults and young people experiencing domestic abuse.
Stalking and harassment
- The national helpline for victims of stalking is run by Suzy Lamplugh Trust. You can call the helpline on 0808 802 0300.
The helpline is open 9:30am to 4pm on weekdays, except Wednesdays when it’s open 1pm to 4pm. The helpline isn’t open on Bank Holidays.
- The Forced Marriage Unit helpline is 020 7008 0151 (00 44 20 7008 0151 from abroad) and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- The National Centre for Domestic Violence provide free access to injunctions on 0844 8044 999 and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Find out more on the National Centre for Domestic Violence website.
- Rights of Women helpline (for women only) is 020 7251 6577 and is available Monday 11am to 1pm, Tuesday and Wednesday 2pm to 4pm and 7pm to 9pm, Thursday 7pm to 9pm and Friday 12pm to 2pm. Find out more on the Rights of Women website.
What will the police do if I contact them about domestic abuse?
Police officers are trained to deal with domestic abuse. They will keep the victim and children safe, assess their future risk, and if needed, refer them to a support service.
Your local police force is Cleveland Police.
In an emergency, police will attend quickly, identify the perpetrator, and take action. They are required to build a case by gathering as much evidence as possible, which may involve photographs of your injuries and of damage caused. You will be asked questions by the officer, and they will complete a form which will assess the level of help you may need and identify the severity of the abuse you are suffering. The questions have been carefully worded to ensure the appropriate safeguarding and support is put in place for you and your children.
What impact will domestic abuse have on my children?
Witnessing domestic abuse can have a significant impact on the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of children and young people. Read more.
During an incident children are at increased risk of physical injury, either by accident or because they attempt to intervene. Even they when are not directly injured, children can be greatly distressed by witnessing the physical and emotional suffering of a parent.
If you are in conflict with your partner or fearful for your safety, you may experience a range of issues including
- Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
- Low confidence and low self-esteem
- Misusing alcohol or substances
- Emotional or mental health issues, such as depression, anger or panic attacks.
These can restrict your capacity to meet the needs of your child.
How can I keep myself and children safe?
If you're still living with your abuser, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your children. It's important to plan in advance for the possibility of future violence or abuse.
A safety plan helps you find ways of protecting yourself and children from abuse by planning in advance how you might respond in different situations, including a crisis.
To help you prepare to stay safe, use this plan:
- If an argument starts, get out of danger and to a safe place. Try to keep calm. If you're in danger, call 999 immediately.
- Keep important and emergency telephone numbers with you.
- Keep your car keys and purse in a handy place.
- Try to keep a small amount of money on you at all times.
- Talk to people you trust. Consider a pre-prepared code word or signal to let them know that you're in danger.
- Keep important documents safe (passports, benefit books, driving license).
- Teach your children to dial 999 in an emergency and what they need to say (full name, address, and telephone number). Teach them not to intervene in an incident.
- If you live with an abuser, have a support system in place - friends, family, or even your doctor. Be aware that your abuser may try to cut you off from them.
- Rehearse an escape plan, so that in an emergency you and your children can get away safely.
- If you're worried about someone knowing which websites you've visited, find out how to cover your tracks online.
- Pack an emergency bag for you and your children and hide it somewhere safe. Your bag should include:
- some form of ID
- birth certificates for you and children
- passports, visas, and work permits
- money, bank books, cheque books, credit and debit cards
- keys for the house, car, and place of work
- cards for payments of child benefit or any other welfare benefits
- driving license
- prescribed medication
- copies of documents relating to your house, including license agreements or mortgage details
- insurance documents, including National Insurance number
- address book
- family photographs
- clothing and toiletries
- any documents relating to the abuse
If you need help to put together a safety plan, please contact Harbour (03000 20 25 25) or My Sister’s Place (01642 241864).
The Hollie Guard app can help to keep you safe when you're out and about, and alert someone if you're in danger.
How can I leave my abuser safely?
There may come a time when you feel the only option is to leave the abuser. If you do decide to leave, it's best to plan it carefully. Sometimes perpetrators will increase the abuse if they suspect you're thinking of leaving, and may continue the abuse when once you've left, so this can be a dangerous time for you.
It's advisable to get help and support from a specialist domestic abuse agency, police, or a solicitor. They will help you look at the risk of further harm, and give you guidance on the options available to you.
If you're planning to leave:
- leave at a time you know the abuser won't be around
- try to take everything you need with you, as you might not be able to return later
- take your children with you, otherwise it may be difficult or impossible to have them living with you in future
- if your children are at school, make sure that the head teacher and your children's teachers know about the situation and agree who will be collecting them in future
Planning doesn't mean you have to carry it through immediately - or at all. But it will help you to consider all the options and how you could overcome any barriers or difficulties involved.
How can I stay safe after I've left the abuser?
If you leave the abuser, you might not want everyone to know.
But it will help to increase your safety if you tell your friends and family, your children’s school, and your workplace or college / university, what's happening so that they don't inadvertently give out information. They can also help you prepare in an emergency.
