Key Messages:

  • SESCAB is a registered charity offering advice on a range of topics
  • Help and advice is available so don’t suffer in silence

Intro

–        With us today, we have Tracey Hackett and Adam Spindler from South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau to speak to us about Domestic Abuse, for the next hour.

Reminder:  What is the South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice service

Tracey

  • South East Staffordshire Citizens Advice Bureau is a registered charity which provides free, independent and confidential advice to residents of the Lichfield District.
  • We provide information and advice on a wide variety of subjects, including but not limited to;

o   Debt

o   Welfare benefits

o   Housing

o   Consumer matters

o   Immigration

o   Relationships & family

o   Taxes

And today you are here to discuss domestic abuse?

 

Yes, the definition of domestic abuse, provided by the government, is controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between people aged 16 or over who have been intimately involved or are family members, whatever gender or sexuality. Types of domestic violence include, psychological, physical, sexual, financial, and emotional.

Another type of violence, mostly experienced by women is gender violence, which still includes domestic violence but also includes harassment, stalking, rape, sexual assault, female genital mutilation and abuse related to honour and trafficking, when people are sold.

 

Would you care to elaborate on some of the types of violence or abuse that people may be suffering from?

One type of abuse is financial. This can be where someone is threatening you financially to gain control over you. Examples include preventing you from working, controlling household finances, forcing you to hand over wages and forcing you to take out loans, in your own name.

If you have been forced to take out a loan, in your name, then the debt may be unenforceable, though we recommend getting legal advice in this case. Debt problems can be discussed with a Citizens Advice Advisor.

Another area is harassment and stalking someone, both of which are criminal offences. Harassment is when you receive unwanted behaviour from someone. This can include threatening messages and damage to property.

Stalking can be following you or attempting to contact you constantly without your permission. Many police officers are specially trained to deal with stalking cases, if you contact them.

An injunction is also possible in civil courts to prevent further harassment and stalking and claim damages. It is also an offence to breach an injunction.

Help on harassment and stalking can be found from the National Stalking Helpline at www.stalkinghelpline.org.

And so what options are available for people suffering domestic abuse?

 

Options include –

.reporting the violence to the police, as most domestic violence cases are considered a crime.

.leaving home temporarily or permanently

.getting the person who is harming you to leave the home, without putting yourself at risk.

…… or taking legal action, which Citizens Advice can assist you with.

If you live with children, it is important to consider whether they are at risk. This will help you determine what is in their best interests. Help from a solicitor, experienced in family law, is also possible.

You also need to consider what benefits you are entitled to. You could apply to the court for maintenance for yourself and the Child Maintenance Service for maintenance for your children. If you need further advice on this, you can contact one of our advisors at CAB. You can also visit the Law Society website at www.lawsociety.org.uk.

 

 

What can victims do if they leave their home?

It is important in these cases to seek somewhere safe to stay, whether that is alone or with your children.

Your options could be to stay:

. At home if you believe yourself to be safe.

. With relatives or friends.

. In a women’s refuge, though this an option only for women, with or without children.

You can also get emergency accommodation, usually a bed and breakfast hostel, from local authorities under homeless person’s law, if your situation is dangerous.

Privately rented accommodation is also an option, though this is likely to take time and wouldn’t be available quickly. This is an option if you have had time to plan it and can afford it.

When you have left the home, you should then consider what action to take next such as if you want to permanently separate from your partner or you want to take legal action to keep the partner away from you. This could be in the form of an injunction to protect you from violent behaviour (a non-molestation order), or to control who can be in the house (an occupation order).

In terms of an occupation order, your legal right to the house will depend on factors such as the type of house, the legal status of your relationship and whether you have children or not. You should get legal advice to protect your claim on the home.

To help with legal costs, you should also consider applying for Legal Aid, when you are ready, where the advisor will talk through with you what legal routes you can take, through an extended interview.

You can also apply for legal aid in domestic abuse or violence cases. The income of your abusive partner will not affect your eligibility for Legal Aid.

A financial guide, from Refuge, can be found at www.refuge.org.uk for women experiencing domestic violence in England and Wales.

What are Women’s Aid Refuges?

These are safe houses run by and for women suffering domestic violence and provide a safe place for women and their children, allowing time and space for women to plan what to do next.

The refuge staff can give emotional and practical support. They can provide advice on cases such as benefit claims and the best way to get in touch with the police.

