Domestic Abuse

Identifying, Assessing Risk and Responding to Domestic Abuse

What is domestic abuse?

The home office 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:

  • 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, which is not a legal definition,  includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Identification of domestic abuse

If you hear or are experiencing any of the following by an intimate partner or a family member, regardless of sexuality or gender, consider that this may be domestic abuse and needs further formal risk assessment 

Emotional abuse

 Does an intimate partner or a family member ever:

  • belittle you, or put you down?
  • blame you for the abuse or arguments?
  • deny that abuse is happening, or downplay it?
  • isolate you from your family and friends?
  • stop you going to college or work?
  • make unreasonable demands for your attention?
  • accuse you of flirting or having affairs?
  • tell you what to wear, who to see, where to go, and what to think?
  • control, spend or gamble money, or not give you enough to buy food or other essential things?
  • monitor your social media profiles, share photos or videos of you without your consent or use GPS locator's to know where you are?

Threats and intimidation

Does an intimate partner or a family member ever:

  • threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • destroy things that belong to you?
  • stand over you, invade your personal space?
  • threaten to kill themselves or the children?
  • threaten to harm or kill pets or animals?
  • read your emails, texts or letters?
  • harass or follow you?

Physical abuse

The person abusing you may hurt you in a number of ways.

Does an intimate partner or a family member ever:

  • slap, hit or punch you?
  • push or shove you?
  • bite or kick you?
  • burn you?
  • choke you or hold you down?
  • throw things? 

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone.

Does an intimate partner or a family member ever:

  • touch you in a way you do not want to be touched?
  • make unwanted sexual demands?
  • hurt you during sex?
  • pressure you to have unsafe sex – for example, not using a condom?
  • pressure you to have sex?

If domestic abuse is suspected, you need to ensure the following formal risk assessment is completed:

In some circumstances, a full DASH risk assessment cannot be completed or the suspected victim does not give consent or does not answer all of the DASH risk assessment questions. If you are concerned that the level of abuse is high, you should complete the DASH risk assessment documenting those concerns and refer to Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) using your professional judgement. 

Support to complete the DASH risk assessment can be sought from the IDAS Helpline on 0808 808 2241 Mon-Fri 8am-7pm (not Bank Holidays) Sat 9am-5pm. Interpreter services will be provided for those that require them. 

Assessing risk of domestic abuse

The aim of the domestic abuse referral pathway is to provide a consistent approach across Sheffield when responding to domestic abuse. It provides guidance on topics such as patient consent, those at serious risk of harm or death (homicide and suicide) and where to access advice and resources on risk assessment. 

Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS) now provide services to support victims of domestic abuse in Sheffield.

There are a range of services offered by the IDAS Helpline including:

  • Advice, support and safety for people experiencing domestic and sexual abuse
  • Advice and support on keeping yourself safe
  • A service to women, men, children, young people, practitioners and worried families
  • Up-to-date access to services in Sheffield and available refuge spaces.

They can be contacted on 0808 808 2241 Mon-Fri 8am-7pm (not Bank Holidays) Sat 9am-5pm.

If you phone the Helpline and they can't speak your language, they can arrange an interpreter. You can also email them in your language and they will get back to you help@sheffielddact.org.uk

There is also an online Chat Facility available everyday between 4-6pm via the IDAS website.

If the IDAS Helpline is unavailable, you can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Responding to those experiencing domestic abuse

Using the DASH Risk Assessment (Combined DASH Risk Assessment and MARAC Referral Form) and your professional judgement, you should have ascertained the level of risk of harm from domestic abuse to the person and others for example, children, adults at risk and animals in the home and raise appropriate safeguarding concerns.

The domestic abuse services use the following risk categories:

High Risk - There are identifiable indicators of imminent risk of serious harm. Serious harm is 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. This risk is dynamic meaning it could happen at any time and the impact will be serious.