If you've left home, but you're staying in the same area, there are some ways you can reduce the risks:
- try not to place yourself in a vulnerable position or isolate yourself
- try to avoid places that you used to visit when you were with the abuser
- try to alter your routines
- try to choose a safe route to work or your children's school, or change the route
- tell your children's school, nursery, or childminder what's happened, and let them know about your pickup arrangements. Make sure they know not to release the children to anyone else, or give your new address or telephone number to anyone. You may want to agree a password with them.
- tell your employer or others at your place of work, particularly if you think the abuser might try to contact you there.
- if you've moved and don't want the abuser to know where you are, take care with anything that might indicate your location, including what you post online
- your mobile phone could be tracked - if abuser has had access to your phone, they could have sent a consenting message to a tracking facility
- try to avoid using shared debit/credit cards, or joint bank accounts
- if you need to phone the abuser, or anyone they're in contact with, make sure your telephone number isn't traceable
- talk to your children about the need to keep your address and location secret
- download the Hollie Guard app, which can help to keep you safe when you're out and about, and alert someone if you're in danger
What can I do if the abuse continues?
In an emergency, always call the police on 999.
If the abuser continues to harass, threaten, or abuse you after you've left, make sure you keep detailed records of the incident, including date and time, and detail of each incident.
If you have an injunction or restraining order in place, ask the police to enforce it.
If the abuser is in breach of any court order, DVPN, or DVPO, you should also tell your solicitor.
What is a MARAC?
A MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference) is a meeting where information on domestic abuse cases is shared between representatives of local police, health services, child protection services, housing practitioners, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) and other specialists.
A victim or survivor’s case should be referred to the relevant MARAC if they are an adult (16+) who resides in the borough and is at high risk of domestic violence from their adult (16+) partner, ex-partner or family member, regardless of gender or sexuality.
After sharing all relevant information, the representatives discuss options for increasing the safety of the victim/survivor and turn these into a coordinated action plan. The main focus of the MARAC is on managing the risk to the victim/survivor but it will also consider other family members including any children, as well as managing the behaviour of the perpetrator.
Information shared at the MARAC is confidential and is only used for the purpose of reducing the likelihood of harm to those at risk. Consent of the victim/survivor is preferred but not compulsory for a MARAC referral to be made. The perpetrator should not be informed of the MARAC referral.
How can Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVAs) help me?
The main role of Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) is to support victims at high risk of harm from partners, ex-partners or family members to secure their safety and the safety of their children. IDVAs normally work with a victim from the time of crisis to assess the level of risk, create safety plans, and discuss the range of options to put victims on the path to long-term safety. You can access an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser by contacting My Sister’s Place on 01642 241864.
What is the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme? (Clare's Law)
If you are in a relationship and you have concerns about the behaviour of your partner you may be able to find out whether they have a history of domestic abuse convictions. The scheme is designed to protect potential victims from an abusive situation before it ends in tragedy. It allows the police to disclose information about a partner's previous history of domestic abuse or violent acts.
To make an application, you will need to contact Cleveland Police. You can do this by visiting your nearest police station or calling 101.
Right to Ask: The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender or sexuality.
Right to Know: You can request the information if you are worried about a family member or friend.
If you are frightened or unsure of how to make an application, please contact some of the organisations listed under Support Services. Your call will be treated in confidence, and they will be able to advise you on your situation or offer you alternative advice.
I don’t want to contact police but I need protection. What can I do?
If you are experiencing domestic abuse you may not always feel able to contact the police. Even so, you may still need some form of protection to prevent your partner contacting you, to enable you to remain at home and/or prevent the person visiting or harassing you. Local services such as Harbour (03000 20 25 25) or My Sister’s Place (01642 241864) could help you in these circumstances or alternatively you could contact the National Centre for Domestic Violence. They specialise in making applications under the Family Law Act for one of two different injunctions.
These protect the victim and any children from violent, threatening, abusive and harassing behaviour.
These can be used to regulate access to the family home, possibly excluding the perpetrator.
Magistrates can also grant Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) which would prevent perpetrators from contacting victims for up to 28 days.
I'm a victim of domestic abuse and I have to leave my home?
If you have left quickly or have decided to leave, you will need a safe place to go. If you need urgent assistance you should contact either the Housing Solutions team (01642 726800) or one of the agencies listed under Support Services, who will be able to advise you of your options and if appropriate provide emergency accommodation. Harassment, intimidation and abuse can continue once you have left. Call the Police on 101 for advice, seek help from support services, and notify a solicitor if you have one.
What are the housing options and support available to me?
If you’re experiencing domestic abuse and are in need of emergency accommodation you can contact the Housing Solutions team (01642 726800). Anyone who is homeless or threatened with homelessness can make arrangements to discuss their situation and their available housing options with the team. You can make a homelessness application if it is unsafe for you to stay in your property.
Out of office hours you can contact the Housing Solutions team on the same number (01642 726800). Calling out of hours is for homelessness emergencies only and not general advice.
