This covers more situations than actual physical violence – any kind of repeated intimidation cruel behaviour or harassment is sufficient. If you are reading this because you think it will be useful to you personally, you are probably a victim of domestic violence.
The law can help victims of domestic violence in several ways.
It is a crime for anyone (stranger or family member) to assault or harass you or your children. Calling the police can put an end to a situation of immediate danger. The police may arrest the perpetrator and prosecute. If they decide to do so they may release the perpetrator on bail until the trial comes up. Usually there will be conditions on bail to protect you from further violence or intimidation. The process should provide you a respite from the violence at least until the trial is over and any sentence served.
Reporting violence to the police, even without more, can be useful evidence that you have been a victim of domestic violence. Ask for and make a note of the crime number.
Court Orders (“injunctions”)
The other main legal option is obtaining an injunction in the civil courts. An injunction is an order from the court requiring the perpetrator to stop harassing you and/or to keep away from your home (even if the perpetrator is the owner of the home). If the perpetrator breaks the injunction he/she can be sent to prison. It is often possible for the police to arrest him for breaking the injunction. Getting an injunction may take a little time – anything between a few hours and several days – so it is not effective to stop an incident while it is going on (in the way that calling the police can be). But, once you have an injunction, if there is a power of arrest attached, it is easier to get the police to act. Note that getting an injunction can be costly unless you are financially eligible for legal aid and it is not effective in all cases. You will need advice on this.
Victims of domestic violence are treated as homeless and, if the other conditions for homelessness assistance are satisfied, are entitled to be accommodated by a local council. The other conditions are (1) that you are eligible – this relates to your immigration status; (2) that you are in priority need – pregnant women, those with children, vulnerable because of mental illness or disability or because of violence or threats of violence; (3) that you are not intentionally homeless – a person fleeing domestic violence should not be treated as intentionally homeless. You can apply to any local council - not necessarily where you live. Most local councils are short of accommodation. Many of them try to fob you off with delay and excuses. Sometimes it is necessary to get a lawyer to help at the initial stage. Once a Council agrees to accept your application it will usually have a duty to accommodate you while it investigates.
Sometimes, when it investigates your case, it will try to claim that you are not a victim of violence. This is why it can be important to have obtained evidence of what you have suffered.
If you live locally and have to flee your home in the middle of the night and you have no friend to stay with you may be able to obtain emergency overnight accommodation through Brent Council. You will need to phone the out of hours social care section.
Even if you have no intention now of starting any legal process it is important to have good evidence of what is happening. Sooner or later, unless the violence stops, you will need help or to take some kind of legal action. When you do, the authorities will need evidence to corroborate your word. Here are examples of evidence: crime numbers from reports to the police; notes (preferably by your doctor) of any injuries you have suffered; friends and relations who have witnessed incidents or seen your injuries; notes or a diary of incidents; letters, text messages, e-mails, lists of phone calls, sound or video recordings.
Phone IOWLC’s advice line for general advice on your options. IOWLC cannot itself provide casework assistance in a domestic violence case. We can suggest local solicitors who may be able to do so.
Fleeing Domestic Violence
If you have to leave your home in a hurry because of violence or a threat and have no friend or family to stay with:
Try, if you have time, to take with you emergency clothing, a phone, money, identity documents, proofs of your income and other papers that may help you. You may well be seeking housing, benefits, legal aid and other assistance. Don’t put yourself at risk while you are looking for things to take.
You will need emergency accommodation. You can obtain this out of hours on the Isle of Wight by contacting the out of hours social care team on 01983 821105.
If you are worried that you may at some point in the future have to leave in a hurry, you can prepare in advance either by collecting the things you need in one place or by having them ready somewhere else in case you need them.