Domestic violence is the physical, emotional, sexual
or mental abuse of one person by another, with whom they have or have had
an intimate relationship.
violence is very common: it can happen to any woman, regardless of her
age, social class, race, disability or lifestyle. Domestic violence can start at any
point in a relationship, even many years after you first met.
violence is rarely a one-off event. Physical violence often escalates in
frequency and severity over time. However, the violence can take many
forms and even though the physical or sexual abuse may not happen
regularly, other forms of abusive or controlling behaviour may be ongoing,
so that you always feel off-balance or anxious about your relationship.
every situation is unique, there are some common behaviours that link the
experience of an abusive relationship. Acknowledging
that you are in an abusive relationship is an important step in preventing
and stopping the violence. All forms of abuse – psychological, economic,
emotional, sexual and physical - come from the abuser’s desire to
maintain power and control over another person.
acknowledging that it is happening to you and to stop playing down the
abuse you are experiencing. Women’s Aid is here to help you come to
terms with the violence.
to recognise that you are not to blame. No-one
deserves to be assaulted, humiliated or abused, least of all by their
partner in a supposedly caring relationship. Women
often blame themselves because they have consistently been told it is
to begin seeking the help and support that is available. This step
includes gaining emotional support and practical help. You can start this
process by talking to a friend that you trust, calling the Women’s Aid
Helpline, or contacting your local Women’s Aid group. You may want to
start thinking about moving to somewhere safe, away from your abuser, or
taking legal action that will protect you and stop the violence against
free of abuse can be a lengthy process. Most women try to seek help or
leave a number of times before they finally make the break.
prospect of leaving an abusive relationship can be as frightening as the
prospect of staying. It takes courage for a woman to reach out and seek
help and this process can be painful and distressing.
How can women's Aid help you?
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing, or has
experienced, physical, emotional or sexual violence in the home, the Women’s
Aid 24 hour Helpline (0800 917 1414) can give you support, help and
You do not have to be in an emergency situation to contact the
Women’s Aid Helpline.
is staffed by paid and voluntary workers, as well as women who have
experienced the benefits of Women's Aid themselves. The self-help process which allows
women to take control of their own lives, underpins the work of Women's Aid. They
will discuss the practical and legal options available to you and, where
necessary, refer you onto a refuge, a local Women’s Aid group or other
agency that can help. Your local
Women’s Aid group may also offer aftercare or, face-to-face support.
You do not have to go to a refuge or leave your
relationship to get support.
If you do decide to go to a refuge Women’s staff
and help you devise a safety plan for leaving.
is a Refuge?
A refuge is a safe house where you can live free from
violence. It offers temporary accommodation and a breathing space where
decisions can be made free from pressure and fear.
If you have children, you can take them with you, but
you don’t have to have children to stay in a refuge. There are refuges
throughout Northern Ireland -you can choose to travel as far away from, or
stay as near to, your home town as you wish. It may also be
possible to get accommodated in refuges run by similar organisations
throughout the UK.
You can stay at the refuge for as long as you need, this
can be anything from a few days to several months. The refuge will help you if
you need to find somewhere permanent to stay.
Continuing support is available from the refuge workers
when needed. The networks
established among women in the refuges are a very important source of support.
How can I get
referred to a Women's Aid refuge
There are no
hard and fast procedures. Referrals
may come through Social Services, Police, Homeless Advice Unit, Samaritans,
and The Citizens Advice Bureau. You
may get in touch with the refuge directly or through the Women's Aid Helpline. If you need to go to a refuge in an
emergency, the police can take you when asked to help. Social workers and GP's also have
lists of refuge addresses.
Who can go to a refuge?
Any woman, regardless of her religion, political
outlook, culture or background.
How much does it cost?
If you have no
income or are on income support, Housing Benefit covers rents. When you come to a refuge you are
entitled to make a claim for income support.
If you are on a low income the cost charged will reflect your ability
What facilities are there
Living accommodation is shared, women cook for their own families
and good laundry facilities are available for washing and drying clothes. Families will have their own
sleeping accommodation. Outings
and playgroups are sometimes arranged for the children.
What if I don't want to go to a refuge?
local Women’s Aid groups also run advice
or outreach services to more isolated areas. You can call in to see
someone or telephone for advice and support, without having to stay in a
can I help a friend?
for information on helping a friend.
where the nearest telephone is located.
where refuge can be sought.
a list of important and emergency numbers.
money for bus or taxi fare.
an extra set of keys to home and car.
an emergency bag - take enough clothes, including school uniforms and
children’s favourite possessions.
when it is best to leave. Discuss it with the children. It is important to try
to leave with all the children.
important documents together e.g. benefit books, medical cards, certificates,
bank books, legal orders etc.
a note of the family’s essential medicines.
when partner is not around.
all of the children.
clothing for several days.
children's favourite toys.
Take important documents
(medical cards, passports etc).