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Domestic abuse & sexual violence

The legal definition of domestic abuse is:

  • The behaviour of a person (“A”) towards another person (“B”) is “domestic abuse” if:
    1. A and B are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and
    2. The behaviour is abusive.
  • Behaviour is “abusive” if it consists of any of the following:
    1. Physical or sexual abuse.
    2. Violent or threatening behaviour
    3. Controlling or coercive behaviour.
    4. Economic abuse – (also see section 4 below).
    5. Psychological, emotional, or other abuse.

And it does not matter whether the behaviour consists of a single incident or a course of conduct.

  • “Economic abuse” means any behaviour that has a substantial adverse effect on B’s ability to
    1. Acquire, use, or maintain money or other property, or
    2. Obtain goods or services.
  • For the purposes of this Part A’s behaviour may be behaviour “towards” B despite the fact that it consists of conduct directed at another person (for example, B’s child).

Two people are personally connected to each other if any of the following applies:

  • they are, or have been, married to each other;
  • they are, or have been, civil partners of each other;
  • they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
  • they have entered into a civil partnership agreement (whether or not the agreement has been terminated);
  • they are, or have been, in an intimate personal relationship with each other;
  • they each have, or there has been a time when they each have had, a parental relationship in relation to the same child; or
  • they are relatives


Children who live in families where there is domestic abuse can suffer serious long-term emotional and psychological effects. Even if they are not physically harmed or do not witness acts of violence, they can pick up on the tensions and harmful interactions between adults. Children of any age are affected by domestic violence and abuse. At no age will they be unaffected by what is happening, even when they are in the womb.

Children may experience domestic abuse directly, but they can also experience it indirectly by:

  • hearing the abuse from another room
  • seeing a parent’s injuries or distress afterwards
  • finding disarray like broken furniture
  • being hurt from being nearby or trying to stop the abuse
  • experiencing a reduced quality in parenting as a result of the abuse

The physical, psychological and emotional effects of domestic abuse on children can be severe and long-lasting. It can be difficult to tell if domestic abuse is happening because perpetrators may act very differently when around others.

All children living with domestic abuse and violence are under stress. Some signs that children who experience domestic abuse may present are:

  • suffering from depression and anxiety
  • being withdrawn and find it difficult to communicate
  • constant worry about possible danger or safety of family members
  • not doing as well at school as usual
  • bed wetting or unexplained illness
  • running away from home
  • displaying challenging behaviour
  • aggression towards others


While the definition of domestic abuse only covers those aged 16 and above, young people aged 13 to 15 can also be victims of intimate partner abuse. Teenage intimate partner abuse is in relation to an intimate partner relationship of the same age and does not include a young person being exploited by an adult or other young person or a young person being abused by an adult either within or outside their family.

For more information please see the Young Persons DASH and support can be offered to the victim by STOP DOMESTIC ABUSE.

Adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) may also be known as Adolescent to Parent Violence (APV) or Child to Parent Violence (CPV). There is currently no legal definition of APVA however, it is increasingly recognised as a form of domestic violence and abuse and, depending on the age of the child, it may fall under the government’s official definition of domestic violence and abuse.

Professionals should consider the presence of domestic abuse as an indicator of the need to assess a child’s need for support and protection. Both parents need to be actively involved in the assessment process; however you also need to consider the risks to the adult victim within this process.

Speaking to the child

Make sure the child’s experiences and views are captured and included. In contexts where the safety of the adult victim is seen as the main priority this can dominate people’s immediate thinking and action, and children’s voices can be lost.  The Lets Talk toolkit will help capture the voice of the child.

Refer to the HIPS Procedure for Safeguarding Children Exposed to Domestic Violence and Abuse

Worried about a child – If you are concerned that a child or young person has suffered harm, neglect or abuse, please contact Portsmouth Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)

If a child is at immediate risk of harm, call the Police on 999.

Speaking to the victim

Professionals need to ascertain the risks to the adult victim; below are some tips.

Before asking the Domestic Violence and Abuse screening questions consider:

  • Do not ask questions in front of the potential perpetrator
  • Do not use family or friends as interpreters. Consider the presence of children over the age of 2 years who may be able to report back to perpetrator
  • Be aware of victims who may be holding a mobile phone during the consultation as the perpetrator may be listening to the conversation
  • Victims highly value compassion and the quality of being non-judgemental
  • Make sure you ask in a private environment

Opening Questions:

  1. You seem upset/frightened/anxious/low/quiet, is there something troubling you?
    1. If yes, proceed to asking the secondary questions below. If no, but you are concerned use your professional judgement and proceed to the secondary questions below. 

 Have you ever felt frightened or had to change your behaviour due to someone who you have a close relationship with?

    1. If yes, proceed to asking the secondary questions below. If no, but you are concerned use your professional judgement and proceed to the secondary questions below. 

