The Domestic Abuse Act
On 29 April 2021, the Domestic Abuse Act became law.
The Act creates, for the first time, a legal definition of domestic abuse, to ensure that domestic abuse is properly understood, considered unacceptable and actively challenged across statutory agencies and in public attitudes.
The new statutory definition
The definition of domestic abuse is in two parts. The first part deals with the relationship between the abuser and the abused. The second part defines what constitutes abusive behaviour.
The criteria governing the relationship between the abuser and the abused:
- both the person who is carrying out the behaviour and the person to whom the behaviour is directed towards must be aged 16 or over
- both persons must be “personally connected” (including ex-partners and family members)
- Abusive behaviour directed at a person under 16 would be dealt with as child abuse rather than domestic abuse
Behaviour is to be regarded as ‘abusive’ if it consists of any of the following:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Violent or threatening behaviour
- Controlling or coercive behaviour
- Economic abuse
- Psychological, emotional or other abuse.
The Act recognises a child who sees or hears or experiences domestic, the effects of the abuse and treats them as victims of domestic abuse where they are related to either the abuser or the abused.
The Act includes a new statutory duty on local authorities to deliver accommodation-based support to victims of domestic abuse.
The Act introduced other measures to protect and support victims. Including a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Order (DAPO), as well as improving the criminal justice response by, for example, preventing the cross-examination of victims in family court proceedings by the abuser.
The Act also creates the National Domestic Abuse Commissioner role. This is an “independent voice” that speaks on behalf of victims and survivors. Using the Act’s statutory powers, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner will raise public awareness and hold both agencies and the Government to account in tackling domestic abuse.
Who can use these services
Somerset’s domestic abuse services are open to anyone who needs specialist support. It’s important to remember that couples counselling is not recommended and could be dangerous. Instead, it’s always best to speak to a specialist service, such as Somerset Integrated Domestic Abuse Service (SIDAS) or Victim Support.
Help for under 18’s
If you or someone in your family is being abused at home, tell someone you can trust like a teacher or a friend or even their parents. You won’t get into trouble for telling someone.
You can also call Childline. They will be able to help you deal with the situation and won’t tell anyone else you are calling unless you are in immediate danger.
I’m a housing association tenant
Speak to your landlord and let them know the situation. They may be able to help you along with other support agencies and possibly the Police. If you want to remain in your house, they may be able to help by carrying out safety work to your home, for example, fitting secure doors, changing locks, securing windows and fireproof letter boxes.
Working with the council
If you are unable to remain in your home and have been unable to get a Refuge placement, please contact us. You will need to provide us with some information about you and your situation and usually some supporting evidence. This will allow us to understand your circumstances and provide appropriate advice and guidance. You may be offered emergency accommodation whilst waiting for a Refuge placement where you will be safer and can get support planning your next step.
What you can do if you think it is happening to a friend
For people suffering domestic abuse, the support of a trusted friend can be invaluable. It is important that the person knows you believe them and that they are not alone. Try not to judge or blame either party. Encourage your friend to contact one of the agencies who can help. If you witness an assault, phone the police. Do not intervene physically.
The police take domestic abuse very seriously and they have power to act.
As well as the police, there are specialist organisations which offer support and practical advice. Their services are confidential, and in many cases, completely free. Useful numbers are available in the ‘Links to other services’ section of the Somerset Domestic Abuse website.
In an emergency always dial 999
Somerset Domestic Abuse Service
The support line 0800 694 9999 is a single point of contact for confidential advice and support to any person concerned about domestic abuse in the Avon and Somerset area.
To speak to a confidential by phone on the local support helpline (0800 694 9999) and select the option for Somerset. If no one can answer your call, leave a number and a safe time to call and they will get back to you.
For more information and to find out what services are available, please visit the Somerset Domestic Abuse website.
The Somerset Domestic Abuse website provides information, help and support for anyone affected by domestic abuse in Somerset, including a directory of local and national services.
National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV)
NCDV provides a free, fast emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial circumstances, race, gender or sexual orientation.
National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 200 0247
The 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline is for women experiencing physical, emotional or sexual violence in the home. The helpline is a member of Language Line and can provide access to an interpreter for non-English speaking callers. The helpline can also access the BT Type Talk Service for deaf callers. They provide advice, information and support. Callers can be referred to local refuges and emergency and temporary accommodation. This line is free, confidential and open 24-hours a day. Or visit the Women’s Aid website or Refuge website.
Men’s Advice Line and Enquires (MALE) – 0808 801 0327
MALE is a Home Office supported advice and support service for men in abusive relationships.
Mankind – 0182 333 4244
A confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence.
National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
A helpline offering support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people experiencing domestic abuse.
Elder Abuse – 0808 808 8141
Action On Elder Abuse operates in the UK and Ireland and is a confidential freephone helpline for anyone concerned in any way about the abuse of older people. The phone line is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Victim Support (Somerset) – 0300 303 1972
This offers support and signposting for all victims of crime, including domestic abuse.
NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) Helpline – 0808 800 5000
A website offering support for children and young people living with domestic abuse.
Forced Marriage Unit – 0207 008 0151
Confidential advice and assistance if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or you need help leaving a marriage you have been forced into.
Somerset Domestic Abuse – 0800 694 9999
Somerset Domestic Abuse provides local information and general advice on accommodation, counselling, support groups and safety planning.
A charity supporting vulnerable people experiencing domestic abuse, sexual violence and stalking.
GOV.UK Domestic Abuse advice
For more information about domestic abuse.
For perpetrators of Domestic Abuse
Anger management is not recommended and could actually be dangerous.
For people who want help to change their controlling behaviour, Somerset Integrated Domestic Abuse Service (SIDAS) offers a voluntary, behavioural change group work programme.
This programme encourages people to take responsibility for their behaviour and understand the impact on their partner and children.
For more information, phone SIDAS Perpetrator Programme on 0800 694 9999 or for other support contact Respect on 0845 122 8609
Barnardo’s are running the Reprovide programme for men using violence and abuse in their intimate relationships who would like help and support to change their behaviour. This service has achieved RESPECT Accreditation.
We run free weekly support groups for men who are looking for help to prevent violence and abuse in their intimate relationships with women. Groups are for men over 21 living anywhere in Somerset and Avon, offering a safe space to discuss their problems and feelings.
Evening groups meet in Taunton on Wednesday and near Shepton Mallet on Thursdays.
For more information and contact details please visit the sites below. There is no referral form, just give us a call.