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1.5.11 Domestic Violence and Abuse


In August 2017, additional information was added in to Related Guidance.


  1. Definition
  2. Coercive and Controlling Behaviour
  3. The impact of Domestic Violence and Abuse on Children
  4. Families with Additional Vulnerabilities
  5. Protection and Action to be Taken
  6. Assessing the Risk of Harm to a Child
  7. Risk and Safety after Separation
  8. Others Options for Protecting Victims and their Children

    Related Guidance

    Further Information

    Appendix 1: Domestic Violence and Abuse Services in Newcastle

1. Definition

The cross government definition of domestic violence and abuse was expanded in 2013 to include coercive and controlling behaviour and to also apply to young people aged 16 – 17.

The definition 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 include but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological;
  • Physical;
  • Sexual;
  • Financial;
  • Emotional.

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent 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 that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.”

This definition includes 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), and forced marriage. Victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group (see Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence Procedure, and Female Genital Mutilation Procedure).

While the cross-government definition above applies to those aged 16 or above, ‘Adolescent to parent violence and abuse ‘(APVA) can involve children under 16 as well as over 16. See: Information guide: adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) Home Office.

Where there is domestic violence and abuse, the wellbeing of the children in the household must be promoted and all assessments must consider the need to safeguard the children, including unborn child/ren.

For more details of the national plans to tackle domestic violence and abuse see Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 – 2020 (March 2016) This is intended to set out a life course approach to ensure that all victims - and their families - have access to the right support at the right time to help them live free from violence and abuse.

Research and experience show that majority of cases of domestic violence concern a male perpetrator and a female victim, in particular where there are child protection concerns. However anyone can become a victim of domestic violence.

Domestic violence can be and is perpetrated by women against men, within same sex relationships, and by other family members such as adult children against their parents or the extended family/community as in cases of honour based abuse.

2. Coercive and Controlling Behaviour

The Offence of Coercive or Controlling Behaviour came into force on 29 December 2015. The legislation enables charges to be brought where there is evidence of repeated, or continuous, controlling or coercive behaviour within an intimate or family relationship.

Traditionally, domestic violence has been understood to be an incident or series of incidents of physical violence perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner. The term Coercive Control helps us understand domestic violence and abuse as more than a “fight”, by identifying that it is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self and violate their human rights.

Coercive Control is the range of tactics used by perpetrators and the impact those actions have on victims/survivors. It highlights the important role control plays in abusive relationships. Sometimes no physical violence is used at all, or the violence that is used may appear ‘minor’, but behind that is the element of control exerted by the perpetrator.

The perpetrator creates a world in which the victim is constantly monitored and criticised; every move is checked against an unpredictable, ever-changing, unknowable ‘rule-book’. Violence is used (or not) alongside a range of other tactics – isolation, degradation, mind-games, and the micro-regulation of everyday life, e.g. monitoring phone calls, what they wear, when and what they eat, socialisation.

The perpetrator sets the rules on how his partner should behave towards him, rules about how she cooks, cleans, takes care of the children, performs sexually and socialises. Surveillance continues even when the perpetrator is not present, e.g. constant phones calls or texts, using children to report on the victim’s activity. The perpetrator can come to appear omnipotent, often aided by modern technology and social media.

Fear and confusion are central to our understanding of coercive control with the victim feeling like she is walking on eggshells and living in constant terror.

Children growing up in this environment also live with constant fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

3. The impact of Domestic Violence and Abuse on Children

Children exposed to violence will react in different ways and have different levels of resilience. Not every child who witnesses abuse will experience long-term difficulties.

Children who are exposed to violence in the home may suffer a range of severe and lasting effects. They may have difficulty learning, limited social skills, exhibit violent or risky behaviour, or suffer from depression or severe anxiety.

Children who grow up in a violent home are also more likely to be victims of child abuse. Those who are not direct victims have some of the same behavioural and psychological problems as children who are themselves physically abused. Children in the earliest years of life are particularly vulnerable and studies show that domestic violence is more prevalent in homes with younger children than those with older children.

The emotional responses of children who witness domestic violence and abuse may include fear, guilt, shame, sleep disturbances, sadness, depression, and anger (at both the abuser for the violence and at the non-abusing parent for being unable to protect them).

Physical responses may include stress-induced aches and pains, bedwetting, and an inability to concentrate. Some children are the direct victims of other types of abuse or injured while trying to intervene on behalf of their siblings or the non-abusing parent.

The behavioural responses of children who witness domestic violence and abuse can include acting out, withdrawal, or being anxious to please. A change in achievement or behaviour at school can be an indicator of problems at home.

