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Keeping yourself safe

Anyone can be vulnerable to abuse at some point in their life.

If you've been affected by crime or by abuse you might feel scared and helpless. It's important to know that there are organisations you can turn to for help and there are things you can do to protect yourself.

Domestic violence and sexual abuse

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is any form of unacceptable personal abuse committed by a partner, ex-partner or a family member.

We define it as “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".

The term covers a wide range of abusive and controlling behaviour and can include issues such as forced marriage and honour crimes. It can encompass (but isn't limited to) the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

We define controlling behaviour as "a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support; exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain; depriving them of the means needed for independence; resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour".

We define coercive behaviour as "a continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that's used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim”.

There are three important steps to take if you're being abused or threatened by your partner, ex-partner or someone else close to you:

1. Recognise it is happening
2. Accept you are not to blame
3. Seek help and support

Consider your children:

  • Children often witness incidents and they can sometimes be physically hurt too
  • Experience of domestic abuse can leave children confused, distressed, guilty, helpless and worried
  • It can impact many aspects of their life, such as school and relationships
  • Most children will be aware of the abuse, even if they're not in the room
  • It’s important that children understand that it's not normal or acceptable and it's not your fault

Did you know?

  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime
  • Two women a week are murdered by their ex or current partner in the UK
  • Every 30 seconds the police receive a phone call regarding domestic abuse
  • Domestic abuse accounts for between 16-25% of all recorded violent crime
  • Nearly 90% of domestic abuse is witnessed or heard by children
  • 40% of young people have been affected by domestic abuse in their own relationships
  • Domestic abuse often starts and escalates during pregnancy
  • Someone may endure up to 50 domestic abuse incidents before they attempt to seek help or tell anyone
  • On a typical day, 3,615 women and 3,580 children are resident in refuge accommodation in England
  • Many abusers try to avoid personal responsibility for their behaviour by blaming it on something or someone else

Sexual violence or abuse

Sexual violence or abuse is any type of sexual behaviour that you don't agree to. It can take a variety of forms and people who have experienced sexual violence may feel confused, scared or angry. It's important to remember that sexual violence and abuse is unacceptable and you're not to blame.

Break the silence

It may be very difficult to talk about what happened to you and you may fear you won't be believed. Some people don't want to tell anyone, and some never will. As a survivor of sexual violence, it can be very hard to just forget about what has happened, no matter how hard you try. As part of the healing process, breaking the silence and talking about your thoughts and feelings can help. Only you will know when the time feels right for you. Taking this step can be the beginning of regaining control over your own life and moving on. Even if it happened a long time ago, your feelings are still important.

Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA)

An ISVA is an independent worker, who can provide free practical and emotional support to victims over 11 years-old (both male and female) who have experienced rape or sexual abuse at any time in their life.

Reporting to the Police

Sexual violence is a crime. You can report it to the police who will investigate and allocate a specially trained Officer to help you. This is a personal choice for you to make.

Did you know?

  • Two women a week are murdered by their ex or current partner in the UK
  • More than eight out of ten rapes involve an attack by someone the victim knows
  • 85% of rapists are men known to their victims
  • Most sexual assaults occur in the home of either the perpetrator or victim
  • Many abusers try to avoid personal responsibility for their behaviour by blaming it on something or someone else

Hate crime and mate crime

What is hate crime?
Hate crime is any criminal offence committed against a person or property that is motivated by an offender's hostility or prejudice. It might be because of the victim's actual or presumed race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity or any individual characteristics that makes someone appear different.

What is a hate incident?
A hate incident is an act that falls short of being a criminal act and is therefore not a criminal offence, but is still motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on any of the same characteristics.

Mate crime
Mate crime is a form of disability hate crime. Mate crime is where someone pretends to be friends with a person who is vulnerable (such as someone who has learning disabilities) but then goes on to take advantage, exploit or abuse them.

Mate crime is sometimes hard to identify because the offender is deemed a friend, carer or family member and is using the relationship for exploitation. The vulnerable person is often unaware of the person's motives. 

For further information on mate crime visit Safety Net: Friend or Fake? 

How do I report mate crime, hate crime or a hate incident?
If you're worried that you or someone you know may be have experienced a mate crime, hate crime or hate incident you should report it in one of the following ways:

  • in an emergency call 999
  • for non-emergencies call 101
  • call in at your local police station
  • report it as a safeguarding concern
  • report online to  True Vision
  • talk to a trusted friend, family member, support worker, social worker or teacher. 

You may also find these two national organisations helpful:

ARC UK Safety Net   
Stop Hate UK

Protecting yourself from fraud, rogue traders and scams

What is fraud?
Fraud is when trickery is used to gain a dishonest advantage (often financial) over another person. There are many words used to describe fraud such as a con or swindle. Find out more at Financial Fraud Action UK.