Actions for those at High Risk -

  • Consider if anything disclosed requires an immediate 999 response (due to injury, breach of non-molestation orders, risk to others etc
  • Complete and send via email the combined DASH Risk Assessment and MARAC Referral Form. Consent to refer to MARAC should be sought but is not required as the risk to life has been assessed to be high
  • Refer to IDAS
  • Offer basic safety advice such as carrying a charged mobile phone, if suspecting an attack avoid rooms in the house with potential weapons such as the kitchen and garage, rehearse an escape plan and how to get help in an emergency and involve your children and neighbours were possible
  • If the person or others in the household have care and support needs (even if these are currently unmet), is experiencing or at risk of abuse and is unable to protect themselves from the abuse because of their care and support needs, then a safeguarding adult concern should be raised. Further safeguarding adult advice and support can be found here
  • The impact of the experience of domestic abuse for children and young people is considered as emotional abuse and a referral should be made to Children’s Social Care via the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub, tel. 0114 2734855. Further safeguarding children advice and support can be found here
  • If there are animals in the property where there are concerns of domestic abuse, consider reporting this to the RSPCA
  • Consider if a Carers Assessment is indicated. Further information can be found here
  • If threats of arson have been made or if you are concerned about other fire risks, a fire safe and well check can be offered

Medium Risk - There are identifiable indicators of risk of serious harm. Perpetrator has potential to cause serious harm, but unlikely unless there is a change in circumstances.

Actions for those at Medium Risk -

  • Complete the combined DASH Risk Assessment and MARAC Referral Form (the MARAC referral section does NOT need to be completed as the person is not high risk)
  • Refer to IDAS. Consent should be sought and is required
  • Offer basic safety advice such as carrying a charged mobile phone, if suspecting an attack avoid rooms in the house with potential weapons such as the kitchen and garage, rehearse an escape plan and how to get help in an emergency and involve your children and neighbours were possible
  • If the person or others in the household have care and support needs (even if these are currently unmet), is experiencing or at risk of abuse and is unable to protect themselves from the abuse because of their care and support needs, then a safeguarding adult concern should be raised. Further safeguarding adult advice and support can be found here
  • The impact of the experience of domestic abuse for children and young people is considered as emotional abuse and a referral should be made to Children’s Social Care via the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub, tel. 0114 2734855. Further safeguarding children advice and support can be found here
  • If there are animals in the property where there are concerns of domestic abuse, consider reporting this to the RSPCA
  • Consider if a Carers Assessment is indicated. Further information can be found here
  • If threats of arson have been made or if you are concerned about other fire risks, a fire safe and well check can be offered

Standard Risk - Current evidence does NOT indicate likelihood of causing serious harm.

Actions for those at Standard Risk -

  • Complete the combined DASH Risk Assessment and MARAC Referral Form (the MARAC referral section does NOT need to be completed as the person is not high risk)
  • Refer to IDAS. Consent should be sought and is required
  • Offer basic safety advice such as carrying a charged mobile phone, if suspecting an attack avoid rooms in the house with potential weapons such as the kitchen and garage, rehearse an escape plan and how to get help in an emergency and involve your children and neighbours were possible
  • If the person or others in the household have care and support needs (even if these are currently unmet), is experiencing or at risk of abuse and is unable to protect themselves from the abuse because of their care and support needs, then a safeguarding adult concern should be raised. Further safeguarding adult advice and support can be found here
  • The impact of the experience of domestic abuse for children and young people is considered as emotional abuse and a referral should be made to Children’s Social Care via the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub, tel. 0114 2734855. Further safeguarding children advice and support can be found here
  • If there are animals in the property where there are concerns of domestic abuse, consider reporting this to the RSPCA
  • Consider if a Carers Assessment is indicated. Further information can be found here
  • If threats of arson have been made or if you are concerned about other fire risks, a fire safe and well check can be offered

Professional Judgement - Professional judgement should be used if a professional has additional information from previous conversations not disclosed during the risk assessment, or believes that the risk of harm identified from one question is significant for example, the person has been strangled. It can also be used if the person has refused to complete a risk assessment and the professional considers the risk to be greater than what the person is telling them.

Click here for information regarding GPs supporting MARACs and forms for clinical systems.

Last updated on 25/06/2021 by RachelLeach
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Perpetrators of Abuse

Recognising that your behaviour is abusive is the first step to changing it. It’s very difficult to admit that you abuse people you love, but it is possible to change how you relate to others, if you genuinely want to.

