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I'm working with someone suffering domestic abuse (professionals)

Middlesbrough Council is committed to the long term prevention and reduction of domestic abuse. We believe that every individual and family in the town should feel safe and secure, and be free from experiencing violence or abuse.

View the council's:

Domestic Abuse Act 2021

What is the Domestic Abuse Act 2021?


The Domestic Abuse Act became law in April 2021, and with it a number of changes were required across the UK in how we respond to domestic abuse and support victims and their children.

Middlesbrough Council and the wider Domestic Abuse Strategic Partnership have worked together to ensure the duties are implemented appropriately.

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021:

  1. Establishes a legal definition of domestic abuse.
  2. Provides additional protections for those who experience domestic abuse.
  3. Strengthens measures to tackle perpetrators of domestic abuse.
  4. Recognises children who witness domestic abuse as victims in their own right.
  5. Increases the responsibilities of local authorities to provide services for victims and survivors.
  6. Creates local and national governance roles.

What is considered safe accommodation under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021?


Refuge accommodation

A refuge offers single-gender or single-sex accommodation and domestic abuse support which is tied to that accommodation.

Victims, including their children, will have access to a planned programme of therapeutic and practical support from staff.

Accommodation may be in shared or self-contained housing, but in both cases the service will enable peer support from other refuge residents.

Specialist safe accommodation

Specialist safe accommodation offering single-gender or single-sex accommodation, alongside dedicated domestic abuse support which is tailored to also support those who share particular protected characteristics or who share one or more vulnerabilities requiring additional support.

Accommodation may be in shared or self-contained housing.

Dispersed accommodation

1. Safe (secure and dedicated to supporting victims of domestic abuse), self-contained accommodation with a similar level of specialist domestic abuse support as provided within a refuge but which may be more suitable for victims who are unable to stay in a refuge with communal spaces, or where peer support from other residents may not be appropriate, due to complex support needs, or where older teenage sons cannot be accommodated in a women only refuge, for example.

2. Safe (secure and dedicated to supporting victims of domestic abuse), self-contained 'semi-independent' accommodation which is not within a refuge but with support for victims who may not require the intensive support offered through refuge, but are still at risk of abuse from their perpetrator.

Sanctuary schemes

Sanctuary schemes which provide enhanced physical security measures to a home or the perimeter of the home. A sanctuary scheme is a survivor-centred initiative which aims to make it possible for victims of domestic abuse to remain in their own homes, where it is safe for them to do so, where it is their choice, and where the perpetrator does not live in the accommodation.

Second stage (move on) accommodation

Accommodation temporarily provided to victims, including their children, who are moving on from other forms of relevant accommodation or who no longer need the intensive level of support provided in a refuge, but would still benefit from a lower level of domestic abuse specific support for a period before they move to fully independent and settled accommodation.

Not all victims or survivors will need this. Many are ready to move straight to a settled new home from refuge. However, second stage accommodation (sometimes known as 'move-on') may be helpful in some cases.

Other forms of domestic abuse emergency accommodation

A safe place (single-gendered or single-sex, secure and dedicated to supporting victims of domestic abuse) with domestic abuse support tied to the accommodation to enable victims to make informed decisions when leaving a perpetrator and seeking safe accommodation.

For example, short term (for example, 2 to 3 weeks') accommodation providing victims with the space and safety to consider and make informed decisions about the options available to them.

Working with adults

How to work with those suffering domestic abuse


Practitioners should proactively engage with those who are vulnerable and hidden, at the earliest opportunity, rather than only reactively engaging with those who are in crisis or at imminent risk of serious harm.

When supporting a victim of domestic violence and abuse it may help to follow these guidelines.

Support – if a victim tells you about a violent or abusive situation, listen, offer support, and help them decide what the next step is.

Remember to be non-judgemental – victims mustn't feel that they're being pressurised or judged by people they approach for help, even if they've made a previous decision to return to, or take back, their violent partner.

Give victims choice – when presented with options, victims should decide for themselves what they do next, so they feel in control of their life.

Remind victims that the violence and abuse isn't their fault. Many who live with violence and abuse blame themselves. Whatever the circumstances, violence and abuse can't be justified. Violent partners will often blame the victim for their actions.

Reassure them about their children – many victims don't seek help because of a fear that their children will be taken into care. Violent partners often play on this fear. It's important to stress that this won't happen unless there's an indication of serious neglect or abuse.

Equal opportunities – domestic violence and abuse affects all victims regardless of age, race, disability, and sexuality. It's important that victims are treated as individuals and that assumptions aren't made about what a victim will or won't want because of their age, or because of ethnicity, disability, sexuality, and/or whether s/he has children

Confidentiality – victims must know that any information they give will be treated as confidential, including their whereabouts, and won't be passed on without their permission unless there are safeguarding or legal reasons for doing so. (The boundaries of confidentiality should be clearly identified – refer to your own agency and/or local multi-agency guidelines relevant to domestic abuse and child protection).

