Abuse victims being returned to their abusers | Little Lives UK (2022)

Home » Blog » Thousands of abuse victims forced to return to their abuser

Research by Refuge and Women’s Aid has underlined the damage done by government policies, especially for specialist refuge services.

Two women are murdered by their partner every week, while many thousands of children are forced to witness domestic abuse every year. Hestia say there might be as many as 1 million.

The pressure on councils, and charities, to provide safe accommodation for victims is increasing, whilst government funding continues to slack.

The government will highlight the £1.2 million that was recently awarded to Refuge for the National Domestic Violence Helpline, with additional funding for new digital and mobile resources and another £1 million for 6 more helplines until 2022.

As crucial as these helplines are, none of them can replace the safety and support of a women’s refuge centre, like those run by Refuge, Women’s Aid, Hestia and many other smaller organisations.

Despite their effectiveness – in providing shelter, counselling and career mentoring – cuts have forced many refuges to scale back their operations or close completely. An investigation by The Times revealed “Domestic abuse victims have ended up in homeless accommodation because of a lack of refuge spaces” and that “only two counties had enough refuges to meet binding Council of Europe requirements on domestic abuse.”

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The issues do not stop with the lack of spaces. Disabled victims, who are statistically higher risk, face an infamous lack of provision. Despite one third of Refuge’s women having a disability, only 1 in 10 refuge spaces in the UK are accessible, according to the BBC.

It’s equally miserable for BME women. In July The Independent reported the potential closure of a group of specialist refuges after their funding was axed. London’s Black Women’s Project had five domestic-violence refuges inNewhamin EastLondonwhichhouse survivors from across the UK. At the time they were set to close all their refuges after losing government grants.

While writing this article I called their urgent helpline. I got no answer.

This is especially worrying given that women who identified with Mixed/Multiple ethnicities were more likely to have experienced partner abuse in the last 12 months (10.1%) than any other ethnic group, according to the ONS.

Refuge, who are the leading organisation against domestic violence, say there is a need for specialist centres where more ethno-specific care can be given. It also protects victims against racist abuse. Add to this the fact that “many survivors from (BAMER) backgrounds can face cultural and community pressures that may make it more difficult…to escape”.

Both the current, and previous, Prime Minister have instigated legislation to increase the availability of refuge services, but there is no provision for increasing underfunded specialist services for BME and disabled women.

A Women’s Aid report in 2018 has underpinned attempts to move a new Domestic Abuse Bill through the legislature. Some of the standout issues were the lack of specialist refuges, as well as specialist services within them. They reported that only:

  • 3% of refuge services have a specialist mental health support worker
  • 9% have a specialist drug use worker
  • 9% have a specialist alcohol use worker

Given the trauma they are dealing with, there is a serious absence of opportunity for mental and physical rehabilitation. Without psychological support, women are more likely to return to the abuser, or another abusive relationship.

Although women experience higher rates of repeated victimisation and are much more likely to be seriously hurt or killed than male victims of domestic abuse (Women’s Aid), it is also true that one third of reported victims are male. This has led to claims that there is insufficient provision for male victims, especially in London where there are currently no dedicated beds, according to The Independent.

(Video) RAW: Body cam shows domestic violence victim thrown to ground, handcuffed | KVUE

Another issue is that many refuges are unable to accept the teenage sons of victims, even those as young as 12, and especially anyone over 16; in line with creating a safe space for women. This leaves many victims with no option but to return to the abuse, worse to let their son return to an abusive relative and break up an already broken family. One more sad footnote in a horror story.

Those with NRFP status (No Recourse to Public Funds) can expect the least opportunity to escape abuse. This includes those with a spouse visa, student visa, limited leave, and leave to remain within a five year completion window. Women’s Aid found that During 2017–18 only 5.8% of vacancies could consider women who had ‘no recourse to public funds’.

Interest in addressing these details will remain slow while the system stretches.

Lack of funding hasn’t just hit the smaller services. Civil Society reported that “Refuge employees complained about working conditions at the charity”. This has lead to a review of the Refuge governance structures.

This also comes at a time when their 16 year helpline partnership with Women’s Aid came to an end, following a separate bid for national funding last year. This means Refuge will take on the National Domestic Abuse Helpline going forward.

Unfortunately Women’s Aid weren’t able to comment on the separate bidding strategy.

Instead they have created a Live Chat Service, which marks a step forward for digital abuse support, especially when many victims find it hard to make phone calls near an abuser.

