We understand that violence and abuse can impact many areas of your life. Our staff have put together some simple advice as well as recommendations of other help and information that might be useful.
We’ve put together some suggestions you may want to consider in order to make yourself as safe as possible.
Following these suggestions is not a guarantee of safety, but could help improve your safety. Remember, you know your abuser so only do what you think will help.
Always call 999 if you or your children are in danger and or call our free helpline for advice and support - 0808 802 5565
- Plan an escape route from every room in your home
- Think of a safe area in your home to go if an argument happens – stay away from rooms with no exits and hard surfaces where there are objects which can be used as weapons i.e. bathroom, kitchen. If an argument happens, try to move to one of the safe areas.
- Think about and make a list of safe people to contact, if possible memorise all important phone numbers.
- Speak to a trusted neighbour about your situation who will call the police if they hear a disturbance
- Develop a ‘code word’ or ‘sign’ so that family and friends know when to call for help.
- Keep money / change with you at all times – know where the nearest working phone box is.
- Think about what you will say to your partner if they become violent. Use your judgement of the abuser to protect you and your children. You are in no way colluding with the abuser if you give them what they want in order to protect you and your children. Call the police as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Know where to go and what to do in an emergency and have an alternative.
- Teach your children what to do in an emergency – tell them to call 999 and be able to give the address but not to get involved – they should never use a phone in front of the abuser as this may endanger them
- Call 999 in the event of an emergency – think of alternative ways to keep safe if the police do not respond straight away
If you are planning to leave you may not feel able to leave immediately, but you can plan and be prepared for when an emergency does arise and you need to leave your home. Leaving is often the most dangerous time so plan leaving so you can increase your safety. You can:
- Keep a record of the violent and controlling behaviour to support any future action you may take – civil or criminal.
- Log incidents with the police, even if you do not want to press charges at present (numbers for borough CSUs or a link to the met website for the information).
- Seek legal advice (Solace Advice can give you numbers of Solicitors, Rights of Women / Community Legal Service Directory link/ National DV Helpline).
- Have any bruises or injuries recorded by a doctor for future use in any legal proceedings, rehousing procedures, etc. You can also take a picture using a camera or your mobile phone. Solace can also do this for you.
- Have a packed bag ready and keep it in a secret, but accessible place so you can leave quickly.
- Keep important documents in a safe place, either hidden in your home with friends / family (e.g. marriage / birth certificates, national insurance card, passport, driving licence etc,) including items of sentimental value, so that they can be grabbed in a hurry.
- Only tell people you trust where you will be. Lie if you have to – this will protect you and them.
The following items will be useful but are not essential for you to take if you decide that you want to leave in a hurry. Remember we can always help you to get these items later and with police support:
- ID – passports, birth / marriage certificate, NI number, driving licence etc
- Money – bank / credit cards
- Medical – prescribed medicines, prescriptions, medical cards, children’s medical records
- Legal – injunctions, divorce papers, mortgage documents, tenancy agreement
- Special Items: photos, child’s favourite toy, house and car keys.
- Always try to take your children with you or make arrangements to leave them with someone safe.
Remember: If the last number you called was a refuge, taxi or the place you are going to stay, dial another number – for example, the Speaking Clock (dial 123)
Monitoring, harassing and stalking behaviours have always been part of domestic abuse. Modern technology has provided new, simpler, means to enable this behaviour to continue. Mobile phones, social media platforms, and apps are all developing so quickly that it can often feel difficult to know how to keep yourself safe online. Here are a few ideas that can help you.
- Don’t answer calls from withheld numbers
- Block or change numbers (only when it is safe to do so)
- Turn off location services such as ‘find my iPhone’ on smart phones
- Ensure that location services are also not activated on apps – for example facebook attaches a location to posts
- Delete and/or block your abusive partner on social media sites and don’t add anyone unknown
- Ensure your social media sites are managed safely; for example changing your facebook settings so you can’t be found by using the search function/setting up new accounts which you only give to safe friends or family
- Cover cameras on tablets/computers/phones in case perpetrators are able to hack them
- If you’ve experienced abuse through your phones/tablets the safest option is to get a new device
- If you can’t afford a new device you can restore the device to factory settings. Going in store to your provider can help you with this to check it’s done correctly.