What is a rogue trader?
A rogue trader is a trades person, such as a builder or plumber, who will offer to do work for you but may do one of the following:

  • carry-out low quality or dangerous work
  • carry-out work which isn't to the standard or price agreed
  • raise the price of the work half way through
  • recommend or carry-out unnecessary work
  • damage your property so they can then "fix" the problem for you
  • do work they're not qualified to do (for example; working with gas appliances when they're not gas safe registered)
  • commit fraud or burglary
  • bully or threaten you into agreeing to work

But remember: not all traders are rogue traders. It's important to find one who can help you. You can use the Check a Trade website to find a reliable trader. You could also ask friends and family if they can recommend a reliable trader.

Trading Standards: Our Trading Standards team works to protect the borough’s consumers and support legitimate businesses. For more information see Trading Standards.

What is a scam?
Scams are schemes to trick you out of your money. This can include people knocking on your door, calling you on the phone, emailing you or putting a leaflet through your door. Scams can also be found online on websites and social media. Find out more at Which? How to spot a scam  and Citizens Advice Bureau .

Stay safe online

With more social media sites and easy access to the internet, it's important that everyone knows how to stay safe online.

Tips to stay safe online

Think before you post - when posting or commenting on the internet, consider what you say and what effect this may have. Never post comments that are abusive or may cause offence to others.

Keep personal information personal - do not say anything or publish pictures that might later cause you or someone else embarrassment. Be aware of what friends post about you, particularly about your personal details and activities.

Make the most of privacy settings - and keep your profiles closed, allowing access only to your chosen friends and family.

Report cyberbullying or abuse to internet service providers - lots of content on social media is offensive or upsetting but isn't necessarily a criminal offence. These posts often violates the terms of and conditions established by social media sites. Report it to the social media site concerned so they can take action.

Most social media sites have help sections that show you how to block users and change settings to control who can contact you. For more on social media settings or reporting abuse on social media, see:

Facebook help
Twitter
Instagram
LinkedIn help
Google+
YouTube
Pinterest
Snapchat
Tumblr 


If you believe that you're the victim of an offence, always keep a record of the content (take a screenshot if you can). Find out more at:

Cyber Aware

Get Safe Online

Internet Matters

Useful video guides for Using Internet Safely

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying means threatening, teasing, upsetting or humiliating someone via the internet (including by email, online gaming or mobile apps).

What can the police do?
If the police think a message or post could be criminal, they'll take action. This might mean arresting the person responsible or interviewing them under caution. Cases involving sustained abuse or where someone’s life is threatened will be treated particularly seriously.

The police will consider all of the circumstances when considering the best response to a report of cyberbullying. They'll assess how vulnerable the victim is and what resources are required to trace the offender. In some cases it may be difficult to take action if the offender is in another country.

The police will work with the victim to bring about the most suitable and proportionate conclusion. This will include alternative options that include the officer using their discretion and working with the offender to record an apology to the victim.

Sexting

Sexting is when someone shares sexual, naked or semi-naked pictures or videos of themselves or others. It also includes sending sexually explicit messages.

They can be sent using phones, tablets, laptops or any device that allows you to share media and messages.

Safety when you’re out and about

Crimes in public places are very rare, but many of us worry about them. The following tips will help you to stay safe.

In the street

  • Plan your route before you go out and stick to busy, well-lit areas
  • Spread your money and valuables around your body. For example; keep your keys in your coat pocket and your money in a closely carried bag
  • Keep valuables out of sight
  • Don't carry large sums of money. If your pension is paid straight into your bank account, you don't have to draw it all out in one go
  • Before you use a cash machine, check no one's hovering behind you. Always safeguard your PIN and don't count your money in the middle of the street.
  • If you use a wheelchair, keep your belongings beside you rather than hanging on the back of the chair
  • If you think you're being followed, keep moving and head for a busy area. Tell someone what's happening or call the police
  • Keep your handbag in sight all the time (not slung on your back like a rucksack)
  • Shout loudly to get attention in an emergency
  • Consider carrying a personal alarm
  • If someone tries to snatch your bag, it may be best to let them take it rather than trying to fight back.

On public transport

  • Try to wait for public transport in busy, well-lit areas
  • You may feel safer if you sit near other people. If you're on the bus or train and there are only a few people about, sit near the driver. Try to be near the bell or emergency alarm, too
  • If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, move away

In taxis

  • Keep the number of a reliable, licensed taxi company handy. Find a company you trust and feel comfortable with and use it each time.
  • Book a taxi before you go out. When it arrives, make sure it's the one you ordered before you get in. If you're in any doubt, ask the driver to tell you the name of the person who booked the taxi, but don't tell them your name.
  • Sit behind the driver on the back seat and if you feel uneasy, ask to be dropped-off somewhere you know that's busy and well-lit.

When you're driving

  • Before setting off, plan your route and make sure that you have enough petrol. Tell someone where you're going and how long you expect the journey to take
  • Think about what you would do if your car broke down. For example; do you carry a mobile phone to use in an emergency?
  • If it's cold, it's a good idea to have a blanket and some warm clothes in case your car breaks down and you have to wait for help to come
  • Try to park in busy, well-lit areas. If you park in the daylight, think about what the area will be like after dark
  • When you're driving, keep valuables and personal possessions out of sight and doors locked. When you leave the car, make sure that you remove any valuables and lock the doors