For women

Below are the answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Your ex-partner might apply to the courts (or even talk to you directly) about having contact with the children. Seeing him again might cause you to have concerns about your safety or even the safety of your children. If this is the case, particularly if you have evidence of harm caused to you or to the children, then you should talk to your solicitor and anyone else who works for the courts, such as the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service officer. These people have a duty to protect you and your children from harm if you are in danger of being hurt.

Some children who have lived with violence and abuse have been so upset by the experience that they would rather not see their dad. Some children have been hurt by him too but haven’t told anyone about it because they are scared what might happen if they speak up. It is important that children are given opportunities to tell what happened to them and how they feel about contact, especially to professionals involved in the decision making process.

People who work for the courts should do everything they can to make sure any contact between parent and child is safe. That might mean seeing their dad in a Contact Centre with other people close by to make sure they are okay. Or may decide it is not safe and arrange contact by letter or other indirect means.

Once a decision has been made about contact, it can be changed if things get difficult or if someone is hurt. You and your child have rights and it is up to the courts and other professionals to protect you. Make sure they are aware of any threats, risks to safety or acts of abuse as soon as you can.

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I feel like I’m being controlled – but my partner doesn’t hit me. Am I being abused?
You don’t have to be hit to be abused. Domestic violence comes in many forms, including emotional or psychological abuse. Many women say that emotional abuse is as devastating as physical abuse.

If you are not sure whether you are being abused, try reading our guide to recognising abuse and definition of domestic violence.

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Is the abuse my fault?
You can’t make a man hit you – it’s his choice and only he is responsible.

Whatever anyone says, the abuse is not your fault.

Your self-esteem has taken a battering and it may be that you believe some of the things your partner says when they’re not in fact true. Try and break your isolation by speaking to someone you trust or an organisation like Refuge about what is happening to you.

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What about my children?
Even if you think your children are not aware of the abuse, it is likely that they are. Nine times out of ten children are in the same or next door room when a domestic violence incident takes place.

Your children may feel responsible for what is going on and will find it hard to talk about it. You can help them by talking to them and explaining what is happening. Reassure them that they are not to blame for the violence. This is a stressful time for them but any damage does not have to be permanent.

You will find lots of advice and information on this website about the effects of domestic violence on children and how to deal with them. Try looking at Effects of Domestic Violence on Children as a starting point.

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What is a refuge?
A refuge is a safe house for women, with or without children. Any woman who is experiencing domestic violence can go to a refuge.

Refuges are all different, but you will always have your own room. They are not institutions. Some refuges have self-contained flats but in most you will probably share areas like the living room, kitchen and bathroom.

Refuges have trained staff who are there to provide you with emotional and practical support.

For more information try reading our pages on refuges and what to expect in a refuge.

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What should I take with me to a refuge?
If you have time and are sure you are safe, it will help if you can take certain things with you when you go to a refuge. Some of the important ones are documents like birth certificates, marriage certificates and legal papers, also keys, money and phone numbers. It will also make your early days in the refuge easier if you can manage to pack a bag for yourself and your children with clothes, toiletries and other possessions.

If you leave in a hurry, Refuge can provide you with essentials like food and toiletries when you get to the refuge.

Have a look around the website for information on planning to leave your home and what to expect in a refuge.

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Where can I get help?
Talk to someone you trust or call the 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. We’re there to listen, support and help you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

All calls are confidential.

Breaking your silence is an important first step towards rebuilding a life free from abuse.

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Where can I go?
If you have decided to leave your partner, even for a short while to give yourself a break from the abuse and space to think, you have several options. Perhaps you have a family member or friend who can give you a bed for a while, or maybe you can afford to pay for your own accommodation in a hotel. Your local authority and local housing department can also help you. The most important thing is that you go somewhere where you are safe.

There are refuges all over the country where you can be sure your partner will not find you. Each refuge is staffed by workers who are there to support you emotionally and practically. You can stay in a refuge for as long as you need.

Reading this area on what to expect in a refuge will answer more of your questions.

You can find a space in a refuge by contacting the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline.

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Will he change?
It’s rare for an abuser to change, although it can happen. But please don’t count on this happening – research shows that domestic violence gets worse over time.

If your partner is serious about changing his behaviour, he must accept responsibility for his actions. He must acknowledge that you have the right to live your life without being dominated and controlled and learn to respect you.

Perpetrator groups across the UK work with abusive men to help them understand their behaviour and learn new ways of behaving.

You can read Will he change? and look through the area for abusive men for more information.

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Will the police take me seriously?
Domestic violence is a serious crime – it is against the law. The police have a duty to offer you protection and investigate. They should take you seriously and arrest an abuser where there is evidence of abuse.
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