System Changes

The current delivery relies on public funding through the housing benefit system and grants from local government. In their 2018 report, Women’s Aid recommended a National Oversight Mechanism that will allow an independent body to monitor how well local government is responding to the needs of residents and ensure there is enough specialist provision, whilst continuing to ensure public money is spent efficiently.

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“The national oversight mechanism (NOM) can plug the gap in national accountability for the commissioning, funding and delivery of refuge services, and help provide assurances around how public funds are being spent through housing benefit.” Women’s Aid

The Home Affairs Committee has since made several recommendations to the government:

  1. It is unacceptable that women fleeing violence and other forms of abuse are often unable to access any form of emergency accommodation.
  1. This urgent problem should be addressed by placing a statutory obligation upon local authorities in England and Wales to provide emergency refuge places and associated specialist services.
  1. We recommend that the Government’s review of refuge and other domestic abuse support services should document and report what specialist provision is currently available, and where there are gaps. This should specifically identify the services available to, and required by, BAME victims of abuse.

Theresa May responded last July with her vow to end the “postcode lottery” for victims and their children, by making councils legally obliged to provide refuge space. This was followed by Boris Johnson’s pledge to re-introduce the domestic abuse legislation into the Queen’s speech, with a new definition identifying economic abuse and controlling non-physical behaviour (previously overlooked by police until recent landmark court cases).

The 2019 election delayed this process, however, a debate last Tuesday has reaffirmed the importance of passing the new legislation as quickly as possible. Labour MP Chris Elmore emphasised research during the 2018 World Cup that has shown domestic abuse incidents increase during major sporting events.

The outlook for current victims is worrying. Although the government is making progress on legislation, it cannot work fast enough for the women that will be killed this week, and the lifelong trauma inflicted on children that will experience abuse today. With immediate funding and better structural organisation, as recommended by Women’s Aid, there is an opportunity to lessen the impacts of these crimes.

The Freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline0808 2000 247

Crown Prosecution Service Definition: “Domestic abuse, or domestic violence, is defined across Government as any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of their gender or sexuality.”

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(Video) Why domestic violence victims don't leave | Leslie Morgan Steiner


Why do people return to their abusers? ›

Victims stay or return for many reasons, such as: The deck is stacked against a victim when confronted with leaving or not. Abusers work very hard to keep victims in the abusive relationship. There is a real fear of death or worse abuse if they leave.

How many times on average do you think a woman is assaulted before she gets effective help? ›

New SafeLives data shows that 85% of victims sought help five times on average from professionals in the year before they got effective help to stop the abuse.

What percentage of domestic violence cases get dismissed UK? ›

In the year up to March 2020, 54.8% cases were dropped after the victim did not support the prosecution of a suspect, even though charges can still be brought without the victim's consent if there is other evidence. Around 20% of cases did not proceed due to evidential difficulties.

What are the three stages involved in the cycle of domestic abuse? ›

There are three phases in the cycle of violence: (1) Tension-Building Phase, (2) Acute or Crisis Phase, and (3) Calm or Honeymoon Phase. Without intervention, the frequency and severity of the abuse tends to increase over time.

Why do victims stay in contact with abusers? ›

A victim's reasons for staying with their abusers are extremely complex and, in most cases, are based on the reality that their abuser will follow through with the threats they have used to keep them trapped: the abuser will hurt or kill them, they will hurt or kill the kids, they will win custody of the children, they ...

How many people return to their abusers? ›

How does a victim go from vowing to leave to defending the abuser, even in extreme cases? A team of researchers at The Ohio State University wanted to find out. Few cases of relationship violence ever reach the court system, but when they do, up to 80% of victims later recant their allegations.

How do you tell if someone is lying about being abused? ›

Some common signs include: The person does not answer a question right away, but pauses or delays their answer as they try to think about what to say. The person looks away and will not make eye contact. The person instinctively touches their mouth while speaking.

Can police press charges if victim doesn't want to UK? ›

Contrary to what most people think, the police can issue charges even if the victim asks them not to go forward. If the police charged you even though the alleged victim doesn't want to pursue a criminal complaint, you still need an experienced and dedicated criminal defense lawyer on your side.

What profession has the highest domestic violence rate? ›

So which occupation has the highest rate? That would be police officers. Studies have found that a minimum of 40 percent of families of officers have experienced some type of domestic violence. This can include anything from harassment and stalking to homicide.

Does domestic violence go on your record UK? ›

Offences that are domestic abuse-related will be recorded under the respective offence that has been committed, for example, assault with injury. This is because (with the exception of controlling or coercive behaviour) domestic abuse is not currently a specific criminal offence.

How long does domestic violence stay on your record UK? ›

Since 2006, the police retain details of all recordable offences until you reach 100 years of age.

What happens if a victim doesn't go to court UK? ›

They can help explain things to you and look at what support you can get. If you won't go to court, you may get a 'witness summons' from the court. A witness summons says you have to go to court. If you still fail to go to court without a good reason, you could be 'in contempt of court' and you may be arrested.

What is the narcissistic abuse cycle? ›

The narcissistic abuse cycle refers to an abusive pattern of behavior that characterizes the relationships of people with narcissistic traits. It involves first idealizing a person, then devaluing them, repeating the cycle, and eventually discarding them when they are of no further use.

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse
  • They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You. ...
  • They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy. ...
  • They are Possessive and/or Controlling. ...
  • They are Manipulative. ...
  • They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.
23 May 2017

What is the primary symptom of battered woman syndrome? ›

Anxiety: Women with BWS have high levels of anxiety and hypervigilance when something doesn't seem right, Walker says. This leads to the fight-or-flight response. This could mean being startled by noises and other triggers, crying often, and having problems with sleep.

What is it called when a victim protects their abuser? ›

Stockholm syndrome is a coping mechanism to a captive or abusive situation. People develop positive feelings toward their captors or abusers over time. This condition applies to situations including child abuse, coach-athlete abuse, relationship abuse and sex trafficking.

Why do people keep quiet when they are abused? ›

Reasons abuse survivors might stay silent

“No one will believe me.” They might think nobody would believe them if they did tell someone that they were abused. Safety. A survivor may be very afraid of their abuser and may fear for their safety if they open up about their experiences.

What type of people do abusers target? ›

Abusers want someone who is already doing well in life, and also someone who has their emotions under control.
  • Victims of psychological abuse are often strong, confident, and successful.
  • This is because abusers are attracted to someone they think will be a "challenge" to break.
11 Aug 2017

Is a trauma bond? ›

A trauma bond is a psychological response that happens when an abused person develops an unhealthy attachment to their abuser. Trauma bonds can occur in any situation where one person is exploiting another and are not limited to romantic relationships¹.

Is trauma bonding real? ›

A trauma bond is a connection between an abusive person and the individual they abuse. It typically occurs when the abused person begins to develop sympathy or affection for the abuser. This bond can develop over days, weeks, or months. Not everyone who experiences abuse develops a trauma bond.

Why does Stockholm syndrome happen? ›

These feelings typically happen because of the emotional and highly charged situation that occurs during a hostage situation or abuse cycle. For example, people who are kidnapped or taken hostage often feel threatened by their captor, but they are also highly reliant on them for survival.

Why do some people lie about being abused? ›

Claiming the mantle of victimhood can be a way of getting the sympathy, acknowledgment or treatment from others they seek, she said. “They may feel that they have been abused by the system that they live in,” she said.

What happens if you lie about being abused? ›

While individuals who lie about domestic violence may be charged with perjury, it is unlike to happen. Additionally, the accuser could be charged with filing a false police report, a misdemeanor offense.

How can you prove someone is lying? ›

Signs of Lying
  1. Being vague; offering few details.
  2. Repeating questions before answering them.
  3. Speaking in sentence fragments.
  4. Failing to provide specific details when a story is challenged.
  5. Grooming behaviors such as playing with hair or pressing fingers to lips.
8 Mar 2020

Can a victim ask the CPS to drop charges? ›

We can either ask the CPS not to charge you or offer a caution for less serious cases If there are good reasons why court proceedings should be avoided. This may relate to: Remorse. Reconciliation with victim.

How much evidence is needed to charge UK? ›

These are: There are reasonable grounds to suspect that the person to be charged has committed the offence. Further evidence can be obtained to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. The seriousness or the circumstances of the case justifies the making of an immediate charging decision.

Can a person be found guilty without evidence? ›

It is not necessary for the accused person to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt or in default to incur a verdict of guilty. The onus of proof lying upon the accused person is to prove his case by a preponderance of probability."

Where is domestic violence most common? ›

Kentucky. Kentucky has the highest domestic violence statistics in the United States, with 45.3% of women and 35.5% of men having experienced domestic violence.

What profession has the most murders? ›

Taxi- cab drivers and chauffeurs have the highest homicide rate of any occupa- tion, 17.9 fatalities per 100,000 work- ers, or 36 times the risk of all employed individuals. This group comprises 0.2 percent of employed workers in the United States, but accounts for about 7 percent of work-related homicides.

Which occupation is most at risk for workplace violence? ›

Among those with higher-risk are workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups.

Is psychological abuse a crime UK? ›

What is coercive control? As well as your civil options, the police may be able to take criminal action against your abuser under mental abuse law. After successful campaigning by Women's Aid, ongoing emotional and psychological abuse is now a criminal offence called coercive control.

Can CPS prosecute without victim statement? ›

The CPS recognises that successful prosecutions can only happen if victims and witnesses feel confident and capable of giving their best evidence. This is more likely to happen if those involved in the Criminal Justice System understand the particular requirements that people with mental health issues may have.

Can I withdraw my statement in a domestic violence case? ›

If you withdraw your statement, the case might still go to court if the police think they have enough evidence to prosecute the suspect. If you want to withdraw your statement because you're worried about giving evidence, you should tell the police how you feel.

What shows up on a DBS check? ›

A DBS Check, also known as a Disclosure, will identify any convictions, cautions, final warnings or reprimands, relevant to the prospective employment and can also include intelligence from the Police National Computer that may affect an individual's suitability for certain employment.

Can you get your DBS cleared? ›

Multiple convictions can be filtered – Provided the offence is eligible and didn't lead to a suspended or actual prison sentence, convictions can now be filtered from standard and enhanced DBS checks after the relevant time period has passed, even if there is more than one conviction or offence on record.

How is someone put on Clare's Law? ›

An individual may be able to apply for a disclosure request by visiting a police station, phoning 101 or contacting your local police via email. Most police forces also have an online application process available through their websites.

Can you be charged without evidence UK? ›

In general, the police can charge you without evidence, but the prospects of that case actually going to court rely heavily on whether the CPS believes there is enough evidence to convict you.

Can a victim withdraw a statement? ›

If you're a victim or prosecution witness, you can ask the Crown Prosecution Service ( CPS ) to see your statement again before you go to court to refresh your memory. You can add things to your statement if you remember them later on, but you cannot withdraw it.

Is a witness statement enough to convict UK? ›

It is not possible to convict someone of perjury on the evidence of a single witness who alleges that false evidence has been given, although a formal confession or other evidence (such as video or documentary evidence) could be sufficient on its own.

What is hoovering narcissist? ›

Coined after the Hoover vacuum, hoovering is a calculating scheme commonly used by narcissists to "suck" you up into their orbit and get you back into their life. It's an energetically draining dynamic that perpetuates a toxic pattern of idealization, devaluation, and discardment.

What happens to the victim of narcissistic abuse? ›

Victims of narcissistic abuse have been reported to experience symptoms similar to PTSD, known informally as narcissistic abuse syndrome. Symptoms include intrusive, invasive, or unwanted thoughts, flashbacks, avoidance, feelings of loneliness, isolation, and feeling extremely alert.

What are signs of narcissistic abuse? ›

Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
  • Always Walking On Egg Shells. As a human, you tend to avoid things that remind you of terrible things in the past. ...
  • Sense of Mistrust. ...
  • Self-Isolation. ...
  • Loss of Self Worth. ...
  • Feeling Lonely. ...
  • Freezing Up. ...
  • Trouble Making Decisions. ...
  • Feeling Like You've Done Something Wrong.
23 Dec 2020

What does emotional abuse do to a woman? ›

Staying in an emotionally or verbally abusive relationship can have long-lasting effects on your physical and mental health, including leading to chronic pain, depression, or anxiety. Read more about the effects on your health. You may also: Question your memory of events: “Did that really happen?” (See Gaslighting.)

What is gaslighting emotional abuse? ›

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a person or group causes someone to question their own sanity, memories, or perception of reality. People who experience gaslighting may feel confused, anxious, or as though they cannot trust themselves.

What is buttered wife? ›

Definition of battered woman syndrome

: the highly variable symptom complex of physical and psychological injuries exhibited by a woman repeatedly abused especially physically by her mate. — called also battered woman's syndrome, battered wife syndrome, battered women's syndrome.

How can you tell if someone was abused in the past? ›

11 Signs You May Have Experienced Emotional Abuse in the Past
  1. You Aren't Good at Making Decisions for Yourself. ...
  2. You Are a People Pleaser. ...
  3. You Minimise Toxic Moments. ...
  4. You Get Angry or Frustrated Easily. ...
  5. You Often Feel Defensive. ...
  6. You Tend to View Yourself Negatively. ...
  7. You Find it Hard to Cope When People Are Upset.
23 May 2019

What are the three phases of battered woman syndrome? ›

BWS begins as an abusive cycle with three stages. First, the abuser engages in behaviors that create relationship tension. Second, the tension explodes when the abuser commits some form of abuse: physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, or otherwise. Third, the abuser tries to fix his wrongdoing and apologizes.

