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Luton Borough Council

Domestic abuse

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What is domestic abuse?

  • Domestic abuse is the repeated abuse of a person (or persons) over 16 years of age, who are or have been, in an intimate or a family relationship.
  • Domestic abuse is about the use of threats and intimidation by one person to control another person and make them feel scared to speak out about what is happening.
  • Domestic abuse usually happens in private or in the home and the control and abuse build up over time. It can be very difficult to recognise and talk about outside the relationship.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, circumstances or background.

If you're a victim of domestic abuse, it is not your fault. You are not alone. There are many people who can help you and your children. If left unchallenged then domestic abuse will usually get worse over time.

The current government definition of domestic abuse is:
'Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality'. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

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Psychological abuse is when one person (the abuser) attempts to frighten, control, or isolate another person (the victim). Psychological abuse is non-physical but it is just as damaging as violence to the victim.

Physical abuse is probably the most recognisable form of domestic abuse. It includes any kind of physical violence or assault that causes any kind of injury, whether the injury is visible or not. It could include: pushing, shoving, slappingpunching, hitting with a hand or a weapon, kicking, biting, strangulation, smothering and choking, drowning, restraining or other rough handling. Physical abuse usually gets worse over time and in the most extreme cases it can result in serious harm or death.

Sexual abuse is when the abuser uses pressure, force or threats to make a victim have sex or perform sexual acts. It might include an abuser forcing a victim to watch or take part in pornography or other sexual activities that they do not feel comfortable performing.

Financial abuse is when the abuser controls how a victim makes or spends their money or prevents access to money or benefits, building up debts, hiding money or not taking responsibility for bills, child maintenance etc.

Emotional abuse includes mental torture, blackmail, threats to hurt or kill the victim or children or a family pet, controlling someone or not letting them out of their home on their own, not letting them make contact with their family or friends or to have access to money or obtain a job of their choice.

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make the victim dependent on the abuser by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse by the abuser that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

It is a criminal offence in England and Wales for someone to subject you to coercive control. If you experience this kind of abuse you can report it to the police. Go to the Bedfordshire Domestic Abuse Partnership website to find out more about the signs and impact of coercive control.

There are other forms of harmful practices that are also covered by the domestic abuse definition:

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What can I do if domestic abuse is happening to me or to someone I know?

The important thing to remember is that there is help and support available for everyone, no matter their circumstances and no matter what kind, or level of abuse they are experiencing.

If you are affected by domestic abuse we would encourage you to tell someone you trust about what is happening. This is an important first step in acknowledging the abuse and in getting the support that you need to make you and your children safe. You could talk to a friend, neighbour, colleague or line manager, family member or talk in confidence to a professional (helpline, support worker, employee assistance programme, teacher, GP, or the police).

If you believe that you or somebody else is in danger then please always call 999.

If you are a professional working with someone affected by domestic abuse then there is information available, including advice about the MARAC on the Bedfordshire Domestic Abuse Partnership website.

Luton Council Employees can also refer to domestic abuse page on public health and wellbeing share-point site.

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List of local and national services for advice and support

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