Domestic violence and abuse may have a long term psychological and emotional impact in a number of ways:

  • Children may be greatly distressed by witnessing (seeing or hearing) the physical and emotional suffering of a parent, or witnessing the outcome of any assault;
  • Children may be pressurised into concealing assaults, and experience the fear and anxiety of living in an environment where abuse occurs;
  • The domestic violence and abuse may impact negatively on an adult victim’s parenting capacity;
  • Children may be drawn into the violence and themselves become victims of physical abuse.

For children living in situations of domestic violence and abuse, the effects may result in behavioural issues, absence from school, difficulties concentrating, lower school achievement, ill health, bullying, substance misuse, self-harm, running away, anti-social behaviour and physical injury.

The impact of domestic violence and abuse on an individual child will vary according to the child’s resilience and the strengths and limitations of their particular circumstances. The impact of domestic violence on children is similar to the effects of any other abuse or trauma and will depend upon such factors as:

  • The severity and nature of the violence;
  • The length of time the child is exposed to the violence;
  • Personal resilience and characteristics of the child, e.g. gender, ethnic origin, age, disability, socio-economic and cultural background;
  • The warmth and support the child receives in their relationship with the non-abusive parent, siblings and other family members;
  • The nature and length of the child’s wider relationships and social networks;
  • The child’s capacity for and actual level of self-protection.

Prenatally, children are also impacted by domestic violence because pregnancy is a key time of risk when domestic violence may begin or escalate.

During pregnancy, domestic violence and abuse can pose a threat to an unborn child because assaults on pregnant women often involve punches or kicks directed at the abdomen, risking injury to both the mother and the foetus. In almost a third of cases, domestic violence and abuse begins or escalates during pregnancy and it is associated with increased rates of miscarriage, premature birth, foetal injury and foetal death. The mother may be prevented from seeking or receiving anti-natal care or post-natal care. In addition, if the mother is being abused this can affect her attachment to her child, more so if the pregnancy is a result of rape by her partner.

Young people themselves can be subjected to domestic violence and abuse in their intimate relationships and in order to force them into marriage or to punish him/her for ‘bringing dishonour on the family’. This abuse may be carried out by several members of a family increasing the young person’s sense of isolation and powerlessness.

See also:

NSCB Principles Underpinning the Work To Safeguard And Promote The Welfare Of Children

NSCB Concerns About a Child Procedures;

NSCB procedures for Welfare of the Unborn Child:


Professionals should be alert to the signs that a child or adult may be experiencing domestic violence and abuse, or that a partner/parent may be perpetrating domestic violence and abuse.

During an assessment, professionals should always consider the need to offer children and adults the opportunity of being seen alone and ask whether they are experiencing, or have previously experienced, domestic violence and abuse.

Professionals who are in contact with adults who behave in a threatening or abusive way towards them need to be alert to the potential that these individuals may be abusive in their personal relationships and assess whether domestic violence and abuse is occurring within their family. 

Considerations in assessments where domestic violence and abuse may be present include:

  • Check whether domestic violence and abuse has occurred whenever child abuse is suspected and considering the impact of this at all stages of assessment, enquiries and intervention. This should include checks with Northumbria Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People’s Unit as well as carrying out domestic violence and abuse risk assessment screening processes;
  • Identify those who are responsible for the domestic violence and abuse, in order that relevant family law or criminal justice responses may be made;
  • Provide victims with full information about their legal rights, and about the extent and limits of statutory duties and powers;
  • Help victims and children to get protection from violence, by providing relevant practical and other assistance;
  • Support non-abusing parents to protect themselves and their children;
  • Take into account that there may be continued or increased risk of domestic violence and abuse towards the abused parent and/or child after separation especially in connection with post-separation child contact arrangements;
  • Work separately with each parent because domestic violence and abuse will prevent non-abusing parents from speaking freely and participating without fear of retribution;
  • Work with the perpetrator to help them understand the impact of the domestic violence and abuse on their children.

4. Families with Additional Vulnerabilities

All professionals should understand the following issues, which do not in themselves cause domestic violence and can increase the vulnerability of victims and their children and/or compound the domestic violence. Professionals should take these into consideration when providing support:

  • Culture;
  • Immigration;
  • No recourse to public funds;
  • Language / literacy;
  • Temporary accommodation;
  • Recent trauma;
  • Disability;
  • Social exclusion;
  • Sexual orientation and identity;
  •  Drugs, alcohol and substance misuse.

Further information is available at:

NSCB Safeguarding Children Procedures, Children in Need guidance is available here.

The NSCB also has a variety of supplemental guidance on a number of related issues, which are available here.

5. Protection and Action to be Taken

Domestic violence and abuse are complex issues that need sensitive handling by a range of health and social care professionals. The cost, in both human and economic terms, is so significant that even marginally effective interventions are cost effective (NICE 2014).

The three central imperatives of any intervention for children living with domestic violence are:

  • To protect the children,
  • To support the non-abusing parent to protect her/himself and any children they may have,
  • To hold the abusive partner accountable for his/her violence and provide him/her with opportunities to change.

