Leaving the abuse
Leaving an abusive relationship can be a dangerous time as the abuse is sometimes known to increase. To ensure you leave as safely as possible, make a safety plan where possible even if you’re not planning to leave straightaway.
Try to leave when your partner is not at home, so they can't try to stop you. Try to arrange a place to stay before you leave and get advice about custody if you have any children.
Call the police on 999 if you have to leave in an emergency because you are assaulted. They may be able to arrest your partner, which could give you some time to leave safely.
There are a number of options if you are thinking about leaving:
Moving into a refuge
A refuge is a safe house for women or men and children escaping domestic violence. There are refuges for women and any children, and separate refuges for men and any children. If you have children, you can take them with you. There are some refuges that have self-contained family units but most refuges will usually give you your own room for yourself to share with your children. Many refuges have disabled access and staff and volunteers who can assist women and children who have special needs.
There are over 500 refuges across the UK with 19 of these organisations offering refuge or safe house provision for male victims. The person will usually be unable to stay in a refuge in their local area – this is for safety reasons. The refuge staff will want to be sure that the abuser will not be able to find them. Because of this they will need to be a safe distance from the areas that the abuser has associations with. The address is confidential and no-one is allowed in the building other than residents and staff. A refuge is a place where you can be sure you are safe, and where you can access emotional and practical support from staff who have some understanding of what you are likely to have been through.
What about my pets?
We understand that for some people, the decision to leave an abusive relationship is made harder by the thought of having to leave a loved family pet behind as refuges are not usually able to accept pets.
To organise care for your pet takes time and a lot of planning. If you need to leave your home quickly and do not have time to organise fostering, it would be recommended to think about any family, friends or neighbours who could care for your pets in the meantime.
How to get a place in a refuge
Call the Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 and they will help you find spaces in refuges across the UK. The police and social services can also put you in touch with a refuge.
I want to stay in my own home
Along with legal measures to exclude an abuser, other steps may be taken to help make the home safer, such as:
- Changing the locks to stop someone getting in the home
- Fitting more secure locks, door chains, and peepholes for the front doors
- Reinforcing doors and door frames
- Installing window locks, bars, and grills
- Install alarms, CCTV and security lighting
- Have a reinforced and lockable safe room in the house, from which the police can be called
Ask your local fire service about improving fire safety measures in the home. The police can give further advice on security measures and local authorities and social housing landlords can also help with the costs of these.
Contact the local police on 101 and tell them that someone in the household has 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 that they must respond quickly to any call. Police can put a marker on their system for the household so that any incident will generate an automatic response.
Housing support from the Local Authority
You can apply to the council housing department as a homeless person if you can't stay in your home because of the situation. The council has to give you advice about finding somewhere to live and you may be entitled to emergency accommodation.
Get advice immediately if the council says it won't help you because it believes it would have been reasonable for you to stay in your home. The council may be breaking the law. Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 if you are entitled to legal aid or use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your area.
Help from social services
Some groups of people may be entitled to help from the council's social services department. This might be the case if you:
- Are elderly
- Have dependent children
- Are under the age of 18
- Have left care (or are about to do so)
- Are in poor health
- Have a physical or learning disability
It is important to get support to help you leave safely, you can call the helpline numbers on this page or contact the organisations on the Get help now page.