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Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS)Procedures Manual

Guidelines Supporting People who may be Experiencing Domestic Abuse


  1. Introduction
  2. Your Role
  3. Don't be Afraid to Ask
  4. Privacy and Confidentiality
  5. Support Services

1. Introduction

Given our current knowledge of the levels of domestic abuse within society based upon both research and reported incidents, it is likely that domestic abuse is prevalent in every parish community.

Such incidences may be recognised or brought to the attention of priests, religious, employees, volunteers or members of the parish community. In order to be able to respond appropriately, sensitively and effectively it is important to have an understanding of domestic abuse and of your role in supporting a survivor.


Domestic abuse manifests itself in a variety of ways:

  • A partner in a marriage dominating and controlling their spouse in a variety of ways;
  • Regular and repeated physical abuse within a marriage where there may be children affected as well;
  • An older relative being physically or emotionally abused;
  • An elderly relative being financially exploited;
  • A lone parent experiencing bullying and intimidation from a teenage child.

For further details and definitions of domestic abuse see Domestic Violence and Abuse Procedure.

Basic Facts

  • Every person has a right to live their life free from violence, abuse, intimidation and fear;
  • One in four women experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives;
  • Each week in the United Kingdom two women are killed by a partner or ex-partner;
  • 1 in 40 of the elderly population experience mistreatment from a relative, friend or care worker;
  • Domestic violence accounts for 15% of all reported violent incidents;
  • Domestic abuse is not confined to any socio economic class, race or age. Women however are more likely to be subject to domestic abuse than men;
  • Where domestic abuse occurs it is entirely the responsibility of the abuser. There are no acceptable excuses;
  • In nearly all scenarios there are steps that can be taken to increase safety for the survivor and other members of the household, such as children, who may be affected.

2. Your Role

If you become aware that someone within your parish or religious community is experiencing domestic abuse then a response is always required.

If you do not feel able to respond yourself, you should bring it to the attention of someone who may be able to help: a priest or deacon, a member of the parish council or pastoral team, the Diocesan or Religious Safeguarding Co-ordinator.

Whoever does respond must be clear about their role. This is:-

  • To focus on the safety of the survivor and any children where they are involved
    NB: Where there are children in the household, concerns must be passed to the statutory authorities. This can be done via the Safeguarding Co-ordinator;
  • To provide a safe space for survivors to disclose abuse;
  • To support and reassure with non-judgemental attitude;
  • To provide information about sources of support or how to refer to relevant agencies;
  • Where appropriate to provide religious guidance emphasizing aspects of our Catholic beliefs which prioritise equality, the dignity of our lives, the rights to be free of violence and intimidation.

The Role is Not:

  • To instruct or advise about a particular course of action. Rather to encourage the survivor to examine and explore options;
  • To act as a caseworker. You can help a survivor access appropriate help from relevant domestic abuse services.

3. Don't be Afraid to Ask

If you are concerned that a person is experiencing domestic abuse do not be afraid to ask direct questions.

People who experience this type of abuse are often reluctant to name their experience or may indeed not realise what is happening to them.

Do not assume that people will be offended about being asked. For example, research has shown that over 90% of women who were asked sensitively were not offended even when the question did not apply to them.

Even where someone may respond in an upset or hostile manner does not mean you should not have raised the issue. They may come back to you when they are ready to discuss the matter. Questions should be non-judgemental such as:-

  • It sounds as if/I sense your home life is difficult for you at the moment?
  • It sounds as if /I sense home has become a frightening place for you. Maybe someone is hurting you there?
  • I’ve found it helpful to have a plan for sorting out family arguments. Do you do the same?
  • It sounds as if someone has hurt you or, perhaps, even been violent towards you?

If someone answers yes to these types of questions you should check to see if they want support or help from e.g.:

  • A refuge or local domestic violence agency if it is a partner in a marriage or relationship;
  • Adult Social Care agencies if it is an older or elderly person being abused or exploited;
  • Children's Social Care Services should always be informed if a child is involved.

