Domestic violence and abuse
Domestic violence or abuse is defined as:
"Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who are, or have been, in a relationship, or between family members, regardless of gender or sexuality"
(Home Office 2006).
This definition includes so-called 'honour' based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group. While this is not a legislative change, the definition will send a clear message to victims about what constitutes domestic violence and abuse.
A relationship does not have to involve violence to be abusive.
Help and advice
The agencies listed below have specially trained staff who you can talk to in confidence. You can use one or as many of the agencies as you need:
- Thames Valley Police (TVP) emergency calls: 999
- Thames Valley Police non-urgent calls: 101
- If you are in immediate danger you should contact the police on 999.
- National Centre for Domestic Violence: 0800 970 2070
- 24 hr National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
- Wycombe Women's Aid (external website): 01494 461367
- Asian Women's Outreach Worker 01494 446 366
- Victim Support: 0808 168 9111
- High Wycombe Citizens Advice Bureau: 0344 245 1289
- Female Genital Mutilation Helpline (operating 24/7, and staffed by specially trained child protection councillors who can offer advice, information, and assistance to members of the public and professionals): 0800 028 2550
- GALOP (external website) The National LGBT domestic violence helpline: 020 7704 2040
- Reducing the Risk of Domestic Abuse (external website)
Female genital mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons (as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO)). It is also sometimes referred to as female genital cutting or female circumcision. There are no health benefits to FGM and it is recognised internationally as a human rights violation.
Honour based violence
Honour based violence (HBV) is a term used to describe violence committed within the context of the extended family which are motivated by a perceived need to restore standing within the community, which is presumed to have been lost through the behaviour of the victim. Most victims of HBV are women or girls, although men may also be at risk.
Women and girls may lose honour through expressions of autonomy, particularly if this autonomy occurs within the area of sexuality. Men may be targeted either by the family of a woman who they are believed to have 'dishonoured', in which case both parties may be at risk, or by their own family if they are believed to be homosexual.
Common triggers for HBV include:
- refusing an arranged marriage
- having a relationship outside the approved group
- loss of virginity
- spending time without the supervision of a family member
- reporting domestic violence
- attempting to divorce
- pushing for custody of children after divorce
- refusing to divorce when ordered to do so by family members
However, some families may resolve to abuse or killing a family member on what would appear to be very trivial grounds. Victims of HBV are more likely to underestimate the risks to their safety than overstate them and even if the 'offence' seems trivial to you, this does not mean it is trivial to his or her family.
See Karma Nirvana (external website) for more information and support.
A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they're bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor.
Forced Marriage Unit
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit was which set up in January 2005 to lead on the Government's forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals.
The FMU operates a public helpline to provide advice and support to victims of forced marriage as well as to professionals dealing with cases. The assistance provided ranges from simple safety advice, through to aiding a victim to prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK ('reluctant sponsor' cases), and, in extreme circumstances, to rescues of victims held against their will overseas.
The FMU undertake an extensive outreach and training programme of around 100 events a year, targeting both professionals and potential victims. The FMU also carry out media campaigns, such as 2012's 'right to choose' summer campaign, where the FMU commissioned three short films to raise awareness amongst young people at risk of being taken overseas for forced marriage.
For further information and contact details see Forced Marriage Unit (external website).
Teenage relationship abuse
Relationship abuse is when someone hurts or upsets someone else who they are in a relationship with. Some people can be in an abusive relationship and not even realise it. Relationship abuse can include:
- physical abuse - hitting, punching, pushing, biting, kicking
- sexual abuse - forcing you to watch sex or pornography, unwanted kissing or touching, pressure not to use contraception
- rape - persuading or forcing you to have sex when you don't want to
- financial abuse - taking or controlling your money, forcing you to buy them things, forcing you to work or not to work
- emotional abuse - insults and name calling, isolation from friends and family, controlling what you wear and where you go, checking up on you all the time
If you are being hurt
If you are worried about your relationship there are a number of things you can do.
- Remember that there is support to help you - it's not your fault.
- Talk to friends, family and trusted adults about what is happening to you.
- Think about safe places where you can go.
- Keep your mobile charged at all times so you can call the police or emergency services if you need to.
- Have a code word that will let your friends and family know if you need help.
If you are being harassed by calls on your mobile, try to change your phone number.
If you are getting emails or instant messages that are abusive, you should save or print them. You can then give them to the police as evidence if you choose to report the abuse. You can also change your email address.
- In an emergency call the police on 999 for immediate help.
- Tell an adult you can trust, for example a teacher, parent, relative, youth worker or doctor.
- You can also get help from Childline (external website). They can help you work out what to do safely. Calls to Childline are free and never appear on your phone bill.
The details below are local and national helplines for anyone wanting to talk to someone or anyone looking for help. You can also visit their websites at the bottom of the page.
- ChildLine - 0800 1111
- Wycombe Rape Crisis (Wycombe Rape Crisis can give you advice about rape and sexual violence) - 01494 46 22 22
- You can also speak to the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline which can give help, support and information over the telephone - 0808 2000 247
See also This is abuse (external website) aimed at teenagers and young adults with information about abuse in relationships.
Domestic homicide review
Domestic homicide reviews are one way to improve responses to domestic violence. They will try to ensure that public bodies like social services, councils, police and other community based organisations understand what happened that led to the death of a domestic violence victim, and identify where responses to the situation could be improved.
These reviews will not seek to lay blame but consider what happened and what could have been done differently. They will also recommend actions to improve responses to domestic violence situations in the future.
Domestic Homicide Reviews are part of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 and became law from 13 April 2011.