Domestic abuse and coronavirus
If you're a professional working with adults or children experiencing domestic abuse, the Social Care Institute for Excellence has advice about domestic abuse support during coronavirus. You can also look at the domestic abuse (coronavirus) update to see how local support services are continuing to help those experiencing domestic abuse.
Helping a victim stay safe during coronavirus
It's important that we all play our part in keeping victims safe, and are able to promote ways to report incidents, like having specific apps and promoting Silent Solutions (pressing 55 on a call when the victim has to be quiet).
When you have contact with members of the public, check how things are going at home, and find out whether they have any problems or concerns. You should also:
- Set up a system to review cases where domestic abuse is known to be an issue
- Include links to support services on websites, social media, and other forms of communication
- Take extra care when speaking to victims by phone, text, or video chat. Always assume that their calls and communications are being monitored by a perpetrator living in the home, so use a generic reason for contacting them until you've checked that they're able to talk openly. Remember that if a perpetrator is checking the victim's phone, they may be abused if they erase their call logs, text messages, or browser history.
Responding to a disclosure of domestic abuse:
- Safety is always the most important thing - if the victim is at immediate risk, always call 999
- Encourage the victim to contact a specialist support service, and reassure them that it's free and confidential
- Help the victim to think about things they can do to protect themselves, using a safety plan as a guide
- Record what's been said, and refer to Middlesbrough Council's domestic abuse and safeguarding procedures
- Agree on how you or another person will contact them safely in the future
- When making contact by phone, start conversations by using a generic reason for calling, to reduce the likelihood of raising the perpetrator's suspicions. If you do get to speak with the victim, check if it is safe for them to talk openly.
If you're a professional working on the frontline, it's important to know that domestic abuse services are still running:
- You should continue to encourage victims to contact support services
- You should continue to make referrals as you usually would
- Refuges are still operating, and are following Covid-secure guidance
- Councils still have a duty to help individuals and families who are made homeless due to domestic abuse
Domestic abuse - Middlesbrough's commitment
Middlesbrough Council is committed to the long term prevention and reduction of domestic abuse. We believe that every individual and family in the town should feel safe and secure, and be free from experiencing violence or abuse.
View the council's:
Working with adults
Practitioners should proactively engage with those who are vulnerable and hidden, at the earliest opportunity, rather than only reactively engaging with those who are in crisis or at imminent risk of serious harm.
When supporting a victim of domestic violence and abuse it may help to follow these guidelines.
Support – if a victim tells you about a violent or abusive situation, listen, offer support, and help them decide what the next step is.
Remember to be non-judgemental – victims mustn't feel that they're being pressurised or judged by people they approach for help, even if they've made a previous decision to return to, or take back, their violent partner.
Give victims choice – when presented with options, victims should decide for themselves what they do next, so they feel in control of their life.
Remind victims that the violence and abuse isn't their fault. Many who live with violence and abuse blame themselves. Whatever the circumstances, violence and abuse can't be justified. Violent partners will often blame the victim for their actions.
Reassure them about their children – many victims don't seek help because of a fear that their children will be taken into care. Violent partners often play on this fear. It's important to stress that this won't happen unless there's an indication of serious neglect or abuse.
Equal opportunities – domestic violence and abuse affects all victims regardless of age, race, disability, and sexuality. It's important that victims are treated as individuals and that assumptions aren't made about what a victim will or won't want because of their age, or because of ethnicity, disability, sexuality, and/or whether s/he has children
Confidentiality – victims must know that any information they give will be treated as confidential, including their whereabouts, and won't be passed on without their permission unless there are safeguarding or legal reasons for doing so. (The boundaries of confidentiality should be clearly identified – refer to your own agency and/or local multi-agency guidelines relevant to domestic abuse and child protection).
Believe – victims shouldn't be required to provide proof of violence (e.g. bruising). Physical assault is only one aspect of domestic abuse. Threats of violence and mental cruelty are equally as damaging as physical violence. Victims should be believed on the basis of their own statements and shouldn't be required to provide supporting evidence from witnesses.
Never assume that the violence isn't serious. Some victims will minimise their experience or only refer to less serious incidents. Always assume that they're at risk and give information accordingly, so that if an emergency occurs the victim will know what to do.