- Get screenshots to keep a log of any threats occurring through social media where safe to do so.
Unfortunately, domestic violence and abuse may not end even when the relationship has ended. In order to increase your safety you can consider:
- Inform trusted friends or relatives that you are no longer in the relationship and they should call the police if they see your former partner near or trying to gain access to your home.
- Change locks on your doors and make sure that all windows and doors are as secure as possible.
- Have additional security installed- sensor security lighting/ burglar alarm
- Change the routes you use to take your children to school.
- Inform people who look after your children eg, teachers, childminders etc, which people have permission to collect them. If you have an injunction, give a copy to the school.
- Change your phone number and when at work ask people to screen your calls.
- Change your routines i.e. shop in different place/supermarket at different times and take a different route home etc.
Housing and homelessness
A refuge is a safe space where women and children experiencing domestic abuse can stay free from fear of the perpetrator.
Refuge addresses are confidential and there are often additional security measures in place to keep them safe such as CCTV, alarm systems and additional locks on doors and windows.
Each refuge will have its own assessment criteria, which will include proximity to the area you are fleeing from, the number and age of children that can be accommodated, and the level of support that can be provided.
Some refuges are self-contained, however most will have a private room for you and your children with shared facilities such as kitchen, living room, and bathroom. You will be expected to cook for yourself and your children, and budget for your own living expenses.
The time a resident lives in a refuge will vary. However, refuges are short term crisis accommodation, and you will usually expect to stay there for around six months. You will be allocated a key worker or support worker, who will help you explore your housing options for when you leave the refuge. The key worker will also support you with your practical and emotional needs during your time at the refuge.
The rent for refuges can be high, and your keyworker will support you to apply for housing benefit to help cover the costs. Some refuges cannot accept referrals for women who are not eligible for Housing Benefit.
Some refuges will have a play room and services for children, such as a children’s worker who will help your children settle in to the refuge and arrange play activities for them.
If you would like to find a refuge space you can call Solace Advice Line on 0808 802 5565. This service is available Monday-Friday from 10am – 4pm. Advisors can do a refuge search for current vacancies which are suitable for you and your needs.
To do a refuge search on weekends or at evenings/night, you can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline which is a 24-Hour service on 0808 2000 247.
If you are living with the perpetrator, there is safety planning that you can do. You can plan exit routes for emergencies, pack a bag if you have to leave in a crisis or put emergency contacts on your phone/in a safe place so they are they easily accessible.
Please see our section on Staying Safe for further advice.
If you are no longer living with the perpetrator, but they know where you live and you feel unsafe, you may also be able to access a sanctuary scheme with your local council. This involves an assessment to help keep you safe in your home, and they can put extra security measures on your home such as secure locks, panic alarms, CCTV, security lights to help make your home safer. You can contact your local council to put these measures in place for free, usually with permission from the landlord.
However if you do not feel safe to remain in your home, you can make a Homelessness Application (see below).
If you are not safe in your home, either because the perpetrator lives with you, or knows your address, then you are entitled to approach the council for assistance. If you do not feel safe in the area in which you currently live, then you are entitled to approach any council in England and Wales.
This is called a Homelessness application. In order to access this route, you will need to have ‘eligible’ immigration status, this means you are a British national, have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, or are any EU National exercising your Treaty Rights.
To begin this process you can call the housing department of your chosen council and request an appointment. Some councils will not offer appointments, and they may ask you to come in in person and wait to be seen by a housing officer. When you see the Housing Officer, you will be interviewed about your circumstances. You have the right to ask for a female interviewer, if you feel more comfortable. It is a good idea to bring ID, proof of housing history, proof of income such as bank statements, payslips or benefit letters, medical evidence if you have any medical conditions, and any information you have about the domestic abuse that you have experienced, such as police reports, doctor’s letters, letters from Children’s Services, or any other agencies that you have received support from.
