Domestic Violence & Abuse
Domestic abuse is defined as “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, co-ercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:
Domestic abuse can also include forced marriage and so-called “honour crimes”.
Controlling and co-ercive behaviour
Domestic abuse is often thought of as physical, such as hitting, slapping or beating, but it can also be controlling or co-ercive behaviour. This is important as what might look like an isolated incident of violent abuse could be taking place in a context of controlling or co-ercive behaviour.
Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or independent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Co-ercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
We know that the first incident reported to the police or other agencies is rarely the first incident to occur; often people have been subject to violence and abuse on multiple occasions before they seek help.
Learning resources to support health and social work in situations of coercive control
A new set of learning resources for social workers, safeguarding leads, and health and social care practitioners, provides information and guidance on how to recognise and respond to coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate or family relationships.
Supporting the non-abusing parent in a holistic way that acknowledges the impacts of coercive control is important in achieving good outcomes for children. Research showed that children also experience the impacts of coercive control of a parent; for example, becoming isolated from family and friends, finding it difficult to gain independence, and feeling disempowered. The resources, which include five detailed case studies, will support practitioners to improve their understanding of the dynamics of power and control that underpin domestic abuse, enabling them to build trusting relationships with children and survivors.
The examples, tools and videos bring together evidence from research, practitioner experience, and the voice of people using services, to enable professionals to put the law into practice and improve support for people who are experiencing coercive control.
The Chief Social Worker’s Office at the Department of Health commissioned the materials, which were developed by Research in Practice for Adults and Women’s Aid. http://coercivecontrol.ripfa.org.uk/
Safeguarding children exposed to domestic abuse
Children who live in families where there is domestic abuse can suffer serious long-term emotional and psychological effects. Even if they are not physically harmed or do not witness acts of violence, they can pick up on the tensions and harmful interactions between adults. Children of any age are affected by domestic violence and abuse. At no age will they be unaffected by what is happening, even when they are in the womb.
The physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic violence on children can be severe and long-lasting. Some children may become withdrawn and find it difficult to communicate. Others may act out the aggression they have witnessed, or blame themselves for the abuse. All children living with abuse are under stress.
- Consider the presence of domestic abuse as an indicator of the need to assess a child’s need for support and protection
Safe Lives, a national domestic abuse charity, has created a toolkit practitioners and front-line workers can use to identify high risk cases of domestic abuse, stalking and ‘honour’-based violence. The purpose of the checklist is to give a consistent and simple-to-use tool to practitioners who work with victims of domestic abuse in order to help them identify those who are at high risk of harm and whose cases should be referred to a MARAC meeting in order to manage the risk.
The toolkit has been endorsed by agencies such as the police (Association of Chief Police Officers), National Centre for Domestic Violence, and CAFCASS, who believe that the primary audience should be front line practitioners working with victims of domestic abuse who are represented at MARAC. This will include both domestic abuse specialists such as IDVAs and generic practitioners such as those working in a primary care health service or housing.
Locally, both the Adult’s and Children’s Safeguarding Board (LSAB / LSCB), as well as the Safer Lewisham Partnership (SLP) have agreed that all agencies in Lewisham working with, or supporting families at risk of domestic violence are expected to use the risk checklist. This is vitally important because using an evidence based risk identification tool increases the likelihood of the victim being responded to appropriately and therefore, of addressing the risks they face. The risk checklist gives practitioners common criteria and a common language of risk.
Safe Lives have produced an updated version of the RIC, which now includes comprehensive guidance explaining each risk question, how they can be asked, as well as practice points. There is also a frequently asked questions page with some useful tips on the checklist. The Safe Lives website has helpful resources about other ways your agency may access support, training or download the checklist in other languages. The Lewisham Safeguarding Children’s Board also offers annual training on the use of the checklist which is free for all professionals in the borough to attend, however, for more questions about the use of the RIC, access to training, and questions about domestic violence MARAC process, please visit www.lewisham.gov.uk/vawg or contact the Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG) Programme Manager on firstname.lastname@example.org
Safeguarding high-risk victims of domestic violence and abuse – referring to the MARAC
The Lewisham Domestic Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is a risk management meeting where professionals share information on high and very high risk cases of domestic violence or abuse and put in place a risk management plan. The aim of the meeting is to address the safety of the victim, children and agency staff and to review and co-ordinate service provision in high risk domestic violence cases.
To be referred to the MARAC the individual must reside in the London Borough of Lewisham, be over the age of 16, be currently experiencing domestic violence or abuse (according to the cross Government definition of domestic violence) and be assessed as being at high or very high risk of harm of domestic violence or abuse in accordance with the Lewisham MARAC referral risk criteria. In order to assess whether a case meets the risk threshold, the Safe Lives DASH MARAC risk indicator checklist should be completed by the referring agency.
A tailored action plan will be developed at the MARAC to reduce the risk to the victim, children, other vulnerable parties and any staff and to ensure that the risk the perpetrator presents is managed appropriately. Examples of actions that will be agreed include flagging and tagging of files, referral to other appropriate multi-agency meetings, prioritising of agencies’ resources to MARAC cases.
Any service agency signed up to the MARAC Information Sharing Protocol may refer a case to the MARAC using the Lewisham MARAC Referral Form, and all agencies should be actively screening for domestic violence or abuse. Referrals should be submitted to each agency’s MARAC representative. Please contact your line manager to find out who your agency’s MARAC representative is.
For more questions about the use of the MARAC, access to training, and questions about the process, please visit www.lewisham.gov.uk/vawg or contact the Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG) Programme Manager on email@example.com , or the MARAC Coordinator on firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information
Letter to partners on the use of the DV risk assessment
See the Domestic Violence information in our practice procedures
MOPAC VAWG Strategy 2018-2021
MOPAC Domestic and Sexual Violence Dashboard
Home Office Resources for Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG)