This information applies in Scotland
What is domestic abuse
Domestic abuse is where one person harms another person with whom they have (or have had) some sort of relationship. They do not need to be heterosexual partners and they do not need to live in the same property. Both women and men can experience domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse can involve physical violence or it may be another form of abuse such as emotional, sexual or financial abuse.
Domestic abuse is a particular type of abuse, but there are also many other different types including harassment and stalking, rape and sexual assault, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, honour-based abuse and trafficking. All such abuse is also known as gender violence.
If you need help to recognise whether you are being abused, there are many organisations that can give you confidential advice.
Options available to people affected by domestic abuse
If you are the victim of an abusive relationship, get immediate practical advice on the options available, which may be to:
- report the abuse to the police
- leave home temporarily
- leave home permanently
- stay in your home and get the person who is harming you to leave
- take legal action.
Finding somewhere safe to stay
If you are a victim of an abusive relationship you may need somewhere safe to stay, either alone or with your children. The options are to stay:
- at home, if you think this is safe and you can get some legal protection
- with relatives or friends
- in a women’s refuge. This is only an option for women (with or without children)
- in emergency accommodation provided by the local authority under homeless persons law - this will usually mean a bed and breakfast hostel
- in privately rented accommodation.
Women’s Aid Refuges
Women’s Aid Refuges are safe houses run by, and for, women experiencing domestic abuse. Refuges provide somewhere safe for women and their children to stay and allow some time and space for the woman to think about what to do next.
Staff at refuges specialise in dealing with domestic abuse and so can give a lot of emotional and practical support, for example, advice about benefit claims, which solicitors to use and, if necessary, how to contact the police.
There are lots of Women’s Aid groups throughout Scotland and a national office in Edinburgh. There are some refuges which are run by and for particular groups of women, for example, black or Asian women.
To find out where your nearest refuge with spaces available is, you should contact Scotland's Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline or a local Women’s Aid group, whose details you can find on the Scottish Women’s Aid website. Staff at Women’s Aid will do their best to find you somewhere safe to stay that night even if the local refuge is full. They are also happy to talk to women about any questions they have about refuges.
Going to the local authority
Your local authority may have a duty to provide you with housing if you are homeless. You will normally be considered to be legally homeless if it is not reasonable for you to occupy your home because of the risk or fear of domestic abuse.
Local authorities should deal sympathetically with applications from people who are in fear of abuse. You can ask for a private interview, with someone of the same sex, and can take a friend with you for support.
The local authority may have a duty to provide interim accommodation for you while it decides whether you are legally homeless.
If it is outside of normal office hours, you should telephone the local authority's emergency out-of-hours number for help with emergency housing.
For more information about homelessness and the local authority, see Finding accommodation.
Going to privately rented accommodation
If you decide to go into privately rented accommodation you will be unlikely to be able to arrange it quickly. This is really only an option for people who have time to plan their departure and can afford this accommodation.
Longer term solutions
Once you have found a safe place to stay in the short-term, you will need to think about what to do in the longer term. You will need to consider:
- whether you wish to permanently separate from your partner. You should seek legal advice
- whether you want to take action to keep the violent partner away from you. You should seek legal advice
- housing. Your legal rights to the family home will depend upon the type of housing you are leaving, the legal status of your relationship and whether or not you have children. You should get legal advice to ensure that you do everything possible to protect your rights to the family home. You should seek advice about the family home even if you are leaving permanently because, if your partner sells the home, you may lose money and possessions
- children. If you have children you will need to decide if you are taking the children with you. It may be unsafe to leave them behind. You may need to use the courts to resolve who the children should live with and with whom they should have contact. You should seek legal advice
- money. You will need to sort out your benefit entitlement and tax arrangements and whether or not to apply to court for maintenance for yourself. You may also want to apply to the Child Maintenance Service for them to arrange maintenance for your children.
If you need further information and advice, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a solicitor, law centre or organisation listed under Further Help, or a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Legal remedies and procedures
Going to a solicitor
If you want to discuss legal protection for yourself and your children, consult a solicitor who is experienced in matrimonial work. Local Women’s Aid groups, the police, rape crisis groups, or women’s centres usually know of local solicitors who are both experienced and sympathetic.There is a very good summary of your legal options to gain some protection on the Shelter website
A local advice agency such as a law centre or Citizens Advice Bureau, should be able to help you find a local solicitor who is experienced in this area of the law. You could also search the website of the Law Society of Scotland for your local solicitor at www.lawscot.org.uk
You should make an appointment as soon as you feel ready. You may want to take someone with you for support the first time you go to the solicitor. The initial interview will probably last quite a long time, during which the solicitor should discuss with you what courses of legal action are open to you.
If you take legal action to protect yourself or your family from domestic abuse, you may qualify for legal aid without having to meet the normal financial conditions. The income of an abusive partner will not be taken into account when deciding whether you qualify for legal aid.
Victims from abroad and domestic abuse
If you came from abroad to join someone as a wife, husband, civil partner or cohabitee, and you can no longer stay in the relationship because of domestic abuse, you may be able to apply to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for settled status (indefinite leave to remain) under the domestic violence rule.