Working in a multi-agency partnership is the most effective way to approach the issue at both an operational and a strategic level. Initial and ongoing training and organisational support is also needed (NICE 2014).

When responding to incidents of domestic violence, the practitioner should always find out if there are any children in the household or any children who would normally live in the household. Whenever they attend a domestic violence and abuse incident, the Police or other agencies should ensure the children are seen and spoken to, and their safety established.

Where there are concerns, a referral should be made to Children’s social care in accordance with the NSCB referral procedures available here.

6. Assessing the Risk of Harm to a Child

Fundamental to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of each child is having a child centred approach, which includes speaking directly to the child, seeing the child, and keeping the child in focus throughout assessments, while working with the child and family, and when reviewing whether the child is safe and his or her needs are being met.

This is in keeping with The NSCB ‘Principles Underpinning the Work to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children’ which can be found here.

In assessing risk of harm to a child, it is important to explore both:

  • Areas of risk and
  • Protective factors

in relation to perpetrators, victims and their children. This will help guide the levels of intervention required with the child / mother / family.

The younger the children in the family, or the presence of additional needs, the higher the risk to their safety.

Babies under 12 months old are particularly vulnerable to violence. Professionals who become aware of an incident of domestic violence and abuse in a family with a child under 12 months old (even if the child was not present) or in families where a woman is pregnant, should always complete a risk assessment to determine what action is required, including consideration of whether a referral to Children’s Social Care should take place.


MARAC (Multi-Agency-Risk-Assessment-Conference) is a fortnightly meeting where information is shared on the highest risk domestic abuse victim/survivors aged 16 and above. Representatives of local police, health, child protection, housing practitioners, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) and other specialists from the statutory and voluntary sectors attend the meeting and develop plans to reduce the risk level for the victim.

In all cases where a referral is made for a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) to plan intervention in relation to a high risk domestic violence situation if there are children in the family, a referral must be made to Children’s Social Care.

To make a referral into MARAC, speak to the MARAC Single Point of Contact (SPOC) within your organisation.

Assessing the risk to the mother using the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence Risk Indicator Checklist (DASH-RIC)

The Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Based Violence - Risk Identification Checklist, (DASH – RIC) was developed by Safelives (formerly CAADA) as a common checklist for identifying and assessing risk, which will save lives.

This form was also designed for agencies that are part of the MARAC process and is used by professionals and agencies across Newcastle to assess the level of risk of victims of domestic violence and for referral into MARAC, as appropriate.

The Safelives DASH RIC (including in languages other than English) can be found here.

The primary purpose of the RIC is to identify risk to the adult victim and to be able to offer appropriate resources/support in the form of the MARAC process for the most serious cases. Furthermore, the information from the checklist enables agencies to make defensible decisions based on evidence from extensive research of cases, including domestic homicides and ‘near misses’, which forms the basis of the most recognised models of risk assessment.

Practitioners should speak to their MARAC SPOC to identify who in their organisation has been trained to carry out this risk assessment.

The results from the checklist are not a definitive assessment of risk. However, they do provide a structure to inform professional judgement and act as prompts to further questioning, analysis and risk management whether via a MARAC or in another way. If a professional has completed the checklist, this gives additional valuable information to help in making a sound decision.

Practitioners must be aware that the DASH is a risk identification checklist and not a full risk assessment nor a case management form. It is a practical tool that can help identify who should be referred to MARAC and how the use of resources should be prioritised.

Risk is dynamic and practitioners need to be alert to the fact that risk can change very suddenly. The presence of children increases the wider risks of domestic violence and step children are particularly at risk. However, this DASH RIC tool is not a full risk assessment for children. If risk towards children is highlighted, professionals should consider what referral is needed to obtain a full assessment of the children’s situation.

7. Risk and safety after separation

Statistically the period following separation is the most dangerous time for serious injury and death. In situations where the adult victim has left the perpetrator taking the child/ren with them, professionals need to be alert that there is on-going potential for risk to the victim and any children.

The dynamics of domestic violence are based on the perpetrator maintaining power and control over their partner. Challenges to that power and control, such as the victim leaving the relationship, may increase the likelihood of escalating violence.

Professionals in contact with children and their families where there has been a separation would need to consider:

  • The previous level of physical danger to the adult victim and in particular the presence of child/ren during violent episodes;
  • The previous pattern of power, control and intimidation in addition to the physical violence;
  • The level of coercive or manipulative behaviour of the parent who was violent;
  • Any threats to hurt or kill family members or abduct the child/ren;
  • Any information about parental drug or alcohol misuse, or poor mental health;
  • Any reported stalking or obsession about the separated partner or the family;
  • The motivation of the parent in seeking / maintaining contact with the child/ren; (is it a desire to promote the child’s best interest or a means of continuing intimidation, harassment or violence to the other parent?);
  • The child/ren’s views about contact and whether they have any worries about the contact taking place;
  • Has there been a shared decision regarding the arrangements for contact, including location;
  • The likely or reported behaviour of the parent during contact and its effect on the child;
  • The partner’s level of care and supervision of the child/ren in the past;
  • The attitude of the abusing parent to their past violence, their capacity to appreciate its effect, and whether they are motivated and have the capacity to change;
  • Be alert to cultural issues when dealing with ethnic minority victims and that, in leaving a partner, they may be ostracised by family, friends and the wider community increasing the risks to their safety.

