Domestic abuse

If you feel you are in immediate danger call 999.

If your situation is not urgent, call the police on 101 or contact Berkshire Women’s Aid helpline number on 0808 801 0882 to plan your next steps.

Domestic abuse can happen between people in an intimate or family relationship. It can be a single incident of abusive behaviour, but is more likely to be a repeated and habitual way for one person to control another person. Victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Behaviour is abusive if it consists of any of the following:

  • physical or sexual abuse
  • violent or threatening behaviour
  • controlling or coercive behaviour
  • economic abuse
  • psychological, emotional or other abuse

It also includes so-called honour based abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.

Children who see, hear or experience the effects of the abuse and are related to either of the parties are also considered victims of domestic abuse.

The full legal definition of domestic abuse can be found in Part 1 of the Domestic Abuse Act.

Berkshire Women’s Aid

Berkshire Women’s Aid (BWA) is the specialist Domestic Abuse Service for Reading. BWA provide emotional and practical support to all people experiencing domestic abuse, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexuality or background.

BWA offers:

  • a 24/7 helpline: 0808 801 0882
  • refuge accommodation
  • outreach/Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) support
  • financial, legal, housing and other advice

Calls to this helpline are free from landlines and mobile phones within the UK and do not appear on itemised bills.

Find out more about Berkshire Women’s Aid.

Check whether someone has an abusive past

If you are concerned that a new, former or existing partner has an abusive past, you can ask the police to check under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’). This is your ‘right to ask’. If records show that you may be at risk of domestic abuse, the police will consider disclosing the information. A disclosure can be made if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.

If you are concerned about a friend or family member, you can apply for a disclosure on behalf of someone you know.

You can make a request to the police for information about a person’s previous violent offending in person at the police station or elsewhere, by telephone, by email, online or as part of a police investigation. Support agencies and services can also help you ask the police about this.

How to call the police when you can’t speak

If you are in danger and unable to talk on the phone, call 999. Listen to the questions from the operator and, if you can, respond by coughing or tapping on the handset.

Press 55 if you are unable to speak and this will transfer your call to the police. This only works on mobile phones and does not allow the police to track your location.

If you are deaf or can’t use a phone, you can register with emergencySMS. Text REGISTER to 999. You will get a text which tells you what to do next.

Additional support services

National domestic abuse helpline

Telephone helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 0808 200 0247

Men’s Advice Line

Telephone helpline is available Monday to Friday from 9am, closing times vary: 0808 801 0327. Webchat is available on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 10am-11am and 3pm-4pm via their website.

Flag DV

Flag DV – Offers free legal advice for victims of domestic abuse. An online referral form can be completed via their website.

Karma Nirvana

Karma Nirvana – Supports victims of forced marriage and ‘honour’-based abuse. Telephone helpline is available from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm: 0800 5999 247. If safe to do so, you can also email


Am I in an abusive relationship?

Please visit BWA for a detailed description of the signs of domestic abuse.

My partner hasn’t hit me, but they are mean to me and the children. Is this abuse?

It can be, yes. Domestic abuse can take place in the form of coercive control.

Is my child being abusive towards me?

Whilst it is normal for adolescents to demonstrate healthy anger, it should not be confused with violence. Further information on violence to parents from children.

Is it my fault?

Abuse is never the fault of the victim.

I argue and sometimes fight back. Am I abusive too?

It is normal for couples to argue as long as no-one is hurt, threatened or assaulted as a result. It is also normal to want to defend yourself if someone is attacking you.

However, this hugely increases the risk of serious injury to both you and your partner and should be avoided. Your actions might also be considered illegal by the police.

There is help available to address this violence, so please consider getting in touch with BWA for more information on : 0118 950 4003.

How do I leave and where will I go?

BWA can provide support and advice to those who want to leave an abusive relationship, regardless of gender. This includes emergency accommodation specifically for up to 38 women and their children, specialist refuge provision, and information on local refuge for men. Please visit the webpages below for more information:

For those who do not need or want refuge you can contact Reading Borough Council’s Housing Advice Service for further options, including housing in the Private Rented Sector. You can contact the team using the methods below:

Telephone: 0118 937 2165

I’m not a UK national, can I still get help?

If you are not a UK national and do not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, your legal rights may be more limited in some areas.

However, you do have the right to live free from domestic abuse and have the same rights to protection from the law as everyone else.

Find out more about support for non-UK nationals.

What support can my children get?

BWA provides specialised group sessions, and one-to-one sessions if necessary, for children identified as living with domestic abuse.

BWA and Reading Borough Council also run the Family Choices Project.

Find out more about how domestic abuse affects children.

Will children’s services take my children away if I tell someone about the abuse?

Children’s services (Brighter Futures for Children) have a statutory duty to protect children, and will assess each case on an individual basis. However, there are many options available when considering the best interests of the child, and taking children into care is a last resort. A range of Early Help Services are available that you may want to consider.

There is also support for women and their children provided in refuge if needed.

Information on refuge services available for women and their children.

I want to stay with my partner. Can I still get support?

Yes, you can. There are all sorts of reasons why a person may not be ready to leave an abusive relationship, but you can still receive support. Visit BWA for more information on support with staying with your partner. 

For specialist advice for men, please visit Men’s Advice Line.

What support can I get as a member of the LGBT+ Community?

Information about Domestic Abuse in LGBT+ relationships.

What support can I get if I decide to prosecute?

Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy Services are available to support you through the court process. If you report the abuse to the Police (999 for emergencies or 101 for non-emergencies), then they can advise you on the next steps and locate an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser.

How can I support a friend or family member who is experiencing domestic abuse?

Advice on how to support someone who may be experiencing domestic abuse.

What is a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) meeting and how are people picked for one?

Cases of domestic abuse where a victim is assessed as high risk and at risk of serious injury of fatality should be referred to the MARAC.

An outline of MARAC and the cases they cover.

What help is there for me if I think I might be an abuser?

If you are concerned about your behaviour or the behaviour of someone you know, there is support available.

The Respect Phoneline is an anonymous and confidential helpline for men and women who are abusing their partners and families. Telephone helpline is available from 9am to 8pm, Monday to Friday: 0808 802 4040.

The helpline also takes calls from partners and ex-partners, friends and relatives who are concerned about perpetrators.

Webchat is available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 10am to 11am, and 3pm to 4pm on the website.


Bright Sky is a mobile app and website for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, or who is worried about someone else. The app can be downloaded for free from the app stores. Only download the app if it is safe for you to do so and if you are sure that your phone isn’t being monitored.

Ask for ANI codeword – If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need immediate help, ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) in participating pharmacies.

When you ask for ANI, you will be offered a private space, provided with a phone and asked if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.

To find your nearest participating provider, search using the postcode checker on the Ask for Ani page on the Enough website.

Reading’s Domestic Abuse Safe Accommodation Strategy 2023 to 2026

The Domestic Abuse Act of 2021 states that local governments have to set out a strategy to help people affected by domestic abuse. Reading’s Domestic Abuse Partnership Board has created our local strategy. It has focussed on making sure the victim-survivors and their children have a safe place to stay. The strategy also takes a holistic approach to dealing with the abuse, beyond safe accommodation. The aim is to give a more collaborative and inclusive approach to reduce the prevalence of domestic abuse in Reading.

Last updated on 28/05/2024