Secondary Questions:

  1. Have you ever been hurt by this person?
    1. Do you feel able to tell me about it?
    2. Has this happened before? How many times?
  2. Within the last year, have you ever been embarrassed or made to feel stupid by this person?
    1. Do you feel able to tell me about it?
    2. Does this happen at home or in front of other people?
  3. Have you been stopped from doing things that you enjoy?
    1. Do you feel able to tell me about it?
    2. Do they have control over your finances or possessions, i.e. car?
    3. Do you feel that you are being sabotaged, such as not being able to find your purse/keys when you are planning to go out? Are you no longer allowed to see your friends or family, have you seen them less often?
    4. Do they tell you who you can see socially or contact, including via social media?
  4. Have you been in any situation sexually where you felt uncomfortable or felt unable to say no to any kind of sexual activity that you did not want?
    1. Do you feel able to tell me about it?
    2. Have you been forced or pressured to do anything of a sexual nature that has humiliated, upset or hurt you?
    3. Have you ever been pressurised to use any drug/substance as part of a sexual encounter?
  5. Do you have any children or caring responsibilities?
    1. Are you worried about them? Have they been hurt? What about pets?
    2. What are you worried about?
    3. Have you noticed any change in their behaviour?

Protection Planning: Do you have a safe place to go in an emergency?

  1. Do you have family or friends who can support you? Are they aware of your circumstances?
  2. Would you call the police if you were frightened?

For those adults who disclose they are a victim of domestic abuse please see the domestic abuse referral pathway to confirm how to respond.

Speaking to the person who is being abusive or using unhealthy behaviours

Professionals are encouraged to involve both parents in the care of their children. While this should continue where there is domestic abuse, when safe to do so, it is important any involvement of the abusive partner does not increase risks to either their child or the parent who is the victim.

To help to assess the risks of speaking to the abusive partner consider the following questions to ask when alone with the victim

About your ex/partner’s behaviour

  • What abusive, violent or controlling behaviours does your ex/partner use towards you?
  • Can you tell me about:
    • how frequently the abuse happens?
    • when is it most likely to happen?
    • whether it is getting worse?
    • whether your ex/partner accepts that they have used these behaviours?
    • how would you describe your abusive ex/partners behaviour when their behaviour towards you is either a) less abusive or b) there is no abuse or controlling behaviour?
    • whether there is anything that makes your ex/partners behaviour worse (e.g. alcohol, drugs or their mental health)?
    • whether they behave differently if others are around e.g. children, family, friends etc?
  • Does your ex/partner use any healthy (positive) behaviours in your relationship?
    • what are they?
    • how often does this happen?

How you respond

  • What are you thinking when the abuse/violence/controlling behaviour is happening?
  • What impact does this behaviour have on you and your children/family at the time? Who else is affected?
  • What impact does their behaviour have on you and your children/family in periods when you feel less at risk? Who else is affected?
  • What strategies have you developed to help keep yourself safe when your ex/partner is starting to show signs of abuse or being abusive?
  • Do you have to use these strategies when your ex/partner is not being abusive or controlling?
  • How does your ex/partners changing behaviours effect the way you behave?
  • What are you thinking when your ex/partner is not being abusive or controlling?

 Challenge and Support

  • If you or someone else previously reported or told someone about their abuse or controlling behaviour, how did they respond?
    • Did their response make you more or less likely to report further abuse or seek support?
    • Did their response make you more or less worried if others decided to report further abuse by them?
  • How does your ex/partner respond when you or anyone else challenges or asks them about this behaviour?
  • If you accessed support, how do you think your ex/partner would react?
  • Has your ex/partner ever received support? What was the outcome?
  • Does your ex/partner want things to be different?
    • Is this a genuine interest in your, or your child’s welfare?
  • What are your thoughts about someone speaking to your ex/partner about their behaviour?
    • How do you think they may react?
    • Would this change the risk to you?
    • Who do you think would be best to do this?


Referring agencies need to identify the level of risk, using the DASH or providing evidence of professional judgement and refer to the appropriate service. Please see the Domestic Abuse Pathway  for how to respond and referral details.

  • High risk victims need to be referred to MARAC via the police MARAC team on using the MARAC referral form and accompanied with the DASH risk assessment. Please ensure the victim is aware of any MARAC referral, however there is no need for their consent.
    • support all victims aged 16+ assessed as high and medium risk,
    • deliver Up2U: Creating Healthy Relationships for anyone aged 16+ who admit to using abusive or unhealthy behaviours in their relationship and want to change
    • provide refuge support
    • support any young person aged 13 to 15 who are victims of intimate partner abuse. Any safeguarding referrals MUST continue to be sent to the MASH
    • support children who have witnessed domestic abuse and
    • provide group provision for victims

To refer please use the single point of contact by phoning 023 9206 5494 or email or using this form.