Reassure the victim that there are many agencies that can help. The important thing is that the person feels supported. If you feel that you're not the best agency to provide advice, contact one of the specialist agencies like Harbour, My Sisters Place, or Halo.
If possible, talk to the victim in private. Ensure that anyone who may be the perpetrator can't overhear the conversation, and check with the victim in a discreet way if they'd like someone to be with them, e.g. a friend
If an interpreter is needed make sure they're clear about their role and about the rules of confidentiality under which they're working. The victim must feel comfortable with who the interpreter is and the way they work, and agree to them being present. Always speak directly to the victim and not to the support person.
Have as much information available as possible before the discussion begins. Basic information about options and agencies who can help is useful, and will save you from having to keep interrupting the discussion.
- Listen carefully
- Prioritise the victim, and their children's, safety
- Find out what the victim wants and let them choose what they need from you
- Find out if the victim would prefer to talk to someone else (e.g. a woman, an Asian woman)
- Provide information about options, and don't make choices for the victim
- Tell the victim about services which can help
- Focus on facts, and keep opinions to yourself
- Believe the victim and reassure them that it's not their fault
- Be clear about confidentiality
- Be patient and respectful
- Ask the victim what is the safest way of contacting them
- Keep clear records and don't disclose any information that may put the victim at risk
- Be clear about safeguarding procedures and information sharing
- Look shocked or horrified
- Assume the violence isn't serious
- Talk too much
- Tell the victim what to do
- Guess at the information
- Expect too much
- Moan about how things are
- Offer more than you can deliver
- Act as a mediator or point of contact with the perpetrator
Working with children
Children who live with domestic violence and abuse may feel:
- Powerless: because they can't stop the violence
- Confused: because it doesn't make sense
- Angry: because it shouldn't be happening
- Guilty: because they think they've done something wrong
- Sad: because it's a loss
- Afraid: because they may be hurt, they may lose someone they love, others may find out
- Alone: because they think it's only happening to them
When talking to children about domestic abuse, tell them that:
- What's happening isn't okay
- It's not your fault
- It must be scary for you
- I'll listen to you
- I'm sorry you had to see/hear it
- You don't deserve to have this in your family
- There's nothing you could've done to prevent it/change it
Benefits of talking to children about domestic abuse
- Children feel safer
- They learn that violence isn't their fault
- They learn that violence isn't an OK way to solve problems
- It helps them to feel cared for, and understood
- Children learn that it’s OK to talk about feelings
- Talk about it with them when they are ready
- Listen to them
- Talk about their feelings
- Show understanding
- Let them know it’s not their fault
- Let them talk, if they want to
- Let them know you will try to keep them safe/act in a way that is safe
- Let them know that violence is not OK
- Acknowledge it’s hard/scary for them
- Accept that they may not be willing or able to talk about it right away
- They'll learn that violence is normal
- They're afraid to talk about the violence
- They're confused, don't understand
- They blame themselves
- They learn to deny and not talk about their own feelings
- It makes them feel like they're crazy
- It makes them feel isolated and lonely
- They learn that it's not okay to ask about the violence or discuss it
- It gives the children unrealistic beliefs about the cause of violence
We commission a domestic abuse children and young people service for those aged 3 to 17 years. The purpose of the service is to allow children and young people to get support and intervention in a group setting. Children and young people can be referred for either group work or one-to-one intervention.
Benefits of therapeutic group work
Group support is beneficial to a child or young person who has witnessed or experienced domestic abuse as it can help them to understand that they're not the only one going through it. They can connect with others who have lived through similar situations. With domestic abuse, children often become isolated from family and friends, and therapeutic group support allows them to socialise with their peers and gain a sense of belonging. Children feel supported and listened to, and are provided with helpful tools and skills to manage difficult emotions, heal from trauma, and move forward with their lives.
The support is delivered in a therapeutic way through arts, crafts, toys, games, and activities which are age-appropriate. Before accessing support, the young person's needs will be assessed by a children’s support worker to the type of intervention needed. From this a unique support plan will be devised.