What type of people do abusers target? ›

Abusers want someone who is already doing well in life, and also someone who has their emotions under control.
  • Victims of psychological abuse are often strong, confident, and successful.
  • This is because abusers are attracted to someone they think will be a "challenge" to break.
11 Aug 2017

What are the signs or warning signs that someone may be an abuser? ›

Red flags and warning signs of an abuser include but are not limited to:
  • Extreme jealousy.
  • Possessiveness.
  • Unpredictability.
  • A bad temper.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Extremely controlling behavior.
  • Antiquated beliefs about roles of women and men in relationships.

What are the symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome? ›

What are the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome?
  • Positive feelings toward the captors or abusers.
  • Sympathy for their captors' beliefs and behaviors.
  • Negative feelings toward police or other authority figures.
14 Feb 2022

Is trauma bonding real? ›

A trauma bond is a connection between an abusive person and the individual they abuse. It typically occurs when the abused person begins to develop sympathy or affection for the abuser. This bond can develop over days, weeks, or months. Not everyone who experiences abuse develops a trauma bond.

What techniques do abusers use? ›

Manipulators and abusers may control their victims with a range of tactics, including, but not limited to, positive reinforcement (such as praise, superficial charm, flattery, ingratiation, love bombing, smiling, gifts, attention), negative reinforcement (taking away aversive tasks or items), intermittent or partial ...

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse
  • They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You. ...
  • They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy. ...
  • They are Possessive and/or Controlling. ...
  • They are Manipulative. ...
  • They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.
23 May 2017

What is it called when a victim becomes an abuser? ›

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological condition that occurs when a victim of abuse identifies and attaches, or bonds, positively with their abuser. This syndrome was originally observed when hostages who were kidnapped not only bonded with their kidnappers, but also fell in love with them.

What is the typical profile of an abuser? ›

Abuser is overly sensitive. Abuser has anger management issues. Abuser is afraid of intimacy. Abuser has low self esteem.

How do you tell if someone is lying about being abused? ›

Some common signs include: The person does not answer a question right away, but pauses or delays their answer as they try to think about what to say. The person looks away and will not make eye contact. The person instinctively touches their mouth while speaking.

What are signs of Gaslighting? ›

Signs of gaslighting
  • insist you said or did things you know you didn't do.
  • deny or scoff at your recollection of events.
  • call you “too sensitive” or “crazy” when you express your needs or concerns.
  • express doubts to others about your feelings, behavior, and state of mind.
  • twisting or retelling events to shift blame to you.

How do you break a trauma bond? ›

Outside of getting professional support, here are some steps you can take on your own to break free from a trauma bonded relationship:
  1. Educate Yourself. ...
  2. Focus on the Here and Now. ...
  3. Create Some Space. ...
  4. Find Support. ...
  5. Practice Good Self-Care. ...
  6. Make Future Plans. ...
  7. Develop Healthy Relationships. ...
  8. Give Yourself Permission to Heal.
18 Feb 2022

What are the two emotional responses that cause Stockholm syndrome? ›

Stockholm syndrome can manifest in several ways, including when the victims: perceive kindness or compassion from their captor or abuser. develop positive feelings towards the individual or group of individuals holding them captive or abusing them.

Is trauma bonding the same as Stockholm syndrome? ›

The term 'trauma bond' is also known as Stockholm Syndrome. It describes a deep bond which forms between a victim and their abuser. Victims of abuse often develop a strong sense of loyalty towards their abuser, despite the fact that the bond is damaging to them.

Do Narcissists feel the trauma bond? ›

Narcissists do feel the trauma bond, but not in the same way that the people that they abuse feel it. A trauma bond makes narcissists feel remarkably well because the dynamics of a trauma bonded relationship is designed to help them regulate the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they've suppressed.

How do I know if I'm traumatized? ›

Intrusive memories

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event. Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks) Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event. Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event.

What does trauma dumping look like? ›

According to Dr. Prewitt, some specific examples of trauma dumping include: A coworker sharing specific details of a difficult divorce while at a casual lunch with colleagues. A friend sharing details of a toxic relationship, without allowing the other person to talk about their day.


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