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Domestic abuse

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse can cover a wide range of behaviours and may be a single incident or a pattern of incidents.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 says that behaviour is ‘abusive’ if it consists of any of the following:

  • Physical or sexual abuse;
  • Violent or threatening behaviour;
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour;
  • Economic abuse;
  • Psychological, emotional or other abuse.

Domestic violence & abuse also includes:

  • Witnessing a parent being abused by another adult in their life
  • Sexual violence including rape, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, prostitution and trafficking
  • Financial abuse
  • Honour based violence: Any form of abuse justified to protect perceived honour or respect of family or community, can include; forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), assault and murder.
  • Stalking
  • Digital or online abuse: using technology to further isolate, humiliate or control someone.

Types of domestic abuse include;

  • intimate partner violence,
  • abuse by family members,
  • teenage relationship abuse and
  • adolescent to parent violence.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background and domestic abuse can take place inside or outside of the home.

Domestic Abuse and its Impact on children +

Domestic abuse has a significant impact on children and young people.

Children may experience domestic abuse directly, as victims in their own right, or indirectly due to the impact the abuse has on others such as the non-abusive parent.

Under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, children are recognised as victims of domestic abuse in their own right, if they see, hear, or experience the effects of the abuse, and are related to the perpetrator of the abuse or the victim of the abuse. Abuse directed towards the child is defined as child abuse.

Where there is domestic 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 children. It does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.

The perpetrator of the abuse and the victim of the abuse have to be aged 16 or over and are ‘personally connected’ as intimate partners, ex-partners, family members or individuals who share parental responsibility for a child. There is no requirement for the victim and perpetrator to live in the same household.

Behaviours observed in children where domestic abuse is present +

  • Children and young people are likely to experience a range of emotional and behavioural responses, including fear, anxiety, worry, anger and aggression. They may feel isolated and stigmatised, while many have to take on caring responsibilities. The risk of psychological harm is high for those who also experience other forms of abuse and neglect
  • Impact differs by developmental stage: infants may show delayed development, sleep disturbance, temper tantrums and distress; school-age children may develop conduct disorders and difficulties with their peers and find it hard to concentrate; depression, delinquency and aggression are common among adolescents
  • Not all children suffer adverse effects, however. There is evidence that the impact is cumulative, with sustained exposure over time leading to the most severe impact
  • A strong sense of self-esteem and self-efficacy can promote resilience and help children attribute responsibility for the violence to others. Having an adult (usually the mother) who provides consistent support contributes to resilience, while friendships offer vital social support
  • Young people exposed to domestic violence in childhood are more likely to experience violence and abuse in their own relationships. All practitioners who work with young people should ask about violence in intimate peer relationships, as young people are unlikely to disclose it spontaneously

  The following may be indicators that a child is living in an abusive environment:

  • Taking part in dangerous or harmful behaviours
  • Getting into trouble
  • Are unhappy
  • Are worried
  • Are angry and have violent outbursts
  • Find it difficult to control emotions
  • Have sleep difficulties
  • Are afraid of getting hurt
  • Are afraid of someone else getting hurt
  • Attention seeking
  • Poor school attendance
  • Bedwetting, nightmares, insomnia
  • Difficulty in learning at school
  • Tantrums
  • Withdrawal
  • Eating disorder
  • Drug and alcohol misuse (common in teenagers)
  • Sexual or aggressive language
  • Self-harming
  • Frequent and unexplained injuries
  • Parents regularly collecting children from school when drunk or under the influence of drugs.

    The NSPCC has issued guidance for spotting and reporting the signs of abuse in children and adults.

    What questions can I ask a child I suspect is being abused? +

    Initial Questions

    • Is everything all right at home?
    • How are you feeling?
    • Are you getting support you need at home?

    Follow up/direction questions if you feel the child is wanting to open up

    • I noticed a number of bruises/cuts/scratches; how did this happen?
    • Did someone cause these injuries to you? Who is responsible
    • Do you ever feel frightened at home?
    • Sometimes people tell me that their family members are cruel, sometimes emotionally and sometimes psychically – is this happening to you?
    • What happens when family members have disagreement?
    • Have you witnessed adults in your life calling, shouting and pushing each other/you around?

    Domestic abuse in teenage relationships +

    Domestic abuse in teenage relationships is just as severe and has the potential to be as life threatening as abuse in adult relationships. This can be one person trying to maintain power and control over the other. This abuse can take a number of forms: physical, sexual, financial, emotional or social. This includes coercive and controlling behaviour. Victims under 16 should be treated as victims of child abuse and age appropriate consequences should be considered for perpetrators under 16. Abuse involving perpetrators and victims aged between 16 and 18 could be both child and domestic abuse. Relationship abuse is a rising concern among teenagers between the ages of 12 – 18. Research by the NSPCC show a rise in the number of teens who report to have experienced sexual or physical abuse from their teen partner.

    What do I do if I have concerns about a child? +

    Follow the Domestic Abuse

    When responding to incidents of domestic abuse, the practitioner should always find out if there are any children in the household or any children who would normally live in the household. The Police or other agencies should ensure the children are seen and their safety established whenever they attend a domestic abuse incident. Where there are concerns a referral should be made to Children's Social Care in accordance with the Referrals Procedure.

    Click here to report abuse

    If you believe a child is at immediate risk of harm, call 999

    DASH Risk Checklists +

    The Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment Risk Assessment known as DASH is a national risk checklist that is primarily intended for practitioners to provide an understanding of risk to an individual.  When an individual is experiencing domestic abuse, it is important to make an accurate and fast assessment of the danger they are facing, in order to get the right help as soon as possible.

    A DASH risk checklist can be used by any profession and should be undertaken after an allegation has been made.

    The purpose of the DASH is to help practitioners identify and embed a consistent approach to assessing the risk levels of DA victims. All high risk victims should be referred into the MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference) for their risk to be managed.

    What is High risk? A risk that is life-threatening and/or traumatic and from which recovery, whether physical or psychological, can be expected to be difficult or impossible.

    In Warrington there is an expectation that where Domestic Abuse is identified as a risk factor all practitioners will use the DASH Risk Checklist to develop an understanding of the risk someone is facing in relation to domestic abuse. In Warrington practitioners should use the DASH Risk Checklist provided by Safe Lives.

    DASH Risk Checklist

    The tool is designed to identify risk to a victim of domestic abuse.  When completing it with a parent it is very likely to identify children who are also at risk of harm as a result of domestic abuse.  There is a version of the DASH risk assessment specifically for young people (aged 13-17):    Young people's Dash risk checklist with guidance

    The DASH risk checklist can be used for all intimate partner relationships, including LGBTQ+ relationships.  It can also be used for ‘honour’ based violence and interfamilial violence and abuse.

    For further information on DASH access our 7 min brief.

    Many agencies have a MARAC champion who can support you to submit a referral into MARAC.

    For further information on MARAC access our webpage.

    Referral Form for MARAC

    Support services

    Warrington Domestic Abuse Partnership (WDAP)

    The Warrington Domestic Abuse Partnership is made up of council employees, members of the police, local support groups and charities. The group works together to try and reduce domestic abuse in Warrington, and make sure people know about how domestic abuse effects people, families and communities.

    You can contact the WDAP on 01925 443124.

    For further information - Warrington Domestic Abuse Strategy 2021-2024