  • Victim care provides support to victims assessed as standard risk. Contact them on 0808 1781641 or email on Please use this form
  • Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service (PARCS) provides:
    • free specialist trauma-informed counselling for adults of any genders who have experienced all forms of domestic abuse. Email or phone 023 9266 9513 during office hours.
    • a Helpline for any adult affected by domestic abuse, either as a survivor or as a family / friend of a survivor, operates Monday 11am-2pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays 4.30-8pm, supported by 24-hour answerphones. Tel no 0300 222 5735

For other support options for victims with specific characteristics or other individual needs, please access the resource page on the Domestic Abuse Commissioners website.

If you are worried a child has been sexually abused then you need to contact the MASH.

Worried about a child – If you are concerned that a child or young person has suffered harm, neglect or abuse, please contact Portsmouth Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)

If a child is at immediate risk of harm, call the Police on 999.

Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service (PARCS) provides free specialist trauma-informed counselling, psychotherapy and community services for survivors of sexual and/or domestic abuse. This includes:

  • free counselling and support for children and adults living in Portsmouth and South East Hampshire who have experienced rape, childhood sexual abuse or other form of sexual violation any time in their lives
  • counselling for parents/carers of children (aged up to 18 years) who have been sexually abused

Email or phone 023 9266 9513 during office hours.

Helpline for any adult affected by sexual violence, either as a survivor or as a family / friend of a survivor, operates Monday 11am-2pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays 4.30-8pm, supported by 24-hour answerphones.  Tel no. 0300 222 5735

For parents and children who have suffered an unwanted sexual experience, regardless of when the incident happened or characteristics such as age, gender or sexuality and want practical support and guidance then an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) can offer help. Yellow Door offer a free ISVA service and can give independent advice and support to help parents make informed choices about what happens next, including whether to report to the police. They provide support throughout the criminal justice process if parents proceed in that way and they will advise on what their health care options are.

In addition to the core ISVA service Yellow Door offer a specialist Family ISVA and Male ISVA.

If you would like to know more contact Yellow Door on 023 8063 6312, email them at or visit their wesbite

Also refer to the HIPS Procedure for Adults who Disclose Childhood Sexual Abuse


Multi-agency training for professionals is delivered by Stop Domestic Abuse. The “Responding to Domestic Abuse” training combines the existing ‘victim’- and ‘perpetrator’-focused training, and aims to:

  • To define what is domestic abuse
  • What does domestic abuse look like for:
    • Victims
    • People using abusive behaviours
    • Children
    • Professionals
  • To increase knowledge and challenge stereotypes of  victim, people using abusive behaviours, children and professionals.
  • Types of relationships
  • Engaging with your service users
  • Understanding and accessing the referral pathway
  • Effective safety planning and its application to your practice

Upcoming training dates

The dates for the DA Combined training are:

  • 15 May 2024 – 9.30am – 4.30pm
  • 11 June 2024 – 9.30am – 4.30pm
  • 11 July 2024 – 9.30am – 4.30pm
  • 12 September 2024 – 9.30am – 4.30pm
  • 8 October 2024 – 9.30am – 4.30pm
  • 6 Feb 2025 – time TBC
  • 11 March 2025 – time TBC
  • 14 May 2025 – time TBC
  • 10 June 2025 – time TBC

To book a place contact Stop Domestic Abuse via email Training is likely to move to face to face, however this will be confirmed once you are booked onto the course.

E-Learning courses

Please see below a list of free online E-Learning courses:

Awareness of Forced Marriage

This online course has been developed with the Forced Marriage Unit of the Foreign Office and aims to raise awareness, challenge perceptions and explains what to do should you suspect someone is at risk.

Conducting a domestic homicide review

For frontline practitioners. By the end of the course you should be able to understand:

  • the domestic homicide review processes
  • your individual role and responsibilities within the review process
  • the importance of sharing best practice and lessons learned locally and be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the review process

MARAC online training

Online training is available via the Safelives Community website – you’ll need to sign up to the Safelives Community, but once logged in, the following free courses are available:

  • MARAC Coordinators
  • MARAC Chairs
  • MARAC Representatives

Recognising and preventing female genital mutilation (FGM)

The Home Office has produced an e-learning package on FGM intended for people working in health, the police, education, the border force and children’s service. It is also suitable as an awareness raising tool for other professionals. You will need to register for this free training.

  • PARCSfor trauma-informed counselling services and helpline for anyone who has experienced sexual violence, domestic abuse or exploitation.
  • Yellow Door – for ISVAs (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor) who provide key work support to help look after the needs of victims following an experience of sexual violence, abuse or exploitation.
  • Refuge provision – For anyone who needs refuge provisionplease contact the police in an emergency or Stop Domestic Abuse as refuge provider. If there is no refuge provision available then please encourage victims to access housing needs and support via phone (023 92834989) who continue to offer support including support for alternative safe accommodation options if there is no refuge provision available.
  • Stop Domestic Abuse – offers a virtual drop in service for victims who cannot access a phone. Victims can contact a support worker via messenger on 09:30 to 11:30am, 3pm to 5pm and 6pm to 8pm Monday to Friday. Facebook:
  • Support for victims of domestic abuse

For advice, help & support out of hours or for specific needs: