Domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and/or violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner or ex-partner. Domestic abuse is overwhelmingly experienced by women and perpetrated by men. It doesn’t matter how old someone is, what race or ethnicity they are, what class they are, whether or not they are disabled, or whether they have children – anyone can be a victim of abuse.
Domestic abuse is the major cause of women's homelessness in Scotland. Every year thousands of women and children are forced to leave their homes and go into temporary homeless accommodation, bed and breakfasts and refuges, although only 1 in 6 women made homeless will be able to get a space in a refuge.
For some women their immigration status meant they were not eligible for temporary homeless accommodation and were evicted from it when the council would no longer let them stay. With no money and no place to live they were reliant on friends and Women’s Aid. Women with No Recourse to Public Funds and EU nationals whose rights to claim benefits are limited often experience destitution or are forced to return to their abusive partner.
Women’s experience of the court system particularly in relation to child contact and residency arrangements was of a lack of understanding of domestic abuse in the legal system. Women and their children experienced not being taken seriously, heard or believed with the result that they continued to be subject to abuse.
When women left an abusive partner they often left with nothing and had to navigate an uncaring, and complicated benefits system with consistent delays to payments and increasing debt. Single parent families have been especially hard hit by cuts and freezes to social security system. Work is more likely to be part time to fit in with childcare and school usually low paid and insecure.
Women described the different ways all of this affected their physical, mental and emotional health. They described feeling completely lost, of having to climb endless stairs and never seeing the top, of having no space to heal from the impact of domestic abuse.