The council will want to establish if you are in ‘priority need’ for assistance. This means that the council consider your household to be particularly vulnerable if they do not assist. Households in which there are children, or pregnant women are considered to be in priority need. If you do not have children, you may still be in priority need if you are elderly, have physical or learning disabilities, have mental health difficulties, are fleeing violence or abuse, have spent time in care, prison or the armed forces, or have any other vulnerabilities. The council will assess priority need on a case by case basis. If the council believe you to be in priority need, then they have a duty to provide you with emergency temporary accommodation that day. If you are not in priority need, the council may not provide with you emergency accommodation, but still have a duty to advise and assist you in finding safe accommodation.
The council have a duty to assess if you are ‘intentionally homeless.’ This means, if you did anything that may have led to you being homeless. If you have had to flee your home due to abuse, then this is never your fault, and the council should not find you to be ‘intentionally homeless’.
The council will work with you to develop a ‘Personalised Housing Plan’, to help you find somewhere to live within the next 8 weeks. The Plan will have actions both for you and your housing officer to complete, and must be agreed on by both of you. If your housing officer asks you to do something that you are not able to do, then you have a right to tell them this.
The council have 56 days to make a decision on your Homelessness Application. If the council accept a duty to house you, then they may offer your privately rented accommodation, or they may put you on the Social Housing list. The wait for a social housing tenancy (a council property or Housing Association property) can be very long, sometimes several years, particularly in popular urban areas. However, the council have a duty to provide you with some form of safe and suitable temporary accommodation until they have provided you with permanent accommodation.
If you need more support about how to make a homelessness application, you can call Solace Advice Line on 0808 802 5565.
You may have a secure council tenancy, or Housing Association tenancy. If you flee your home, you may be worried about losing this. You can speak to your landlord about transferring to a new property. You can approach your designated housing officer, or request to speak to the Safeguarding Lead, or Anti Social Behaviour Team. You will probably have to tell them some information about the abuse you have been experiencing, and explain that you do not wish to remain in the property.
If you have left your home because of abuse or fear of abuse you can get housing benefit for both your old home and the home you are staying in now.
If you intend to return to your old home, you can get housing benefit for up to one year on both homes. You can get dual housing benefit for up to four weeks if you do not intend to return to your old home.
Please call the Advice Line for further guidance on any housing issues - 0808 802 5565
If you have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ then the council do not have a duty to assist you with housing. ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ is an immigration condition that means you cannot access state funds such as welfare benefits. This includes housing. Your entry stamp or Biometric Residence Permit will usually specify if you have No Recourse to Public Funds. However, you may still be entitled to support with accommodation and living costs if you are destitute and fleeing domestic violence. If you have dependent children then you can approach your local council’s Children’s Service and request support. You may be seen by a social worker, or they may have a designated No Recourse to Public Funds team or staff member. They will assess if they have a duty to support you and your children while you seek immigration advice.
If you do not have children, but have medical or social care needs, you can approach your Adult Safeguarding team to request assistance.
Immigration and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)
We offer support to women experiencing domestic and/or sexual abuse who also have insecure immigration status. In particular women who are able to make immigration or asylum applications relating to this abuse.
Call our advice line for help - 0808 802 5565
Rights of Women
Free legal information and advice about family law.
Rights of Women legal guide
This legal guide explains the immigration law and policy relevant to women from abroad who are in the UK on a spouse or partner visa and are experiencing domestic violence. The domestic violence rule, explained in this guide, may apply to you if you are in the UK as the wife, partner or civil partner of someone who is British or has
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
Children and parenting
We know that domestic abuse can impact children of any age in many different ways. Children don’t need to have witnessed violence or been hurt themselves to be affected.
Your child may present with concerning behaviours such as lashing out, avoiding school, becoming more clingy to you or complaining more of physical pain such as tummy aches.
However it is also useful to remember that sometimes impact may be less visible; children may become more withdrawn or become very well behaved as they don’t wish to put any more strain on their parents.
A child’s brain is forming some of its most important connections and systems in the first 18 months of life and these are shaped by their experiences of the world around them. When a child is in a stressful, dangerous or unpredictable environment this activates their stress response system which can make them hypervigilant, always trying to monitor danger. This can become over active with the result that even when the child is safe their brain may continue to feel that they are not, resulting in them becoming jumpy or seeming angry and hard to manage.
In school age children this can also impact on their concentration and ability to make friends. In younger children this means that their development may become delayed as so much energy is going in to keeping them safe.