 

And how would we be able to identify domestic abuse?

Signs of domestic abuse include destructive criticism or verbal abuse, pressuring someone, a disrespectful nature, breaking of trust, isolating someone, harassment, threats, sexual and physical violence and denying abuse.

You mentioned how domestic violence cases are considered a crime. Can you tell the listeners at home how to get in touch with the police about such cases?

 

If you are in an emergency, you can call 999 or 101 if it isn’t an emergency.

Most police stations will have their own Domestic Violence or Community Safety Units, run by officers trained to deal with domestic violence and abuse cases.

Information on all the UK police stations can be found at www.police.uk, the UK Police Service Portal.

If the police arrest and charge someone, they can decide whether or not to keep the perpetrator in custody or release him/her out on bail but there are conditions put in place to protect you from harm.

It is important that you ask for your crime reference number, which you will possibly need if you contact any other agencies for help. The police can also give you information on how to prevent crime and give your house a police marker so that officers can get to your home as soon as possible.

The final decision on whether someone is prosecuted is made by the Crown Prosecution Service. More information on the criminal prosecution service can be found on the Women’s Aid website at www.womensaid.org.

People who have experienced domestic violence can call the 24hr National Domestic Violence Helpline, which is run in partnership, between Women’s Aid and Refuge. It is available on 0808 2000 247, 7 days a week. To get in touch with the Women’s Aid helpline you can email them at helpline@womensaid.org.uk.

People can also get in touch with the Lichfield Pathway Project on their 24hr helpline. The Pathway Project works to support young people and children, who have been exposed to domestic violence in some way and provides high quality service that meets the needs of abused adults and children in a caring and loving environment.

The number is 01543 676800. You can also look on their website at www.pathway-project.co.uk for more information.

What other help can be given to you to protect you from perpetrators?

Questions that could help you identify whether you are in an abusive relationship include, does your partner:

Prevent you from leaving the house, going to work or seeing friends or family?

Constantly check up on you or follow you?

Destroy any of your personal possessions deliberately?

Constantly belittle, humiliate, criticise or insult you?

 

Or has your partner ever:

Prevented you from studying or working?

Destroyed any of your personal possessions deliberately?

Threatened you with your immigration status control you?

 

If Women’s Aid consider a child to be at risk, they have a duty to intervene and take appropriate action, such as involving Children’s Services or making an outside referral. Even if a child is not directly involved with domestic violence, it can still have a serious harmful effect on him/her.

Can anything be done to help perpetrators of violence rehabilitate?

Several organisations are active to stop violent behaviour. Some are run by people who have experienced violent behaviour and others may be run by counsellors specialising in this area. Alternatively, you can get in touch with your GP for assistance.

Reminder of how to get in touch with Citizens Advice?

Tracey

 

  • Phone

 

      • Staffordshire Advice line – 03444 111 444
      • Lines open:  Mon-Thu 9.00-5.00 and Fri 9.00-4.30 with Late night Tue and Wed 5.00-8.00pm
      • Your call should last about 10 minutes, to enable an Advice line Assessor to take your details and establish how best we can help you.

 

  • Walk-in and Outreach sessions

 

    • Lichfield Office
      • Tue: 10.00 – 2.00 and Fri: 10.00 – 2.00
    • Burntwood Office
      • Mon: 10.00 – 2.00 and Wed: 10.00 – 2.00
    • Outreach Sessions at the Jigsaw Project
      • 72 Dimbles Lane, Lichfield, Staffs WS13 7HL
      • Tuesdays (fortnightly) 10.00 – 12.00
      • (Visit the venue to find out when the session is running)

 

 

  • Online

 

    • Advice guide is on our website as a first level of assistance
  • Email Advice available for people living or working in Lichfield District.
  • Post – people can write to us at either address.

 

The Citizens Advice Consumer helpline is 03454 04 05 06.

Alternatively, resources connected to Domestic Violence, and what organisations can help you, can be found on the Citizens Advice website at http://www.ses-cab.org.

Wrap-up:  What message would you like to leave for listeners?

  • Please don’t assume your situation is hopeless and don’t ignore it.
  • Never suffer in silence as there will always be someone to help you.
  • Do not let enforcers of violence have control over you.
  • Know when to report cases of domestic violence or abuse to the authorities.