Staying safe

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is sometimes also referred to as domestic violence and can be defined as:

'An incident or a pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse. It concerns people aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members and it can happen regardless of your gender or sexuality'.

Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological, emotional, physical, sexual and financial. It also includes what is known as 'honour' based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.

Domestic violence affects people of every class, gender, level of wealth, geography, age, race, disability and sexuality. The violence can begin at any stage of the relationship and may continue after the relationship has ended. It is a pattern of controlling and aggressive behaviour that is intentional and calculated to exercise power and control within a relationship.

Identifying signs of abuse in a relationship

The following are signs of an abusive relationship:

  • The biggest warning sign is if the person in question has been in a violent relationship before - violent and abusive people rarely change
  • They put your friends down and or make it difficult for you to see them
  • They lose their temper over small things
  • Verbal abuse like shouting, mocking, name-calling
  • They have very rigid ideas about the roles of men and women and can't or won't discuss it reasonably
  • Their mood swings are so erratic that you find yourself constantly trying to assess their mood and only think in terms of their needs
  • It is difficult for you to get emotional or physical space away from them
  • They ask you a lot of questions constantly, about where you have been and who you were with
  • They criticise you all the time
  • They make all the decisions in your relationship and ignore your needs or dismiss them as unimportant

Are you experiencing or have you been threatened with:

  • Physical abuse: this can include punching, slapping, pulling hair, biting, burning, hitting, choking and kicking
  • Harassment: this can include being watched, followed, pestered, unwanted letters, unwanted phone calls, or unwanted messages sent through other people
  • Economic abuse: this can include being kept without money, wages, benefits or pension and/or having to account for everything you spend
  • Emotional abuse: this can include being verbally abused, humiliated, constantly blamed for things, put down in front of other people and being kept away from family and friends
  • Sexual abuse: this can include rape, forced vaginal or anal penetration by fingers or other objects, being forced to watch or act out pornography, being spoken to in a sexually degrading way or indecent phone calls


Our safeguarding adults services deal with domestic abuse and violence issues where the victim, perpetrator or any witness to abuse is an adult at risk who may have care and support needs. If it's happening to you or if you suspect an abusive relationship and want some further advice please get in touch.

Don't blame yourself

  • It can happen to all people of all ages, classes, races, religions and levels of intelligence
  • You are not responsible for the violence
  • You can't change the abusers behaviour
  • It is rare for it to happen only once and often gets more serious the longer it continues
  • Don't keep it a secret - there is a lot of help available

Talk to someone

  • Talk to someone you trust like a friend or family member
  • Contact a support agency like Hestia Harrow Domestic Abuse Support Service on 0208 907 8148

Leaving an abusive partner

If you are experiencing domestic violence or abuse you may need to leave in a hurry so it is good to have a safety plan in place.

Have a safety plan

  • Have a list of phone numbers with you including the police, women's aid, victims support, friends and relatives you trust
  • Have a place where you can quickly and easily use a phone (a neighbour, friend, phone box or relative)
  • Try to keep some money somewhere safe for a train, taxi or bus fare
  • Try to make a copy of all important documents like passports, birth certificates and bank accounts and keep them somewhere safe
  • Get a spare set of keys to the house/flat
  • Pack a small bag with the spare keys, copies of documents and money and keep it at a trusted friends house
  • Tell someone you trust
  • See your GP so there is a record of your injuries
  • Explain the escape plan to your children (who are old enough to understand), explain that you may need to leave in a hurry and that you will take them with you or come back for them

Staying with family or friends

This may be a safe option for you and give you some support. But your abuser may guess where you are. This may cause problems and for many people this is only a short-term solution. If you live in social housing and you decide to stay with family or friends, you must inform your housing officer as soon as possible.

Going to a women's refuge

A refuge is a safe house for women and children who are escaping domestic violence. Help will be available on welfare rights, legal issues, accommodation options and more. Some Women's Aid organisations also have their own temporary accommodation. This offers more independent living. You may move on to this from a refuge whilst you are waiting for permanent housing. You can refer yourself to a refuge by calling the Domestic Violence Helpline on 020 8736 6281. You can also ask your housing officer or other agencies to refer you.

Agency support

The Sanctuary Project

The Sanctuary Project assists repeat victims of domestic violence and hate crime to feel safe and remain in their homes, without having to make themselves voluntarily homeless. The main feature of the project is the creation of a 'sanctuary room', which consists of having an internal door replaced with a solid core door, reversing it to open outwards, so that the door jamb acts as an additional barrier. This provides a safe room or 'sanctuary' for victims to call from and await the arrival of the police.

The 'Sanctuary Project' is not seen as an immediate response, but a long-term solution to improving the client's quality of life. To be assessed for the Sanctuary Project, contact the Housing Assessment Team.

If you do not want the agency you are phoning to know your phone number, dial 141 before dialling.  However this will not prevent the number you have called from showing up on your itemised billing. You may prefer to phone from a friends house, a phone box or a support agency. In cases of emergency always call the emergency service on 999.

National support

  • 24 hour National Domestic Violence Free phone Helpline: 0808 2000 247
  • ChildLine: 0800 1111 If you’re a child or young person and domestic abuse is happening in your home or relationship.
  • Hour Glass: 0808 808 8141 challenging the abuse of older people in all its forms
  • Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre Helpline: 0808 802 9999
  • Stalking Helpline: 0808 802 0300
  • National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428 (National)
  • National Centre for Domestic Violence: 0800 970 2070 (press Option 1) or 0207 186 8270
    • The National Centre for Domestic Violence provides a free, fast emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence. They are entitled to support regardless of their financial circumstances, race, gender or sexual orientation. Our award-winning service allows anyone who has recently suffered or been threatened with domestic violence to apply for an emergency court injunction. This can sometimes be issued within 24 hours of making contact with the service. 
  • Men's Advice Line: 0808 801 0327, email -
  • ManKind Initiative: 01823 334244
  • Everyman Project: 020 7263 8884 (Men seeking help to change your own behaviour) or 020 7263 8894 (Survivors of domestic violence)
  • FLOWS - Finding Legal options for Women Survivors: 0203 745 7707

Support across London

Support in Harrow

Specialist Services

Published Domestic Homicide Reviews

Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) were established on a statutory basis under Section 9 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004) which came into effect on 13 April 2011.

Under guidance issued by the Home Office, any incident of domestic violence or abuse which results in the death of the victim requires a DHR to be carried out by the local Community Safety Partnership. In Harrow, the Strategic Commissioning Team manage the process and commission an Independent Chair.

The purpose of the multi agency review is to ensure that agencies are responding appropriately to victims of domestic violence and to apply any lessons learned through an action plan or recommendations.

There are no inquiries into who is culpable, this is for the court or coroner to decide.