The most important thing is that you continue to tell your child that you love them; provide lots of affection and reassurance.
It is useful to answer any questions they may have as openly and honestly as you can. You should try to do this in an age appropriate way and keep explanations as simple as possible.
You may want to set aside some dedicated time to do this when you are not preoccupied with other activities and when your child is feeling calm.
Help your child to express and name their feelings – model verbalising how you feel when something makes you angry worried or upset. There are also books for children of different ages which can help you talk about feelings.
You may want to seek some therapeutic support for your child, which can provide a space for them to process their experiences and express difficult feelings.
Finding activities for your child to boost their self-esteem can be really beneficial for example a sports or drama club.
Make sure you still make time to do nice activities with your child- playing, colouring, watching a movie, going for a nature walk….
Look after yourself! You cannot support your children unless you are being supported. You may want to find some counselling for yourself. Do not be too harsh on yourself – what has happened is not your fault either and you are coping with a very stressful situation.
It can be really hard to maintain boundaries when there has been domestic abuse, often there are feelings of guilt for what the child has experienced and often behaviour can escalate when children feel unsettled.
It is really important to maintain clear, consistent boundaries to make children feel safe. Tips for doing this include:
- Modelling good behaviour and communication
- Giving clear instructions as to what you want the child to do
- Giving praise and attention for good behaviour
- Ignoring bad behaviour
- Confrontation - “NO, don’t do that” followed by firm authoritative instructions
- Time out - time out should not be an alternative to completing a task, but a consequence of bad behaviour.
It is very important to talk with your children about domestic abuse. If you don’t they may feel that they are to blame, confused or like they are crazy, they may think that it is not ok to talk about violence or their feelings. By talking to your children you can make them feel safer, cared for and understood and help them to learn that violence is not an ok way to deal with your problems and that it is ok to talk about feelings.
Talk to children when they are ready and make sure that you have lots of time and are both feeling calm. Be patient; accept that they may not be willing or able to talk about it right away. Try another time.
Let them know that it is not ok for anybody to ever hurt somebody else.
Make sure that they realise what has happened is not their fault and there is nothing that they could have done to change or prevent it.
Let them know you will listen to them, and that you know it must have been scary for them. Let them know that they can tell you how they feel.
Talk about what your child can do to keep themselves safe if it happens again. (For example, staying in your room, going to neighbours, etc.)
Speak about your ex-partner in a general way and try to avoid name calling. Challenge their behaviour rather than the person- your child may still love the abusive parent and may find these feelings confusing.
If they find it difficult to talk you could try having a question box in which they can post questions or a journal where you can write messages to each other.
Acknowledge that it may be uncomfortable for you to talk about the abuse – saying you don’t have time may be your way of avoiding it. It might be scary for you to remember what happened- it’s scary for your children too but once you start talking it may feel less scary. Try talking with an adult you trust first.
When children’s services (previously known as social services) receive information which lead them to suspect that a child may be at risk of harm, they must look into the child’s situation and take any action necessary to keep them safe and promote their welfare. Often when there has been domestic abuse in the home they will complete an assessment with the family to make sure that the children are safe and that you all have the support they need.
Sometimes if parents are not taking steps needed to keep their children safe and there is reason to believe that the risk of harm to them is very high Children’s services may go through a legal process in order to take those children in to care. However this is only something that will happen after all other attempts to work with parents to keep their children safe have been exhausted.
Solace for Young People
Our Children and Young People’s team delivers a range of services to help children and young people who've been affected by domestic and sexual abuse.
A space to help children and young people to understand domestic abuse.
Family Rights Group
A charity that works with parents whose children are in need, at risk, or are in the care system.
Rights of Women
Free legal information and advice about family law.
Getting back into work or education
- You are the expert on your own experiences – consider where you are now in your journey to recovery from domestic abuse – your ability to risk assess and manage your own safety has worked well so far – listen to your gut instincts
- If you are working with others such another agency, an IDVA, Counsellor – ask them for advice on safety planning at work and whilst studying
- If the person(s) you are at risk from know where you work or study, the best way to keep yourself safe are to tell your employer or education provider
- If you need to keep your location confidential, speak to your employers about this. They will need to remember things like not putting your name or photo on the company’s website and making sure that other organisations don’t do this
- Think if use of social media such as LinkedIn will increase risk to you or lead to you being located
- Think through practical things such as getting to and from work safely particularly in the dark, how reception or security works to deal with unannounced visitors, how you might respond to a phone call from a perpetrator, arrangements for the children whilst you are at work or study, does your role or the one you are interested in involve your unrestricted contact with the general public?