Through the service, children will:
- be able tell their stories and be heard, believed, and validated
- learn how to protect themselves emotionally and physically by developing and practicing safety plans
- learn that all types of abuse are unacceptable
- learn that they are not responsible for what happened between their parents
- be able to explore the expressions of anger and other feelings, and get strategies to manage those feelings
- explore and practice effective problem solving skills
- experience a positive environment where activities are esteem-building, child-centred, and fun
They'll also be given the opportunity to address all of the needs listed in their individual support plan.
When/why might one-to-one support rather than group work be appropriate?
In some cases, you might not think group work is appropriate for a child or young person. This may be because:
- it's not safe for the young person to attend, depending on the situation, venue, or location
- the young person's behaviour is a risk to other children/young people
- the young is extremely abusive towards others
- the young person is extremely anxious and struggles in a group setting
We will support young people to try and alleviate any worries they may have, but ultimately we would not want to cause them any additional stress.
The service may still be able to offer support one-to-one but this will be assessed on a case by case basis
DASH Risk Checklist
When someone is experiencing domestic abuse, it's vital to make an accurate and fast assessment of the danger they're in, so they can get the right help as quickly as possible. The DASH risk checklist is a tried and tested way to understand risk. DASH stands for domestic abuse, stalking and 'honour-based' violence.
Video: An introduction to risk identification in domestic abuse cases
We've created a set of one minute guides to give you a quick overview of a subject. These can also be used to help explain the subject to people you're working with.
- Adolescent to parent violence (APV) one minute guide
- Clare's Law one minute guide
- DASH Risk Assessment Checklist one minute guide
- Female genital mutilation (FGM) one minute guide
- Forced marriage one minute guide
- 'Honour-based' violence (HBV) one minute guide
- MARAC one minute guide
- MATAC one minute guide
- Sanctuary Scheme one minute guide
- SARC one minute guide
- Trauma impact and recovery one minute guide
- White Ribbon Middlesbrough one minute guide
A domestic abuse perpetrator can be referred to Harbour Support services using the Harbour referral form.
Resources and guidance
The Hideout is a safe space to help children and young people understand domestic abuse
Disrespect NoBody helps young people understand what a healthy relationship is.
The term 'Toxic Trio' is used to describe the issues of domestic abuse, mental ill health, and substance misuse, which have been identified as a common features of families where harm to children has occurred. They are viewed as indicators of increased risk of harm to children and young people.
Safe Lives guidance on risk, threat and the Toxic Trio
Female genital mutilation (FGM)
Forced marriage guidance (from GOV.UK) including how to protect, advise and support victims of forced marriage.
- Domestic abuse: a toolkit for employers - guidance from Business in the Community
- Responding to colleagues experiencing domestic abuse: practical guidance for line managers, Human Resources and employee assistance programmes - guidance from Safe Lives
- Domestic violence and the workplace - report from TUC (Trades Union Congress)
National Stalking Helpline
Phone: 0808 802 0300
National Stalking Helpline website
Paladin, National Stalking Advocacy Service
Providing advocacy to anyone at risk of serious harm or homicide from a stalker.
Phone: 020 3866 4107
Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Aiming to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through campaigning, education and support.
Phone: 0808 802 0300
Suzy Lamplugh Trust website
Adopting a trauma-informed approach to domestic abuse means attending to the survivor’s emotional as well as physical safety.
Just as services help victims and survivors to increase their access to economic resources, physical safety, and legal protections, using a trauma-informed approach means they assist survivors in strengthening their own psychological capacities to deal with multiple complex issues that many face when accessing safety, recovering from the trauma of domestic abuse, other lifetime abuse, and rebuilding their lives.
It also means ensuring victims and survivors of domestic abuse have access to services in an environment which is inclusive, welcoming, and non-retraumatising.
For more information about the trauma-informed approach, visit the My Sister’s Place website or call them on 01642 241 864.
Information is available about additional support in place for victims of domestic abuse who are receiving Universal Credit.
Examples of support include temporary exemptions from work-related requirements, and the ability to split Universal Credit payments between two accounts, giving the victim the ability to manage and safeguard their own money.
Help available from the Department for Work and Pensions for people who are victims of domestic violence and abuse (Universal Credit is section 5)
The domestic violence disclosure scheme is often called 'Clare's Law' after the landmark case that led to it.
Clare's Law gives any member of the public the right to ask the police if their partner may pose a risk to them.
Under Clare's Law, a member of the public can also make enquiries into the partner of a close friend or family member.