Our Guide to Understanding Domestic Abuse

Posted on: 11 mins read
Nathalie Swanwick

Abuse Claims Solicitor

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TW: This article covers themes of abuse

Domestic violence is often perceived only as physical acts of violence – But it’s much more complicated than that. A lot of the time, people witnessing or experiencing this kind of behaviour don’t know that it is domestic violence. It therefore often goes on unreported and is often ignored. But domestic violence can happen at any point in a person’s relationship and there are many forms that it can take.

In late 2021, the BBC found that 13,000 domestic violence cases in England and Wales have been dropped by the police in the previous five years, because the victims hadn’t reported the crimes within the time limit of six months.

Because of this, on the 4th January 2022, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was amended to reflect a two-year time frame, giving victims of domestic abuse a chance at reporting the crimes. The victims were given  a longer time to report, and the authorities were advised that they have to carry out an investigation within six months of the report in order to prosecute.

Sadly, in the UK, every 30 seconds the police receive a domestic abuse related call. But according to the Refuge charity statistics, this is only 24% of all domestic crime, given that the majority of domestic violence cases are never reported to the police.

Contact our Domestic Abuse Solicitors to see how we can help you.

What is Domestic Abuse?

When someone domestically abuses another person, they use bullying, threats and violence to control this person. Domestic abuse can happen to and be perpetrated by both men and women, and there are many different forms. 

Under the Government, domestic abuse is defined as, “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 of family members, regardless of gender or sexuality”. 

Examples of the types of abuse that victims experience, but are not limited to:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • economic/financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is: a variety of acts designed to make a person dependent on the abuser, by isolating them from sources of support, and exploiting their resources/funds for personal gain. They can also regulate your everyday behaviour and restrict any form of escapism; which may include seeing friends, going to the shops, or even taking up hobbies that don’t involve the abuser.

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.

Psychological/Emotional: all psychological abuse differs from person to person. These may be regular and deliberate words and non-physical actions that are intended to manipulate and hurt you. The mental abuse also weakens you as an individual and frightens you emotionally and mentally. This can massively affect someone’s thoughts and their actions, confusing and influencing them.

Economic/Financial: a form of abuse that takes control of finances. This can include stealing money, coercing someone into debt, or sabotaging the access to money and other resources. This can include necessities, such as food, clothing, transportation and a place to live.

There are definitely signs of domestic abuse, but they may just seem like small red flags when entering into a relationship. These red flags could include some of the following:    

  • Extreme signs of jealousy, or over protection
  • Possessive actions / controlling
  • Unpredictability
  • Behaviour that includes lashing out or having a temper
  • Animal cruelty
  • Verbal abuse like name calling
  • Warped perception of gender roles in a relationship
  • Forcing intimacy
  • Birth control sabotage or not respecting partners choices
  • Blaming the victim for everything
  • Sabotage of the victim’s ability to learn or work
  • Financial control
  • Abusing the victim’s family/friends or pets
  • Embarrassing and humiliating the victim in public

All of these forms of abuse can be inflicted to any man or woman, regardless of their background, career, age, race or sexuality. 

Remember, it’s not your fault.  The perpetrator of abuse could be your partner, your parent, or another family member.

How Does the Law Protect Domestic Violence Victims?

If you’ve unfortunately experienced domestic violence in either England or Wales, you could be eligible to apply to the Family Court for an Injunction, which is also known as a Court Order. This can help you protect yourself and any children you have. There are 2 main types of Court Order which could help you in this situation:

Non Molestation Order

The Non-Molestation Order stops someone from being violent, or from threatening violence, against yourself or your child. This Order also covers intimidation, harassment and pestering, and breaching it is a criminal offence. To make a successful application for a Non Molestation Order, you’d need to demonstrate in Court how you or your child will be at risk if the Order isn’t granted. 

Occupation Order

If you live with the person who is abusing you, an Occupation Order controls who lives in your family home. This type of order can also help restrict your abuser’s access to the area around your house. There are several factors that could impact the Court’s decision as to whether they’ll grant you an Occupation Order, such as your housing needs and that of your abuser, and the possible consequences that making an Order or refusing it will have on you and your children.

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Can you Get Compensation if You’ve Been a Victim of Domestic Abuse?

If you report domestic abuse to the Police, and if you’ve cooperated with and supported their investigation, you could be able to apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). This is one of the most accessible and common routes to claiming compensation for Domestic Violence.