For the majority of survivors this will be your personal choice – if you don’t feel comfortable disclosing to your manager you can speak to HR instead. If your experiences are a while ago and the risk has reduced you may wish to not tell anyone at work. Remember, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse during their lifetime and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about being a survivor of domestic abuse.
Employers should have a policy or guidelines about how to help an employee who is experiencing domestic abuse, this is because in law, once an employer is aware someone is at risk from domestic abuse they have a duty to provide reasonable support. It’s much easier to ask for time off for court, counselling and flexible working arrangements if your employers are aware.
When would I disclose? – For some roles, particularly ones that employ “Safer Recruitment” principles, employers will look at your CV carefully to identify gaps at the application stage. If you have been unable to work during a period of time due to domestic abuse, this could affect your chances of being offered an interview. One way around this is to write a confidential covering letter to the organisation with your application explaining this. You might find that a phone call to the organisation first is also a good idea. If you have recently worked with an organisation that has supported your recovery from domestic abuse, you could also ask them to write an explanatory letter on your behalf.
It is still your decision whether or not to disclose – If there are gaps in your CV think ahead about how you may explain these ahead of any interview. Think about what you are comfortable saying to the interviewers and keep to it – under the pressure of an interview it can be easy to say more than you planned to say, only disclose what you are comfortable with.
You might want to jot down some positive things to say depending on your situation e.g. spent the time keeping up to date reading about your area of work; attended personal counselling that gave you time to reflect and process your experiences; you are feeling very strong and resilient as a survivor and this transfers into your attitude towards work; you went and tried something new and discovered you loved it.
What do employers look for in an application?
- Your covering letter and CV should complement each other. CV’s should be about 2 sides of A4, don’t waste 1 side of A4 on a covering letter that doesn’t say why you are a great person for the job or repeats what is on the CV.
- Your covering letter, CV and application should be well presented, succinct, to the point, clearly explains what skills and experience you bring. Be enthusiastic and say why you really want to work for the organisation. Look at the organisations website before applying to see what other work they are doing that you are interested in that you can mention in your letter.
- Employers can have many applications to look through so be bold – state early on how you fulfil their requirements – bullet points are good – give brief examples of your skills;
- Adapt your covering letter for the role you are applying for – employers can spot a generic cover letter that you are using for several jobs, you want to give the impression it’s this job you really want!
- Most vacancies have a job description (describes the duties you will be doing) and a person specification (what skills and experience the employer are looking for in the person they recruit) – if there is a person specification this will be used by the recruiter to shortlist for interview. It is important to match yourself against as many of the qualities as possible. One good way to do this is to copy and paste the requirements, turn them into a bullet point list and then write some evidence of how you fulfil the requirements. Your experience, skills or knowledge could come from paid or unpaid work, from lived experience, from study, from extra duties you have taken on such as in sport or at college.
- Get your application in on time – if you have a number of jobs to apply for, make a list and apply for them in date order of when there is a closing date, if you have a lot to apply for, be realistic and prioritise those that you really want most and apply for the others after. Sending your application in after the deadline may not even be possible if you are using an electronic system and is unlikely to make a good impression with the recruiter if your late application is passed on.
- Check what the recruiter wants – if they don’t want a CV don’t send it, but you can of course use content from your CV to answer questions on the application form. Think about exactly what a recruiter is asking for in their question (rather than the question you would like them to ask!) and ask a friend if unsure.
- If you are applying for an internal job don’t make assumptions about what you think the recruiter knows about you. Even if you know that the person shortlisting knows what you do in your current job role – still state it. Shortlisters are only allowed to give you credit for what you put in your application in order to be fair to everyone applying.
You have an interview! Here's what you should you do next:
- Confirm you are coming
- Re-read your application
- Re-read the organisations website
- Ask about interview format – this may be in the letter but you can ring HR to find out more – if you have names of people on the interview panel, look them up.