Believe – victims shouldn't be required to provide proof of violence (e.g. bruising). Physical assault is only one aspect of domestic abuse. Threats of violence and mental cruelty are equally as damaging as physical violence. Victims should be believed on the basis of their own statements and shouldn't be required to provide supporting evidence from witnesses.

Never assume that the violence isn't serious. Some victims will minimise their experience or only refer to less serious incidents. Always assume that they're at risk and give information accordingly, so that if an emergency occurs the victim will know what to do.

Reassure the victim that there are many agencies that can help. The important thing is that the person feels supported. If you feel that you're not the best agency to provide advice, contact one of the specialist agencies like Harbour, My Sisters Place, or Halo.

If possible, talk to the victim in private. Ensure that anyone who may be the perpetrator can't overhear the conversation, and check with the victim in a discreet way if they'd like someone to be with them, e.g. a friend

If an interpreter is needed make sure they're clear about their role and about the rules of confidentiality under which they're working. The victim must feel comfortable with who the interpreter is and the way they work, and agree to them being present. Always speak directly to the victim and not to the support person.

Have as much information available as possible before the discussion begins. Basic information about options and agencies who can help is useful, and will save you from having to keep interrupting the discussion.


  • Listen carefully
  • Prioritise the victim, and their children's, safety
  • Find out what the victim wants and let them choose what they need from you
  • Find out if the victim would prefer to talk to someone else (for example, a woman, an Asian woman)
  • Provide information about options, and don't make choices for the victim
  • Tell the victim about services which can help
  • Focus on facts, and keep opinions to yourself
  • Believe the victim and reassure them that it's not their fault
  • Be clear about confidentiality
  • Be patient and respectful
  • Ask the victim what is the safest way of contacting them
  • Keep clear records and don't disclose any information that may put the victim at risk
  • Be clear about safeguarding procedures and information sharing


  • Panic
  • Look shocked or horrified
  • Assume the violence isn't serious
  • Talk too much
  • Tell the victim what to do
  • Guess at the information
  • Expect too much
  • Moan about how things are
  • Offer more than you can deliver
  • Act as a mediator or point of contact with the perpetrator

Working with children

How children feel


Children who live with domestic violence and abuse may feel:

  • Powerless: because they can't stop the violence
  • Confused: because it doesn't make sense
  • Angry: because it shouldn't be happening
  • Guilty: because they think they've done something wrong
  • Sad: because it's a loss
  • Afraid: because they may be hurt, they may lose someone they love, others may find out
  • Alone: because they think it's only happening to them

Talking to children about domestic abuse


When talking to children about domestic abuse, tell them that:

  • What's happening isn't okay
  • It's not your fault
  • It must be scary for you
  • I'll listen to you
  • I'm sorry you had to see/hear it
  • You don't deserve to have this in your family
  • There's nothing you could've done to prevent it/change it

Benefits of talking to children about domestic abuse

  • Children feel safer
  • They learn that violence isn't their fault
  • They learn that violence isn't an OK way to solve problems
  • It helps them to feel cared for, and understood
  • Children learn that it’s OK to talk about feelings

How you can help children who have witnessed/experienced domestic abuse

  • Talk about it with them when they are ready
  • Listen to them
  • Talk about their feelings
  • Show understanding
  • Let them know it’s not their fault
  • Let them talk, if they want to
  • Let them know you will try to keep them safe/act in a way that is safe
  • Let them know that violence is not OK
  • Acknowledge it’s hard/scary for them
  • Accept that they may not be willing or able to talk about it right away

How denial affects children

  • They'll learn that violence is normal
  • They're afraid to talk about the violence
  • They're confused, don't understand
  • They blame themselves
  • They learn to deny and not talk about their own feelings
  • It makes them feel like they're crazy
  • It makes them feel isolated and lonely
  • They learn that it's not okay to ask about the violence or discuss it
  • It gives the children unrealistic beliefs about the cause of violence

Domestic abuse children and young people service (My Sisters Place)


We commission a therapeutic service for children and young people aged 4 to 18 years who have experienced domestic abuse. The service is delivered by My Sisters Place. Find out more about the children and young people's service and how to refer.


DASH Risk Checklist


What is DASH? Read our quick guide.

When someone is experiencing domestic abuse, it's vital to make an accurate and fast assessment of the danger they're in, so they can get the right help as quickly as possible. The DASH risk checklist is a tried and tested way to understand risk. DASH stands for domestic abuse, stalking and 'honour-based' violence. You can download the DASH risk checklist from the Safe Lives website.

Video: An introduction to risk identification in domestic abuse cases

MATAC (multi-agency tasking and co-ordination) process


Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programme (DAPP) referral


A domestic abuse perpetrator can be referred to Harbour Support services using the Harbour referral form.

