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Domestic abuse

If you're being abused, or someone you know is, there are a number of options you can take.

Call the Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08 088 088 088 for support and advice.

Lines are open Monday – Friday 9am – 9pm, 9am – 4pm on weekends.



What domestic abuse is

Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse. It could be physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse, isolation or the destruction of property and pets.

It's usually a pattern of controlling behaviour by someone over someone else (a current or former partner or a family member). You could feel threatened, intimidated or humiliated.

It's rarely a 'one-off' incident and can escalate from name calling or threats to physical or sexual abuse.

Signs of domestic abuse

  • Destructive criticism and verbal abuse – shouting, mocking, accusing, name calling
  • Pressure tactics – sulking, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you don't have any choice in any decisions, threatening or attempting suicide
  • Disrespect– putting you down in front of other people, not listening or answering you when you talk, interrupting your phone calls, taking money from you without asking
  • Breaking trust – lying to you, being jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises
  • Isolation – monitoring or blocking your phone calls, telling you where you can and can't go, stopping you from seeing friends and family, shutting you in the house
  • Harassment – following you, checking up on you, not giving you any privacy, being with you everywhere you go
  • Threats – making angry gestures, using physical size to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your belongings, breaking things, punching walls, threatening to kill or harm you/the children/the pets
  • Sexual violence – using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don’t want it, forcing you to have sex with other people, any degrading treatment related to your sexuality
  • Physical violence – punching, biting, kicking, pulling hair out, burning, strangling
  • Denial – saying the abuse doesn’t happen, saying their behaviour is your fault, crying and begging for forgiveness, saying it'll never happen again.


Report it to the police

  • In an emergency, call 999
  • Call 101 for non-emergencies

Once you've reported an incident the police will:

  • contact you (or in an emergency, arrive at your location) as soon as possible
  • step in and intervene in any cases where violence is still happening
  • listen to you about what has happened, away from the offender
  • arrest the offender if they think a crime has happened
  • carry out a risk assessment and will talk to you about ways to keep you safe.

What happens next?

The officer dealing with the incident will keep you updated on what's happening with the case. You'll be told when an offender is arrested, released or charged.

You might be contacted by a member of the Domestic Abuse Investigation and Safeguarding Unit. They'll look at ways of planning your long-term safety.

The officer dealing with your case will focus on how they can make you safer and support you. Some of the options they can help to arrange are:

  • alarms for the household
  • lending of a mobile or emergency phone
  • personal attack alarms
  • Refuge – if you need emergency accommodation to stay safe and you're breaking contact completely with your partner/ex-partner/family. 
  • Support Services – If you would like support from other services, the police can arrange this for you by making a referral on your behalf. Alternatively, they may leave information and/or contact details for these services with you.

A Domestic Violence Protection Notice

A Domestic Violence Protection Notice or order is a document given by a judge which can help protect you from an abusive situation. When the offender is arrested, the police can place a Domestic Violence Protection Notice on them. This means they can't return to your house for up to 28 days.

Domestic Violence Protection Notice factsheet

Children's Services

If you report domestic abuse to the police and children are involved, they may assess whether you and your family need further support by letting Children’s Services know. This is so Children’s Services can help protect you and your family from any future abuse.


Tell someone – a friend or work colleague

If you feel you can't go to the police it's still important to tell someone what's happening to you. This could be a trusted friend or colleague or you can speak to a local advice centre or helpline for support.

Keep safe – build a safety plan

The most important step you can take to protect yourself and your children from abuse is to build a safety plan.

Your safety plan

Your plan may include some of the following:

  • Practice how you will leave the home safely in an emergency
  • teach your children how to call 999
  • tell trusted family or friends what's going on
  • arrange to have a safe place to go to
  • prepare a bag of clothes, medication and other essentials for yourself and your children. Hide the bag where you can get to it in a hurry if you have to leave quickly
  • make several copies of important papers and keep one set in the bag (other copies could go to trusted friends or left somewhere safe at work). You will need things such as proof of identity, driving license, birth certificates, passports, financial/insurance information, benefit books or letters, court orders etc
  • keep your address book and diary with you
  • if you have a car, make an extra set of keys and hide them where you can get to them if you need to.


If you think a friend or family member is being abused

Warning signs

  • Frequently has bruises or injuries
  • becomes unusually quiet or withdrawn
  • avoids being around others, increased fatigue and/or anxiety, sudden change in weight or appearance. Receives frequent telephone calls, emails or text messages from their partner checking up on them
  • is frequently late or absent from work or unexpectedly quits their job
  • stops talking about their partner
  • takes blame for all that is uncomfortable in their relationship, becomes frightened when their partner is angry
  • wears concealing clothes even in warm weather
  • increased use or abuse of prescription medication, alcohol or illicit drugs
  • partner appears to make all the decisions for both of them
  • partner shows quick and inappropriate anger and/or jealousy. 

How to support a friend who is being abused

Your offer of help could make the difference to someone living in an abusive situation. While there is no right way to help someone, here are important steps to bear in mind:

  • Talk in a safe, private place
  • take the time to listen, and believe what you hear
  • don't underestimate the danger
  • express your concern for the person's safety
  • don't expect change overnight; be patient and continue to offer your support
  • don't judge or criticise the person's decisions
  • encourage the person to make his/her own choices, but urge them to talk with someone who knows about domestic abuse
  • let the person know that many other people are in abusive situations and tell them about agencies that can help
  • learn as much as you can about domestic abuse and encourage others to also.