8. Others Options for Protecting Victims and their Children

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) were implemented across England and Wales in March 2014.

DVPOs provide protection to victims by enabling the police and magistrates to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.

With DVPOs, a perpetrator can be banned with immediate effect from returning to a residence and from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days, allowing the victim time to consider their options and get the support they need.

Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (‘Clare’s Law’)

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS) (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’) also commenced in England and Wales in March 2014. The DVDS gives members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about an individual with whom they are in a relationship, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be violent towards their partner. This scheme adds a further dimension to the information sharing about children where there are concerns that domestic violence and abuse is impacting on the care and welfare of the children in the family.

Members of the public can make an application for a disclosure, known as the ‘right to ask’. Anybody can make an enquiry, but information will only be given to someone at risk or a person in a position to safeguard the victim. The scheme is for anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of gender.

Partner agencies can also request that disclosure is made of an offender’s past history where it is believed someone is at risk of harm. This is known as ‘right to know’.

If a potentially violent individual is identified as having convictions for violent offences, or information is held about their behaviour which reasonably leads the police and other agencies to believe they pose a risk of harm to their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.

Risk Assessment / Indicator Tools

There are many risk assessment models and ‘tools’ available. Practitioners need to be confident that the use of a particular tool has been adopted and supported by the agencies in their area. Any risk assessment tool being used should be both culturally sensitive and explicitly consider the risks to the children. It should not be exclusively adult focused. The use of any risk assessment tool should be underpinned by a thorough analysis of the information otherwise available such as past history of offending. The risks should be interpreted to also determine the potential dangerousness of the alleged perpetrator.

The full extent of the impact on children of exposure to domestic violence and abuse is often not fully understood until a child feels safe; they will need several opportunities over a period of time to talk about their experiences.

Children can also experience domestic violence and abuse within their own relationships. Girls are more likely than boys to report experiencing abuse in their intimate relationships, and younger adolescents are just as likely as older adolescents to experience it. Most children and young people do not tell an adult about this abuse.

The issue of domestic violence and abuse should only ever be raised with a child or victim when they are safely on their own and in a private place. Remember, separation does not ensure safety; it often increases the risk to the child/ren or mother / victim.

Information from the public, family or community members must be taken sufficiently seriously by professionals in statutory and voluntary agencies. Recent research evidence indicates that failure to do so has been a contributory factor in a significant number of cases where a child has been seriously harmed or died.

Staff Safety Working with Families where there is Domestic Violence

Risk of violence towards professionals should be considered by all agencies who work in the area of domestic violence and abuse and assessments of risk should be undertaken when necessary. It is acknowledged that intimidating or threatening behaviour towards professionals may inhibit the professional’s ability to work effectively.

The importance of effective supervision and management is highlighted and agencies should take account of the impact or potential impact on professionals in planning their involvement in situations of domestic violence and abuse.

Related Guidance

Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 – 2020 (March 2016)

Domestic Abuse: A Resource for Health Professionals (DoH, 2017)

Royal College of Nursing – Domestic Abuse: Professional Resources - links to websites and organisations providing relevant information and support to victims of domestic abuse.

Further Information

Domestic Violence Training

Safe Newcastle delivers a Domestic Violence and Abuse Multi-Agency Training Programme across a range of topics including:

  • Domestic Violence Awareness;
  • Children Living with Domestic Violence;
  • Assessing and Managing Risk in Domestic Violence and Abuse cases;
  • Working with Male Perpetrators;
  • Responding to Domestic Violence and Abuse.

All of the courses are delivered in a multi-agency setting. Training is free to most organisations operating within Newcastle upon Tyne. Profit-making organisations and organisations operating outside of Newcastle are welcome to attend but will be expected to pay a fee.

In addition to these multi agency training events, Safe Newcastle can provide tailored training to meet an organisation’s specific requirements. There may be a charge for this.

For further details on Safe Newcastle DVA Training, or to discuss your organisation’s requirements and receive a quote for tailored training, please contact:

Joanne Douglas
Workforce Development and Training Officer (Domestic and Sexual Violence)
0191 211 5872 / 07881 686 568

Appendix 1: Domestic Violence and Abuse Services in Newcastle

Click here to view Appendix 1: Domestic Violence and Abuse Services in Newcastle