What is a refuge?
A refuge is a safe house for women and children escaping domestic abuse. The address is confidential and no men are allowed in the building. A refuge is a place where women are safe, and can access emotional and practical support from understanding staff.
Any woman who has experienced any type of domestic abuse can go to a refuge, with or without children. Women can stay in a refuge for as long as they need. Some women stay for a few days, others stay for months while they wait for accommodation in a new community.
Refuge workers can support you to rebuild your confidence, interests and social networks whilst helping with:
- finding a safe new home
- budgeting and claiming welfare benefits
- accessing health services, legal and financial advice
- finding nurseries and schools
- accessing local community and cultural services
- gaining legal advice, including accompanying women to appointments and court
- safety planning
- training, education, and employment
You can access refuge accommodation by contacting Harbour (03000 20 25 25) or the Housing Solutions team in Middlesbrough (01642 726800).
What about my pets while I'm in the refuge?
The Dog Trust Freedom Project ensures that your pets are cared for in a volunteer foster carer's home until you can be reunited with them.
For more information visit the Dogs Trust Freedom Project website.
How do I get a place at a refuge?
Changing Lives provides the refuge for Middlesbrough. You can refer yourself, you do not need a professional to do it for you. You can contact Changing Lives by calling 01642 861 788 or email their secure email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Their opening hours are 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday), and 12am to 5pm (Saturday and Sunday). If you need accommodation outside of their opening hours, call 07812 672 818.
Places in refuges outside of Middlesbrough is advertised via Routes to Support. Only specialist domestic abuse services can access this list. To find out about refuges outside of Middlesbrough, you can call Changing Lives on 01642 861 788, or My Sisters Place on 01642 241864. They will check whether there are spaces available, then give you the contact details of the refuge so you can refer yourself.
If you're not able to get a place in a refuge, but you still need safe accommodation in an emergency, you can contact the Housing Solutions team by calling 01642 726800. If the emergency happens outside of office hours, you can call the out of hours service on the same number (01642 726800).
What if a refuge is not suitable for my circumstances?
There are circumstances that may exclude you from criteria for refuge accommodation, for example, if you are male and escaping domestic abuse, you have older male children, or you are in employment. If you have an emergency need for accommodation you could be offered outreach support and temporary accommodation by contacting the Housing Solutions team (01642 726800).
Can I stay in my family home?
You are able to stay in your home but should seek advice and information before making the decision. You may need additional legal protection or Sanctuary Scheme assistance. The police officer dealing with your case or support service staff would be able to help you make that decision.
Get legal advice if:
- you have a joint tenancy with your abuser
- the property is jointly owned
- you are married or in a civil partnership
You may need to get an Occupation Order to legally exclude your abuser.
Along with legal measures to exclude an abuser, you can take steps to help make you safer in your home, such as:
- fit more secure locks, door chains, and peepholes for the doors
- reinforce doors and door frames
- get window locks, bars, and grills installed
- install alarms, CCTV and security lighting
- have a reinforced and lockable safe room in the house, from which the police can be called
If you do stay at home:
- Contact Cleveland Police and tell them that you have been a victim of domestic abuse. Give them a copy of any relevant injunction, especially if it has a power of arrest attached, so they are aware they must respond quickly to any call from you.
- Tell your friends and neighbours that the abuser no longer lives with you, and ask them to let you know if they see them in the neighbourhood.
- Make changes to protect yourself, such as changing telephone numbers and passwords on social media accounts/computers. You may also consider carrying a personal alarm and a mobile phone when you leave the home.
How do I apply for an Occupation Order to exclude an abuser?
Occupation Orders are court orders. 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 your abuser's name), or exclude the abuser from the home.
Occupation Orders can have a power of arrest attached. This means that an abuser who has been excluded from the home can be arrested if they try to break in. They can be given a custodial sentence or fined for breaching the order.
Get advice from a family law solicitor about Occupation Orders. An order doesn't guarantee your safety, and will only last for a limited time, so you will need to take further action to decide who stays in the property in the long-term.
Can I end a joint tenancy to remove my abusive partner?
You can end a joint periodic tenancy (one that's not for a fixed-term) by giving a valid notice to quit to your landlord or social housing provider. This ends your rights to live in your home and the rights of your joint tenant. Before you do this, ask if they would be willing to grant you a sole tenancy when the joint tenancy ends. Get this agreement in writing. If you have doubts or are unsure of the process, get further advice from a support service or the Housing Solutions team (01642 726800) before contacting your social housing provider or landlord to give notice.
Are there any courses or support to help me understand more about domestic abuse?
The Freedom Programme is a course that helps victims of domestic abuse understand the beliefs held by abusers and the impact domestic abuse can have on children. It aims to empower participants to help themselves and build their confidence and emotional resilience. For more information contact Harbour (03000 20 25 25) or My Sister’s Place (01642 241864).
Counselling is also available for survivors of domestic abuse which can be accessed via My Sister’s Place (01642 241864).