It is important to realise that patience is called for. People experiencing domestic abuse, especially those in a marital relationship or partnership where their partner is the abuser, can only discuss or accept help in their own time.

You should never take sides but should let them know you are there if they want to talk or want help and support to contact helping agencies.

If they do want to talk through their experience, these gentle, non-judgemental questions may assist.

  • What can I do to help?
  • How is this affecting you?
  • How have you been coping with the abuse?
  • What can you do to make yourself safer?
  • Do you know when an incident is going to happen?  Is there a pattern?
  • What are your worst fears for yourself/your children?
  • Who else is around to help you cope (support networks of friends and family for instance)?
  • Can I help you find out information about what choices you may have?
  • Would you like me to go with you to find out some more information?

4. Privacy and Confidentiality

It is important to create safe time and places for people to have an opportunity to disclose what is happening to them. For this to happen will also be dependent upon whether you are perceived as someone who can be trusted. This trust is often about being able to keep information to yourself and only share it when permission has been given or where safety reasons override this.

All conversations should be conducted in private and reassurance should be given that any disclosures will be treated confidentially (unless children are involved when there is an obligation to report).

You should be clear to the person when explaining limits to confidentiality.

Information should never be shared for the sake of it, only where either:

  • Consent is given;
  • The need to protect children overrides confidentiality;
  • To enable a professional/agency to work safely to support the survivor.

5. Support Services

The range of services available will depend upon the circumstances of the domestic abuse and where the individual lives.

Domestic Abuse and Support Services

Action on Elder Abuse

T: 0208 765 7000
Helpline: 0808 808 8141

Elder Abuse website
A national organisation that aims to prevent abuse in old age by raising awareness, providing education and promoting research.

Broken Rainbow

Freephone Number: 0800 999 5428
Helpline: 0300 999 5428

Broken Rainbow website
Provides information and a support service to lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender people experiencing domestic violence.

Eaves Women’s Aid and Eaves Supported Housing

T: 0207 735 2062

Eaves for Women website
Provides homeless women across London with high quality supported housing. The organisation also delivers domestic violence services, and undertakes campaigning and development work around violence against women, prostitution and trafficking

Ending the Silence - LGBT Domestic Abuse Project

T: 0141 548 8121

LGBT Domestic Abuse website
A website for all service providers currently supporting, working with or planning services for people experiencing domestic abuse.

Greater London Domestic Violence Project (GLDVP)

T: 0207 785 3860

GLDVP is a second tier charity that works to ensure that good practice in domestic violence work is transferred across London, bringing together key agencies to develop London-wide policies, raise awareness about domestic violence and increase the effectiveness of multi agency work. The Stella Project is a partnership between GLDVP and GLADA.

Hidden Hurt - Domestic Abuse Information

Hidden Hurt website
This site has been written by a survivor of domestic violence, and provides advice and information to those who are in an abusive relationship.

London Irish Women’s Centre

T: 0207 249 7318

London Irish Women's Centre website
Offers advice for women in housing need including women fleeing domestic violence in London.  Also offers training and support services.

Men’s Advice Line

Helpline: 0808 801 0327

Men's Advice Line website
A national helpline which provides practical and emotional support for men experiencing domestic abuse.


T: 0207 395 7700
Helpline: 0808 2000 247

Refuge website
Refuge is a national organisation that runs the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (in partnership with Women’s Aid). Refuge provides accommodation and children’s services for those fleeing domestic violence. Refuge also provides individual and group counselling to survivors of violence. Their Community Outreach Project works across a number of South London boroughs with BME women and children.


T: 0207 383 0700
Helpline: 0808 808 0700

Respond website
A national organisation providing services for people with learning disabilities that have been victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse and/or have experienced other trauma. Also provides training and support to those who work with them.


Helpline: 08457 90 90 90

Samaritans website
A national helpline providing 24 hour confidential emotional support for anyone in a crisis.

Victim Support

Helpline: 0845 30 30 900

Victim Support website
Offers information and support to victims of crime, whether or not they have reported the crime to the police.

