Domestic violence and abuse

What is domestic violence or abuse?

Domestic violence and abuse occurs when one person in an intimate personal or family relationship uses violence or abuse to maintain power and control over the other person. In Devon, as in the UK more broadly, we work with the UK Home Office (2021) definition of domestic violence and abuse:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents 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 gender or sexuality.”

This includes, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

Physical abuse is the most recognisable form of abuse. It can range from a slap or a shove to a black eye, cut lip, broken bone. In the most extreme cases it can result in death. Don’t underestimate what is happening to you. Over time, the violence usually gets worse.

Sexual Abuse – your partner should not use force or threats to make you have sex. They should not make you perform sexual acts with which you are uncomfortable.

Emotional Abuse can include mental torture, blackmail, threats to disown you or kill your children. It can also be controlling – meaning you are not allowed out of the home on your own, or to make contact with your family or friends or to have access to money or obtain a job of your choice

Financial Abuse may include your partner taking your money; stopping you from working; placing all bills and debts in your name; or monitoring how you spend money and other financial resources.

Psychological Abuse – leaving a violent partner may not end the abuse and it may get worse. Most stalkers are ex-partners. If your ex-partner is harassing you or others, this should be taken seriously.

If this is happening to you, you are not alone and you are not to blame. You may feel ashamed, scared, isolated, confused, afraid not to be believed or that the violence will get worse if you report it. Do not suffer in silence, as there are people who can help.

Where to go for help and support

If you don’t tell anyone about the abuse then chances are it will continue and get worse over time. By telling someone, a friend, family member or one of the organisations listed in this directory, you will be able to start protecting yourself and your children.

There are many different agencies you can call depending on the help you need. If you are in immediate danger you should always call 999 – don’t put yourself, or your family at risk.

If you would like to talk to someone, call the Devon Domestic Abuse Service Helpline on 0345 155 1074. 

Referrals can be made directly by individuals or by agencies on behalf of their clients by calling 0345 155 1074 or by secure email at

Who Can Help

National Domestic Violence
0808 2000 247 – 24 hr freephone helpline for women

National Men’s Advice Line
0808 801 0327 – Mon to Fri: 9am – 5pm

Making life safe, just and fair for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people
020 7704 2040

Children and Young People

0800 1111

NSPCC Helpline
0800 800 5000

Devon Social Services

Adult Social Care
0345 1551 007
0345 6000 388 – Emergency Out of Hours

Children’s Social Work Services 
01392 38 3000
0345 6000 388 – Emergency Out of Hours

For emotional support in a crisis
08457 909090

National Housing Advice Line
0808 800 4444

Polish Domestic Violence Helpline

Provides Polish people who are experiencing domestic violence with a confidential contact, which will allow them to talk about their situation in their native language and to obtain information about available help and support.

  • (Polski telefon zaufania dla ofiar przemocy w rodzinie)
  • 0800 061 4004 – Opening hours: Wednesday 9.30am – 2.30pm & Friday 9.30am – 12.30pm

Other charities and organisations offering support within Devon include:

Stop Abuse for Everyone (SAFE)
Offers a wide range of services to support women and children to be safe and to live free from violence in the future in Exeter, East and Mid Devon.
030 30 30 0112

North Devon Against Domestic Abuse (NDADA)
Domestic Violence support in North Devon and Torridge. For confidential support and information call
01271 321946

Apart from when reporting to Devon and Cornwall Police, you are not obliged to give your name or contact details to any agency. It may, however, prove difficult for them to support you without this information.

Thinking of leaving?

The following is a checklist of what to take if you decide to leave:

  • Money. If possible, have some money saved in case you need to use a taxi or bus. Take your credit cards, cheques, saving and giro books as well as any current and unpaid bills. If you don’t have a mobile, find somewhere you can quickly and safely use the phone should you need to.
  • Take important documents such as your marriage and birth certificates, any court orders, passports, benefit and bank books, and health records. Also remember to take the child benefit book and other legal and financial papers you may have.
  • Keys. Take any keys you have or if there is time, have an extra set made of house, car and office keys before you leave.
  • Emergency addresses and contact numbers. School, GP, friends and family phone numbers and numbers of relevant domestic violence agencies.
  • Have a small bag already packed with an extra set of keys for the house and car should you need to leave in an emergency. You may prefer leaving this with a trusted friend.
  • Take essential medicines that you and your children need.
  • Toys. Sometimes it is difficult to carry much but your children may be confused and upset and a special toy or comforter may help them.
  • If you later discover that you have left something essential behind, you can always arrange for a police escort so that you can return for it.