If you need financial help, you can apply to the UKVI under the Destitution Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession for a temporary extension of your leave. If you are successful, you will be given 3 months limited leave so you can stay in the UK and apply for welfare benefits and housing while a decision is made on your application for settled status.
You can find more information on applying for settled status on the GOV. UK website at www.gov.uk.
Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland
The Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland (also known as Clare’s Law) enables the police to share relevant information about a partner’s abusive past with a potential victim. The scheme aims to enable potential victims to make an informed choice about whether to continue the relationship and provides further help and support to assist the potential victim when making that decision.
Under the scheme, anyone who is concerned that they, or someone they know, could be at risk of domestic abuse from a partner can ask the police about the partner’s previous history of abusive behaviour. The police can disclose information where it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to protect a potential victim from domestic abuse.
How to make an application
An application to the Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland can be made by contacting the police:
- online at www.scotland.police.co.uk
- visit a police office
- phone 101 the non-emergency number for the police
- speak to a member of the police on the street
- phone 999 if there is an immediate risk of harm or it is an emergency.
Guidance about the scheme if you are concerned that your partner may have been abusive in the past, can be found on the Police Scotland website at www.scotland.police.uk.
Guidance about the scheme if you want to make an application on behalf of someone else, can be found on the Police Scotland website at www.scotland.police.uk.
Perpetrators of abuse
There are several specialist organisations which can help abusive people who want to stop being abusive. Some are self help groups run by others who have had experience of abusive behaviour, others may be run by trained counsellors. It may also be possible for you to get help through your GP.
Scotland's Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline is available 24 hours a day and can provide confidential information and support by telephone or by email to anyone affected by domestic abuse. Information on the website is available in different languages.
Scottish Women's Aid
Women’s Aid can offer advice and support to any woman experiencing domestic abuse. The national office can provide contact details for your local Women’s Aid group.
Scottish Women’s Aid
132 Rose Street
Specialist advice for Asian, black and minority ethnic women and children can be obtained from:
Hermat Gryffe Women’s Aid
Tel: 0141 353 0859
Shakti Women’s Aid
Tel: 0131 475 2399
Scottish Women's Rights Centre
The Scottish Women's Rights Centre can offer legal advice and information to women in Scotland who are affected by any aspect of gender based violence.
Scottish Women's Rights Centre
Helpline: 0808 801 0789 (Tuesdays 6-9pm, Wednesdays 1.30pm-4.30pm)
Karma Nirvana provides support to victims and survivors of domestic abuse, forced marriages and honour based abuse. There are trained advisers on the helpline. This organisation only works with the victims that call it. It does not contact anyone in the family concerned.
Tel: 0800 5999 247
National Stalking Helpline
The National Stalking Helpline can provide advice on how to deal with any type of stalking behaviour. This includes advice about how to report the behaviour to the police and what you can expect if you report an incident.
Digital stalking online guide
Digital stalking: a guide to technology risks for victims is an online guide giving practical advice on how to reduce the risk of being stalked online. It can be downloaded via the Women's Aid website at www.womensaid.org.uk in their Useful links information.
Organisations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
Fearless is a domestic abuse service for people experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland who identify as a man, or from the LGBT+ community - including (but not limited to) lesbian and bisexual women, gay and bisexual men, trans men/women, and gender non-binary people.
You can make a confidential referral online or by phone.
Tel: 0131 624 7266
Galop provides advice and support to people who have experienced biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexual violence or domestic abuse. They also support LGBT people who have had problems with the police or have questions about the criminal justice system. Please note Galop has taken over services previously run by Broken Rainbow.
Helpline: 0300 999 5428 or Freephone 0800 999 5428 (Mon and Thurs 10am - 8pm, Tues and Wed 10am - 5pm (Tues 1pm - 5pm is a trans specific service)
The LGBT Domestic Abuse Project
The LGBT Domestic Abuse Project provides information for LGBT people and their friends and family about domestic abuse. The website provides information and links to organisations who can provide support specifically for LGBT people.
Organisations for men
Abused Men in Scotland (AMIS)
Abused Men in Scotland provides information and support for any man over 16 in Scotland who is, or has been, a victim of domestic abuse. It operates a confidential helpline.
Fearless is a domestic abuse service for people experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland who identify as a man, or from the LGBT+ community.
You can make a confidential referral online or by phone.
Tel: 0131 624 7266
Men's Advice Line
The Men's Advice Line is a UK-wide confidential helpline for all men experiencing domestic abuse by a current or ex-partner. This includes all men, in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. They provide emotional support and practical advice, and can give you details of specialist services that can give you advice on legal, housing, child contact, mental health and other issues.
Survivors UK is a national helpline for men who have been victims of rape or sexual abuse. The helpline may be able to arrange counselling or a support group if you live in the London area. If you live outside London, Survivors UK may be able to provide details of an appropriate service outside the London area.
Unit 1, Queen Anne Terrace
Organisations for people who are abusive and want to stop
Respect provides information and advice for people who are abusive towards their partners and want help to stop.
The Everyman Project provides a UK wide helpline which offers advice to anyone worried about their own violent or abusive behaviour.
1A Waterlow Road