Women and Girls Network

T: 0207 610 4678
Helpline: 0207 610 4678

Woman and Girls Network website
A pan-London service offering a holistic healing centre for women and girls overcoming the experience of violence whether physical, sexual or emotional. Also provides counselling and body therapies.

Women’s Aid Federation of England

Helpline: 0808 2000 247 (24 hours)

Women's Aid Federation of England website
Runs the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (in partnership with Refuge). Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic violence against women and charity. They can offer support, advice, accommodation and information on all aspects of domestic violence.

Women’s Trust

East T: 0208 522 7856/7455
West T: 0207 034 0303/0304

Women's Trust website
A pan-London Service that provides independent, confidential, women-only services to women who have been or are affected by domestic violence.


T: 0207 650 3200
Helpline: 0800 1111

Childline website
The free 24 hour confidential helpline for children and young people.

The Hideout

The Hideout website
The Hideout is the first national domestic violence website for children and young people.  The website has been designed to inform children and young people about domestic violence, help them identify whether it is happening in their home and signpost them to additional support and information.


Child Protection Helpline: 0808 800 5000
Bengali/Sylheti: 0800 096 7714
Gujurati: 0800 096 7715
Hindi: 0800 096 7716
Punjabi: 0800 096 7717
Urdu: 0800 096 7718
ASIAN Helpline Service in English: 0800 096 7719
Textphone: 0800 056 0566

NSPCC website
The NSPCC is a national charity that works to end cruelty to children.  If you’re worried about a child’s safety or welfare or if you need help or advice, ring the free and confidential helpline (24 hours).

The Tulip Project

T: 0151 637 6363
Support for parents that have experienced violence from their children.

Children’s Legal Centre

T: 01206 872466 (head Office)
National Education Line via Community Legal Advice: 0845 345 4345
Young People Freephone line: 0800 783 2187
Child Law Advice Line: 0845 120 2948
Family Law Advice via Community Legal Advice: 0845 345 4345

Children's Legal Centre website
Based in Essex, with an office in London. Provides legal advice and representation to children, their carers and professionals throughout the UK. Also runs a Refugee and Asylum seeking children project. Produces publications and provides training.

Community Legal Advice

T: 0845 345 4345

Community Legal Advice website
Government agency which provides information about legal aid and free and confidential legal advice paid for by legal aid. Provides information on where and how to access legal help in England and Wales.

The Law Centres Federation

T: 0207 387 8570

The Law Centres Federation website
The national network of community based law centres which can provide information and your local law centre for free legal advice.

Rights of Women

T: 0207 251 6575/6
General legal advice line: 0207 251 6577
Sexual violence legal advice line: 0207 251 8887

Rights of Women website
Services for women by women. Provides free confidential advice on range of issues, including domestic violence, children and contact issues, divorce and relationship breakdown. lesbian parenting, sexual violence, child sex offences, family related sex offences, trafficking and general criminal legal advice. Produces free information sheets on various legal issues and provides training.

Housing Services


T: 0870 011 3335

Crisis website
Crisis is a national charity that provides services and programmes to empower homeless people.  Works with single homeless people.

Gay Men’s Shared Housing

T: 0208 743 2165

Provides accommodation based medium term temporary housing and support to gay men who have been the victims of same-sex domestic violence, homophobic violence and/or gay related hate crimes in the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Hammersmith and Fulham.

Homeless Link

T: 0207 960 3010

Homeless Link website
Homeless Link is the national membership organisation for frontline homelessness agencies in England.

Resource Information Service (London Hostels Directory)

T: 0207 939 0641

Resource Information Service website
A national resource for advice workers, hostel staff, day centre, Social Services and anyone in contact with people with housing problems. Also produce publications and manage various housing and advice related websites.


Shelterline: 0808 800 444

Shelter website
A national organisation providing telephone housing advice and information. Issues include finding accommodation, hostel referrals, housing benefit/rights, illegal eviction, domestic violence and emergency accommodation.