Domestic Abuse – the Unknown Quantity

Far be it from me to argue with Plato.  However, when he said ‘A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers’ he did not foresee a time when many decisions would be based on numbers or rather statistics

Knowledge on which decisions about provision of health and social care services for example.  Local authorities and Clinical Commissioning groups analyse statistics to plan for future needs and produce Joint Strategic Needs Assessments.  One area in which there is wide concern that statistical data does not present a true  picture of the scale of the problem is domestic abuse.  Surrey County Council acknowledges in its information portal web site that ‘At a local level, little data on domestic abuse is collected in Surrey. Where local domestic abuse figures exist there are discrepancies, which create confusion as to the real level of domestic abuse in Surrey. The lack of local data fro some agencies and hidden, unreported and underreported nature of domestic abuse means that it is crucial that the right training, staff and support are in place to help survivors and uncover the true extent of abuse’

So,how much do we know about domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse occurs where one person harms another person (man or woman) with whom they have (or have had) some sort of relationship, either. They do not need to be heterosexual partners and they do not need to live in the same property. The abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual or financial and includes, gender violence (rape and sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, honour-based abuse and trafficking).

All of these acts are terrible enough in their own right to merit the provision of policies and practical measures to deal with their effects.  There is also the financial case for doing so.  A report published in 2009 estimated that the costs of domestic abuse in terms of services alone (police, emergency services, GPs, hospitals and local authorities) in the previous year was almost £3.9 billion with a further £1.9  billion attributable to time off work as a result of injuries received.

If you are the victim of a violent relationship there a number of organisations from which you can get advice on finding somewhere safe to stay, reporting violence to the police and taking legal action.  Women’s Aid Refuges are safe houses run by and for women suffering domestic violence. Refuges 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 are accustomed in dealing with domestic violence, and so 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.To find out your nearest refuge with spaces available contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 200 0247.

Local authorities have a legal duty to provide help to certain people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. You will qualify for help if you are eligible for assistance, legally homeless or threatened with homelessness and not intentionally homeless. You must also be in priority need.. The local authority may also investigate whether you have a local connection with the area.  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. Local authorities should deal sympathetically with applications from people who are in fear of violence. You can ask for a private interview, with someone of the same sex, and can take a friend with you for support.  Further help can be obtained from a solicitor who is experienced in family law.  You can find details of your local domestic violence service on the Women’s Aid website at www.women  Local Women’s Aid groups, the police, or women’s centres usually know of local solicitors who are both experienced and sympathetic.

f you take legal action to protect yourself or your family from domestic violence or abuse, you may qualify for legal aid. The income of an abusive partner will not be taken into account when deciding whether you qualify for legal aid.  Legal aid helps you with your legal costs including advice and help if you have to go to court.

For more advice on your options or where to get more help call the Citizens Advice Waverley line on 0844 848 7969 to talk to an adviser or to make an appointment for a face to face meeting.  Call the same number if you require confidential, independent, impartial advice on housing, legal matters, discrimination, consumer issues, employment, immigration or benefits issues. The advice is free though you should be aware that calls to this number cost just over 5p a minute from a BT land line. Charges for calls from mobile phones may vary. If you are comfortable using the Internet you can also get advice as well as learning more about what we do from our very own CA Waverley website at or you might like to try AdviceGuide, the Citizens Advice self help web site  or follow us on Twitter @Waverley CAB.



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