- Try and predict what questions may be asked for the job that you are applying for
- Think of some interesting questions that you can ask that show you are interested in the role
- Plan your route – allow extra time for delays, cancellations, traffic, parking
- Plan what you will wear – allow time for dry cleaning if required and polish shoes! If you don’t have clothes suitable for interview Smartworks and Dress for Success are very helpful
- Ask someone to do a mock interview with you and ask for feedback from them
- Read up on areas of the job you know less about – if you don’t have experience in a particular area, you will be able to tell the interview panel that you have done some research and reading to learn more
What to expect at the interview
Sometimes, recruiters will want to assess your suitability for the job using some other measures as well as the interview. Normally, you will be told about this in your interview invite, but you can always clarify when you ring to confirm the interview.
For some positions you will be asked to prepare a presentation. This is usually for roles where giving presentations is a part of your job role. Prepare your presentation well in advance and rehearse it, at least a couple of times with other people who can give you feedback. Send your presentation to the organisation before the interview so they have it and can load it on their equipment. Also take your presentation on a memory stick and print out a few paper copies so you can use this should all technology fail. Be prepared to answer questions about your presentation, this can be even more important that giving a well-polished presentation.
It is quite common to be asked to perform a “work sample test”. This is an activity that you will be performing in the job role. It could include a written exercise, a computer test or an activity where you are asked to decide on priorities.
In the social care sector, role play scenarios are quite common. You aren’t being judged on your acting skills, but assessed with how you respond and interact with someone who is usually playing the part of a client. You are normally given some instructions and time to prepare. Use this time to make some notes of things you will want to cover in the role play. The other person in the role play scenario will also have some instructions. Be prepared to be flexible and monitor how the other person responds – are they reacting how you would expect? If not, try another way to get to where you want to. The reason for this is that the other person will have instructions to behave in a certain way based on your approach. You will normally be given a warning before the time ends for the exercise so use this time to summarise, for example agree an action plan. You will usually be asked afterwards how you felt the role play went – use this time to tell the panel about anything you didn’t get the chance to cover or say. Be honest about your own performance – if you think there were things you could have done better, do say so. An important part of the exercise is the ability to assess and reflect upon your own skills.
In the social care sector it is also fairly common for a recent or current service user to sit on the interview panel and their role will be explained to you. They may ask you questions, or sometimes may just observe, but they will be asked for their opinion about your suitability for the role. Service users can give a unique perspective and contribution to the recruitment process.
Many people find it very difficult to ask for things and can be quite passive when it comes to making requests. We often feel they we don’t have the right to ask. Or we may fear the consequences of the request. As a result, we can avoid asking for help even when it is perfectly reasonable to do so.
Consider these tips and observations about making requests.
- What would you like to happen? Begin by asking yourself what you would like to happen in this situation. If you are used to taking a passive stance, you may find that it is hard to know what you want, let alone to ask for it.
- What would be reasonable? Before making your request, decide for yourself what you think would be reasonable, given the circumstances.
- Don’t apologise for asking. You have the right to ask for just about anything – as long as you recognise that the other person has the right to refuse.
- Avoid putting yourself down as part of the request. Instead, try to ask in as straightforward way as possible.
- Before making your request define the situation. Be as clear as you can without making a long speech. “I would like to talk to you about how much I am paid for my work”
- Express how you are feeling in this situation. Focus a bit more on the positive emotions you wish you were feeling than on the negative emotions you are currently feeling. “I really like working here and think the company supports its employees well”.
- Use “I” statements. Take responsibility for your emotions. You should not be trying to blame how you feel on the other person. This will only make them defensive. “I” statements make your request more personal, they communicate that you take responsibility for your own feelings, and they avoid implicit insults.
- Be clear but brief. In most situations your request should take no more than one or two sentences. Be specific.
- Frame the request positively. Say what you want, not what you don’t want.
- Focus on behaviour. What do you want the person to do? Don’t ask for changes in how the person thinks or feels. Also avoid being too general.
- Describe the outcome that you think will follow if the other person does go along with what you suggest. Perhaps you will feel better. Perhaps you will do something for the other person in return.