Recognising abusive behaviour

Do you:

  • Criticise your partner?
  • Blame them when things go wrong?
  • Ever push or hit your partner ?
  • Feel they are scared of you?
  • constantly worry that your partner may be seeing someone else? Do you accuse them and check up on them?
  • Tightly control money or spend money the family needs on things for yourself?
  • Pressurise your partner into having sex or do things they don’t enjoy?
  • Fantasise about punishing or hurting your partner?
  • Need to get your way at all times?
  • Worry about your temper and wish you could stop?

Assessing risk

It is important to consider the risk posed by the behaviours disclosed on all members of the household and others that the perpetrator may be caring for. If possible and safe to do so, contact should be considered to assess their risks directly. If it is not possible for you to do so, consider if an urgent response from another agency is appropriate including the completion of appropriate safeguarding children referrals and consideration if any safeguarding adult concerns also need to be raised. In this context, 'others' includes any adult or child in the household or for whom the perpetrator has close contact. This extends to people in the workplace and animals. All considerations should be clearly documented.

The risk of harm by the domestic abuse can be heightened when the following are present:

  • drug use
  • alcohol misuse
  • mental illness
  • violent criminal history including access or use of weapons
  • financial issues eg. debt or rent arrears, gambling
  • threats or attempts of suicide
  • breached bail, an injunction or any agreement for when they can see the victim and/or children
  • recent separation
  • stalking and harassment behaviours 

Support for men and women who want to stop abusing

Inspire to Change – South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company

Telephone: 0114 2567270, email inspiretochange@sodexojustice.scc.gov.uk, website www.inspiretochange.co.uk

This service delivered by South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), works with men and women who are aged 16 and above who have been abusive controlling and/or violent to their partner or spouse. The support is designed to help those causing harm to learn new skills and find ways to manage and control their abusive behaviour, encouraging  positive thinking and behaviour changes to prevent harm to their partner, children and family in the future.

Taking part in Inspire to Change gives participants:

  • an understanding of how to recognise the signs of domestic abuse
  • a better understanding of why they use violence or aggression in their relationships
  • an awareness of how attitudes and beliefs can affect behaviour
  • the practical tools to develop and maintain change
  • an improved and better life for themselves, their children and others affected by their behaviour

At the first appointment fully trained staff will meet with participants to develop their own personal Inspire to Change plan. This plan may include:

  • setting up one to one sessions
  • booking on a short respectful relationship course – a 12 session programme
  • taking part in a more intensive and in depth course called Building Better Relationships – a 30 session programme
  • participating in group work sessions

You can access the service by self-referrals and referrals by any professional working with the perpetrator, the victim or family are accepted. Contact CRC by telephone on 0114 2567270, by email inspiretochange@sodexojustice.scc.gov.uk or go to their website www.inspiretochange.co.uk


Respect Phoneline 0845 122 8609
(Monday – Friday 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm)


Relate
Relationship advice rather than specialist domestic abuse service, but will work with partners individually to begin with if there is known domestic abuse 0300 100 1234


There is lots more information for those worried about hurting or harming others on the DACT (Domestic Abuse Coordination Team) website. 

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Training and Guidance

Guidance and a selection of free training courses can be found by clicking the following links:

Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS)

Sheffield Adult Safeguarding Partnership (SASP)

Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership (SCSP)

Domestic Abuse Commissioning Team (DACT)

map of main and branch GP Practices

Policy

To ensure all staff have easy access to information around domestic abuse, it is a requirement that all organisations, including GP Practices, cover the subject of domestic abuse in their safeguarding children and adult policies. This should detail staff members responsibilities including how to identify, assess risk and respond to domestic abuse. 

 

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READ Codes

Following reviews that are undertaken when a homicide has occurred where domestic abuse is a factor (Domestic Homicide Reviews), the patient's records are examined to produce a detailed chronology.

It has been established that although relevant information was obtained in previous consultations, subsequent practitioners did not always utilize this important information in their subsequent contacts with the patient(s).  It is therefore recognised that if the visibility of key facts is increased then so would awareness of potential domestic abuse triggers e.g. alcohol abuse, substance misuse and mental health issues. 

To this end, it is recommended that in order for practices to continue to improving practice, the use of READ codes is strongly encouraged.  Practices are encouraged to discuss how best to document important information in a uniform manner.

The attached READ codes in respect of Domestic Abuse and Alcohol are recommended for use.

READ codes for sexual abuse and offences can be seen here.