Children experiencing domestic abuse


Toxic Trio


The term 'Toxic Trio' is used to describe the issues of domestic abuse, mental ill health, and substance misuse, which have been identified as a common features of families where harm to children has occurred. They are viewed as indicators of increased risk of harm to children and young people.

Safe Lives guidance on risk, threat and the Toxic Trio

Illegal cultural harms (female genital mutilation, forced marriage, 'honour-based' violence)


The Halo Project provides confidential advice, specialist support, and safe, secure housing and refuge accommodation for Black and minoritised (BME) women and girl victims and survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence, and hidden harms, including honour-based abuse, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.

Female genital mutilation (FGM)

What is FGM? Read our quick guide.

Home Office FGM campaign posters and FGM campaign pack

FGM resource pack (from GOV.UK)

About FGM (from NHS.UK)

About FGM (from NSPCC)

Forced marriage

What is forced marriage? Read our quick guide

Forced marriage guidance (from GOV.UK) including how to protect, advise and support victims of forced marriage.

Posters, leaflets and videos about forced marriage (from GOV.UK)

Identifying and engaging with young people at risk of forced marriage

'Honour-based' violence

What is 'honour-based' violence? Read our quick guide

Dealing with domestic abuse in the workplace




What is stalking?

Report a stalker

Support services

National Stalking Helpline
Phone: 0808 802 0300
National Stalking Helpline website

Paladin, National Stalking Advocacy Service
Providing advocacy to anyone at risk of serious harm or homicide from a stalker.
Phone: 020 3866 4107
Paladin website

Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Aiming to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through campaigning, education and support.
Phone: 0808 802 0300
Suzy Lamplugh Trust website

Trauma-informed approach to domestic abuse


Adopting a trauma-informed approach to domestic abuse means attending to the survivor’s emotional as well as physical safety.

Just as services help victims and survivors to increase their access to economic resources, physical safety, and legal protections, using a trauma-informed approach means they assist survivors in strengthening their own psychological capacities to deal with multiple complex issues that many face when accessing safety, recovering from the trauma of domestic abuse, other lifetime abuse, and rebuilding their lives.

It also means ensuring victims and survivors of domestic abuse have access to services in an environment which is inclusive, welcoming, and non-traumatising.

For more information about the trauma-informed approach, visit the My Sister's Place website or call them on 01642 241 864.

Universal Credit and domestic abuse


Information is available about additional support in place for victims of domestic abuse who are receiving Universal Credit.

Examples of support include temporary exemptions from work-related requirements, and the ability to split Universal Credit payments between two accounts, giving the victim the ability to manage and safeguard their own money.

Help available from the Department for Work and Pensions for people who are victims of domestic violence and abuse (Universal Credit is section 5)

Clare's Law and requesting domestic violence offender data


What is Clare's Law? Read our quick guide.

The domestic violence disclosure scheme is often called 'Clare's Law' after the landmark case that led to it.

Clare's Law gives any member of the public the right to ask the police if their partner may pose a risk to them.

Under Clare's Law, a member of the public can also make enquiries into the partner of a close friend or family member.

Deaf adults and young people experiencing domestic abuse


SignHealth provides advice and support for Deaf adults and young people experiencing domestic abuse. They also deliver prevention workshops as well as closed groups for Deaf survivors.

Child and adolescent to parent violence (CAPVA)


Baker and Bonnick have written three briefing papers for people new to the issue of CAPVA.

1. Briefing paper 1 - What do we mean by child and adolescent to parent violence and abuse? Definitions. Impact. Who does it affect? What are the indicators? What age can it start?

2. Briefing paper 2 - Why does CAPVA happen? What are the contributing factors? Case studies.

3. Briefing paper 3 - What can we do about it? Case studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of the strategies outlined.

AVA Staying Mum Project


The Staying Mum project highlighted the experience and impact of child removal for mothers facing domestic and sexual violence and abuse. The project produced a number of useful resources.

Peer research which makes practical recommendations that stretch across the family courts, lawyers, and child protection officials (for example, social services, Cafcass). These aim to improve responses and outcomes for mothers and their children at risk of removal.

The Staying Mum section on AVA's Breathing Space provides information and support for mothers facing domestic abuse who are worried about their children being removed from their care. The online resource provides guidance on navigating the Family Court system and managing day to day, with advice from others who have had similar experiences.

The Staying Mum eLearning is for professionals working with mothers who are survivors of domestic abuse and have had children removed from their care, or are at risk of having children removed in future.

Find out more about the Staying Mum project.

What is IRIS?


IRIS is a training and support referral programme whereby GPs create pathways to domestic abuse support for patients.

The IRIS Educator is a specialist domestic abuse worker who provides domestic abuse training for all staff in the practice, and receives referrals for domestic abuse support direct from the practice.

The IRIS Educator for Middlesbrough can be contacted by calling My Sisters Place on 01642 241864 or emailing hello@mysistersplace.co.uk.