If you have to leave your home because of threats, abuse or intimidation, there may be safe places you can go to, such as refuges and temporary housing from the council. It may also be possible to stay in your home and make it safer.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence includes any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse. The abuse can be psychological, physical, social, financial, or emotional.
Domestic violence can happen between two people who are or were intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality. It can happen between people of different ages.
If you are in danger from domestic violence now
You should call the police on 999 if your personal safety is threatened, if you are at risk of assault or injury, in an emergency or if you believe that a criminal offence is about to be committed.
It can be difficult to understand what is happening and who to ask for help if you feel you are in an abusive relationship.
Women experiencing domestic abuse can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 to talk confidentially to someone about your situation and to find out what your options are.
If you are in a same-sex relationship you can also call the National LGBT Domestic Violence Helpline on 0800 999 5428.
Leaving home immediately because of domestic violence
If you are at risk of violence you may need to leave your home in a hurry until you can sort out a more permanent solution.
If you can, try to arrange temporary housing from the council before you leave.
If you're a woman leaving domestic violence, try to find a place in a women's refuge.
Men leaving home because of domestic violence should contact Men's Advice Line for further help and information.
Take some essentials with you such as a change of clothes, toiletries and any medication you need to take regularly, and important documents such as your passport, credit cards and legal papers.
Make a safety plan in case you have to leave home in a hurry.
Don't make a decision to give up your home permanently until you have spoken to an adviser and considered all your options. Use Shelter's directory to find a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice in your area.
Making your current home safer
You may be experiencing violence, threats, abuse or controlling behaviour from someone you previously lived with. This could be a former partner, husband, wife or civil partner, or a parent or a child.
If you want to stay in your home, you can take steps to make your home more safe to live in. For example, you can:
- change the locks on all doors and put locks on windows
- ask your neighbours to tell you or call the police if they see your abuser nearby
- change your mobile phone number and make your home telephone ex-directory
You may also be able to create a sanctuary room in your home, with a panic alarm and reinforced door. Contact the housing options team at your local council as they may be able to help you with this.
Getting an injunction to prevent domestic abuse or violence
An injunction is a court order telling someone to do or not to do something.
You can ask a court for an injunction ordering the person who has been abusive to:
- stop being violent
- stay away from your home
- stop contacting you
The perpetrator can be arrested if they break the conditions of the injunction.
There are two main types of injunctions:
- a non-molestation order, where the court orders your partner or ex-partner not to intimidate, harass or pester you, and aims to prevent that person from using or threatening to use violence against you or your child
- an occupation order, which aims to help you remain safely in the family home, and can also exclude your abuser from the home and restrict that person from entering the surrounding area
If you are entitled to legal aid you can get free advice on getting an injunction. Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 for telephone advice. They may be able to refer you to a family law solicitor in your area.
- Men's Advice Line
- Law Centres Federation
- Rights of Women
- National Centre for Domestic Violence
Short-term housing options when facing domestic violence
In the short-term, you may want to stay with friends or relatives while you think about what to do next. Once you are out of danger, you may have a number of housing options.
Read Shelter's guide Homeless? Read this (32 pages) for more information on homelessness.
Homelessness help from the council
You can apply to the council housing department as a homeless person if you can't stay in your home because of the situation. The council has to give you advice about finding somewhere to live and you may be entitled to emergency accommodation.
You will be asked to provide details of your situation and may be asked for supporting evidence. This evidence could include details and dates of incidents and reports from the police. You can take a friend or an adviser with you for support.
Get advice immediately if the council says it won't help you because it believes it would have been reasonable for you to stay in your home. The council may be breaking the law. Contact Civil Legal Advice on 0345 345 4 345 if you are entitled to legal aid or use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your area.
Help from social services
Some groups of people may be entitled to help from the council's social services department. This might be the case if you:
- are elderly
- have children living with you
- are under the age of 18
- have left care (or are about to do so)
- are in poor health
- have a physical or learning disability
Social services may be able to help by finding accommodation for you, paying for a deposit or providing financial support. There are no rules about the kind of help social services have to provide.
Refuges for women
Women experiencing domestic abuse may be able to stay in a women's refuge. Some refuges are specifically for women from certain backgrounds, such as Irish or Asian women. The staff can give you advice about your situation.
Contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 for more information about refuges.
Refuges for men
There is less specialist housing for men experiencing domestic abuse, but you can still apply to the council housing department as a homeless person.
You could also contact a Shelter advice centre or Citizens Advice to see what help is available.
Use Shelter's directory to find help in your area.
Children or young people suffering from domestic violence
If you or another family member is being hurt at home, you may not be sure what you can do about it. Domestic abuse is not your fault and you won't get into trouble for telling someone about it.
The first thing is to tell someone else about what is happening to you. You can tell a teacher, a neighbour, a friend or a friend's parent.
There are free telephone helplines you can call, for example Childline on 0800 1111. They won't tell anyone else you are calling (unless you are in immediate danger) and they can tell you about places near where you live where you can get help.
More information about children and young people and domestic abuse and violence is available from The Hideout.
Violence from outside the home
You should never put yourself in danger. Call the police if you are in immediate danger.
Get advice to help you decide what action you can take if you are in danger of violence resulting from neighbourhood problems. Use Shelter's directory to find an adviser in your area. There are a number of different ways it might be possible to solve the problem.
If the violent person lives in rented accommodation, you could contact their landlord, who may decide to take action against them. Most private landlords can evict a tenant who is violent or abusive, and councils and housing associations can also stop antisocial behaviour by their tenants. They can get a court injunction to prevent the violent person from coming near you and your home.
In serious cases such as racist or sexual harassment, landlords can evict the person responsible.
If the violent person is a home owner, you may be able to take legal action against them yourself. Get legal advice to help you with this. Contact the Law Society to find a legal adviser in your area.
Get more help
If you need more help call our free advice helpline on 0808 800 4444.