You need to submit your application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority within two years of the incident. However, under exceptional circumstances, the CICA might be able to make the time limit a little longer. In addition, if the abuse took place when you were under 18 and it was reported before you reached your 18th birthday, you have until you turn 20 to apply to the CICA.

At Simpson Millar, our friendly and professional team of Abuse Solicitors can help and support you when you’re making a claim for compensation. We’re here to be your port of call for all legal questions and information when it comes to applying to the CICA. In addition, we work on a No Win, No Fee basis. This means that you won’t have to pay our costs if your claim isn’t successful. To talk through everything in more detail and tailored specifically to your case, get in touch with our team for a free initial case assessment.

Can Domestic Violence Impact Children?

There are many different effects domestic abuse can have on children and adults – and a lot of these can last a lifetime. Until 2021, witnessing domestic abuse wasn’t legally considered child abuse. However, in the recently revised Domestic Abuse Act 2021, children are now included as a victim, if it’s taking place in their household. According to Women’s Aid, a national charity, 1 out of 7 children and people under 18 have lived in a situation of domestic abuse, at some point during their childhood. 

Of course, no one, child or adult, should have to feel safe in their home. That’s why we encourage anyone who is worried about their safety in the home to get in touch with the police right away. 

Impact of Domestic Abuse on Children

If a child has witnessed domestic abuse, this can have several different cognitive, behavioural and emotional effects on them, which can either be short-term or long-term. Symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Nightmares and flashbacks
  • Physical symptoms such as stomach pains and bed wetting
  • Problems at school
  • Aggression
  • Lowered self-worth
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Self-harming
  • Eating disorders

Research by the University of New Hampshire has also found that witnessing a parent abusing a sibling can be as traumatising as watching a parent hurt another parent. The study found that this can lead to depression, anxiety and anger. 

Every situation for every child will be different. It’s important to note that sometimes, the effects and symptoms of domestic abuse won’t always be evident in childhood.

Why Should I Claim Compensation for Domestic Abuse?

We understand that making a claim for compensation can be a really difficult decision, but for some survivors of domestic abuse, making a claim could actually be one of the only ways they can get some sort of recognition and potentially even justice, especially if the perpetrator didn’t get convicted in criminal court.

When it comes to making a claim for compensation, the amount you can claim can also help you get access to the treatment you need, whether that’s physical or psychological.

At Simpson Millar, our team of Abuse Solicitors can explain the whole claims process to you, to ensure you always know what’s going on and what will happen next. It’s also important to note that, even if you listen to advice, there is no obligation to make a claim for compensation. We want you to feel comfortable and like you’re in a safe space at all times when you’re working with our team.

If you’ve unfortunately been a victim of domestic abuse, get in touch with our team for a free, no-obligation chat.

Domestic Abuse Claims Process

1)      Starting a Claim for Abuse

Your Abuse Solicitor will work out who the claim should be against. It could be against an organisation such as a Local Authority or an individual person. In the latter situation, your Solicitor will have to investigate their financial background to make sure they can pay you your compensation.

In certain circumstances, your Solicitor may advise you that your best route for compensation is to make an application to an organisation called the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and not to claim against an organisation or individual.  You can apply for compensation to the CICA online, and it’s worth noting that there are strict time limits for doing so, if you’re over the age of 18.

2)      Funding the Claim

Your Abuse Solicitor will advise you how best to fund the claim.

Legal Aid is available for abuse claims depending on your financial circumstances. We may also be able to represent you on a No Win, No Fee Basis – get in touch for more details.

3)      Information and Documents Required

Your Abuse Solicitor will take information from you about the circumstances of the abuse and the injury you have suffered and put it into a witness statement. Your Solicitor may have to take witness statements from others to support your claim.  They will try to get copies of existing records from a range of places to support your claim, including:

  • The Police
  • Employers
  • Local Authorities
  • Schools
  • Courts
  • Medical Institutions

4)      Making Contact with the Defendant

After the information and evidence is collected, your Solicitor will draft a letter of claim, for you to approve. This will explain the basis og your claim, and it’ll be sent to the defendant, once you’ve approved it.

The defendant should then acknowledge that they have received the letter, and they should investigate your case. Once this is done, they should let you know if they admit liability.

They should give reasons if liability is denied.

5)      The Medical Evidence

Your Abuse Solicitor will have to get a medical report or reports from a medical expert to show what type of injury or injuries you have as a result of what happened to you. In abuse cases, the most usual injury is psychological in nature.

