Summer Solstice - 5am - 21 June 2021

Domestic abuse is one of the many forms of abuse against women including rape, sexual abuse, female genital mutilation, trafficking, forced marriage etc that constitute a violation of the most fundamental human rights.

Despite progress, the reality remains that women in Northern Ireland and globally are still not safe from abuse in the home. Additionally, women who experience domestic abuse still struggle to overcome barriers of discrimination in the areas of legal rights, housing, and finance.

  • The law is there to protect you if a partner or ex-partner is abusing you or your children. Choosing to use the law can be a difficult decision to make but it is important to remember, Women’s Aid is there to support you at every step.

    Women’s Aid welcomes the introduction of the Domestic Abuse & Civil Proceedings Act (Northern Ireland) which is due to be implemented in February 2022.  The Act provides for a specific domestic abuse offence, capturing patterns of non-physical abuse that is controlling or coercive, or amounts to psychological, emotional, technological or financial abuse.  The legislation will offer greater protection to victims of domestic abuse by prohibiting cross-examination in person, as well as automatic eligibility for consideration of special measures at court.  `the new legislation will criminalise coercive and controlling behaviour bringing Northern Ireland law in line with other jurisdictions within the UK and Ireland.

    If you are experiencing domestic abuse the law can help you in the following ways.

    Police response

    If you or your children are in any danger, contact the police. A Police Domestic Abuse Officer will usually be appointed to work with you and support you to get the help you need. This can include helping you contact agencies that can help such as Women’s Aid or Victim Support. They can also provide you with practical support.

    More information on police response.

    Prosecutions will be handled by the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland where trained and skilled solicitors will decide when to prosecute in all cases of domestic abuse.

    Women’s Aid is there for you at all stages during the legal process.

    Using the law

    If you choose to use the law, it is useful to have as much evidence as possible about what you have experienced. You may also find it helpful to write it all down. It would also be useful if you can gather relevant information such as a doctor’s report, records of hospital visits, dates and times of incidents etc. Women’s Aid can support and guide you.

    To access legal protection, you have to apply to the court. The law can be quite complex so you so it may be helpful o contact your your local Women’s Aid group for information and advice.

    Other organisations that can help

    There are three main types of legal action you can take:

    • Non-Molestation Order
    • Occupation Order, and
    • Protection from Harassment Order.

    Legal Aid is available for all people experiencing domestic abuse. On 30 December 2010 the Minister of Justice David Ford MLA announced the decision to amend the Legal Aid Rule effective immediately, to remove the upper earnings and capital limit for those seeking Legal Aid for Non-Molestation Order proceedings in Northern Ireland. Women will now automatically receive Legal Aid for these proceedings but may be required to make a one-off contribution to the fees which will be based on legal aid fee rates rather than on private solicitor’s rates.

  • If you are a victim of a domestic abuse, you may need somewhere safe to stay, either alone or with your children. The options are:

    • stay at home if you think this is safe
    • stay with relatives or friends
    • stay in a Women’s Aid refuge
    • get emergency accommodation from the local authority
    • private rented accommodation.

    Women’s Aid Refuges

    Women’s Aid Refuges are safe houses run by and for women suffering domestic abuse. There are currently 12 Women’s Aid refuges across Northern Ireland. Our refuges are modern, well-appointed buildings. Some have been purpose built. All refuges are well equipped to meet the needs of women and children. Refuges provide a safe place for you and your children to stay while you think about what to do next.

    All refuges employ a team of highly skilled and trained staff to respond to your needs and those of your children. Child workers plan an ongoing programme of play and social activities for children which can help children relax and get the support they need.

    Women’s Aid staff are specialised in dealing with domestic abuse, and so can give a lot of emotional and practical support, for example, advice on benefit claims, which solicitors to use and, if necessary, how to contact the police etc.

    Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE)

    If you have to leave your home because of domestic abuse, you have a right to temporary and permanent housing provided by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. You will usually be considered legally homeless if it is not reasonable for you to occupy your home because of the risk or fear of domestic abuse. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive deals with applications from victims of domestic abuse on a regular basis.

    The Housing Executive may have a duty to provide interim accommodation for you if you are homeless.

    You have rights to stay in your own home and make an abusive partner leave. The law can support you with this.

    Useful housing links

  • If you leave an abusive partner you may be able to claim benefits to support yourself and any children.

    You can find out more about this on Advice NI’s website or contacting your local benefits office.

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