You'll have to visit either a specialist psychiatrist or psychologist and speak to them for several hours. They'll have all the records your Solicitor has obtained on your behalf and will ask you questions about what happened to vou. They’ll also ask you how you think the abuse has affected you, before writing a report which you will see and approve. The report will be sent to the defendant along with all the records obtained on your behalf.

6)      Valuing the Claim

After obtaining the medical evidence, your Abuse Solicitor might arrange for a specialist Barrister to give an independent opinion on the merits of your case. The Barrister will be asked to provide their view on the legal merits of the case, to value the case and the amount of compensation that the claim should settle for.

7)      Compensation Settlement

In the compensation claim, both parties are generally encouraged to settle the claim outside of Court. It's open to both sides to make offers to settle throughout a case.

Most abuse cases don't go to Court for a final hearing (Trial) and instead either settle or a case has to stop as its not strong enough to progress. However, it’s important to understand that sometimes, a settlement can’t be reached outside of court, meaning that the case has to go before a Judge.

How We Can Help at Simpson Millar

If you’ve suffered some type of sexual or physical abuse, it can take a while before you feel fully ready to discuss it, particularly in great detail. This can often require a great amount of courage. That’s why our team are friendly and approachable, and when you’re ready to discuss everything with us, we’ll listen.

If you need support with any of these issues, here are some resources and charities which could help:

  • MIND is a mental health charity. The website is: www.mind.org.uk
  • Papyrus is a suicide prevention charity. The website is: www.papyrus-org.uk. You can call on 0800 068 4141 or text on 07860 039967
  • Samaritans is open at all times. Their website is: www.samaritans.org. Their phone number is 116123 (freephone)
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) supports male mental health, but they can help whoever needs their support. Their website is: www.thecalmzone.net, and their phone number is 0800 58 58 58

At Simpson Millar, our team of approachable and supportive Abuse Claim Solicitors are professional and experts in the area. We always aim to be easy to talk with, and we will always work through your case with the sensitivity it deserves. 

We provide support and advice throughout the process of making a claim. We’ll guide you in the right direction when it comes to finding the right groups, therapists and resources to help you cope with what you’ve been through. 

Whenever you’re ready to talk, we’re here to listen – so get in touch on 0808 239 1287.


BBC News. (2021). Domestic Abuse: Plan to Criminalise Controlling Behaviour Unveiled. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-58980387

UK Parliament. (n.d.). Domestic Abuse Bill. Retrieved from https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2839/publications

UK Government. (2019). Domestic Abuse Victims in England and Wales to Be Given More Time to Report Assaults. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/domestic-abuse-victims-in-england-and-wales-to-be-given-more-time-to-report-assaults

Refuge. (n.d.). The Facts. Retrieved from https://refuge.org.uk/what-is-domestic-abuse/the-facts/

Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). Domestic Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/abuse-claims-solicitors/domestic-abuse/

SafeLives. (n.d.). Psychological Abuse. Retrieved from https://safelives.org.uk/psychological-abuse

Surviving Economic Abuse. (n.d.). What Is Economic Abuse? Retrieved from https://survivingeconomicabuse.org/what-is-economic-abuse/

UK Government. (n.d.). Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/criminal-injuries-compensation-authority

UK Parliament. (2021). Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Retrieved from https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2021/17/contents/enacted

Women's Aid. (2021). Child and Youth Participation Good Practice Guide. Retrieved from https://www.womensaid.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/CYP-good-practice-guide.pdf

HealthDay Consumer. (2021). Witnessing Abuse of a Sibling Can Traumatize a Child. Retrieved from https://consumer.healthday.com/b-9-21-witnessing-abuse-of-a-sibling-can-traumatize-a-child-2655054620.html

NHS. (n.d.). Depression in Adults. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/depression-in-adults/overview/

Mind. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from https://www.mind.org.uk/

NAPAC. (n.d.). NAPAC - National Association for People Abused in Childhood. Retrieved from http://www.napac.org.uk/

Nathalie Swanwick

Abuse Claims Solicitor

Areas of Expertise:
Abuse Claims

Nathalie began her legal career in 2009 after completing her law degree at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2008. She has specialised in abuse claims since 2010, and went on to qualify as a Solicitor in 2013.

Following her qualification Nathalie specialised in a range of personal injury claims including abuse claims and criminal injury claims. She has acted for clients who have suffered life-changing injuries such as brain injuries.

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