Domestic Abuse

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading or violent behaviour, including sexual violence.

In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is a partner or ex-partner, but domestic abuse can also occur between family members or even by a carer.

If you think you’re in any kind of abusive relationship, take our relationship health test.

Domestic abuse and COVID-19

2020 has been an extremely challenging year for survivors of domestic abuse.

Two periods of lockdown have meant that many have been trapped with their abusers, with help and support being harder to access than ever before.

COVID-19 has not caused domestic abuse, however the pandemic has escalated and closed down routes to safety for women needing to leave.

A survey conducted by Women’s Aid reported that 71.6 per cent of survivors have had to spend more time with their abuser, and 67.4 per cent of survivors said that their abuse had worsened since the start of the pandemic.

Locally, and nationally, domestic abuse services have seen additional demand for their support.

WORTH Specialist Domestic Abuse Service, located in West Sussex, has not only seen an increase in demand, but also a change to the type of support needed by survivors – already they are seeing the devastating impact on mental health that domestic abuse, mixed with COVID-19 has had.

"Him being home all the time has meant that there has been no break, every single day, he breaks me that bit more. My mental health is at rock bottom. I don’t know how much more I can take."


West Sussex County Council has continued to provide a full Independent Domestic Violence and Abuse (IDVA) service to high risk domestic abuse survivors.

We have prioritised ensuring that survivors across the county know that we are still here by promoting our services to those who need help, so they can access it quickly and easily. You may have seen one of the 35 refuse vehicles across Sussex featuring our #YouAreNotAlone campaign.

We also work alongside partner organisations to provide support to victims of domestic and sexual violence and abuse. You can find all services local to you at the Safe:Space Sussex website.

Domestic Abuse and Christmas

The number of domestic abuse crimes reported to police over the Christmas period increased in 2019/20 and services are likely to experience peaks during this time.

Although, like COVID-19, Christmas is not the cause of domestic abuse, an increase in alcohol, financial pressure and more time at home together can increase the risk, alongside an increase in risks associated with child contact, for example having to see an ex-partner more, or having an ex-partner turn up unexpectedly.

You may find that spending more time at home is making things harder, with the usual opportunities to ask for help reduced. If this is the case, Please do remember that you can walk into any Boots or Morrisons pharmacy, and they will offer you a safe space to make a call, obtain the numbers of support services or help you to call the police if you are in immediate danger. Find out more about the initiative – participating pharmacies will have a poster on the door.

There is no excuse for abuse, no matter what the time of year, we are still here to help and support you.

WORTH will be operating as usual over the Christmas period and police are available to respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In 2018, national domestic abuse charity Refuge ran a hard-hitting campaign, featuring ‘reverse poems’ highlighting the often-hidden nature of domestic abuse.

Below are two of these poems - please be advised that the content of these poems may be upsetting and references physical violence.

Download Rufuge Poem 1 - Mistletoe Download Rufuge Poem 2 - Christmas Eve

What happens when I contact WORTH?

When you contact WORTH, you will speak to one of our Independent Domestic Violence Advisor’s (or IDVA’s for short) who are expertly trained to work with survivors of domestic abuse.

IDVA's (located in the MASH domestic abuse hub) will want to talk to you to understand more about your situation, and how we can help you. WORTH will always check to make sure you are safe to talk and can make arrangements with you to obtain information safely if this is not the case.

Once we have had understood more about what’s happening, we may want to compete a risk assessment with you. This role play with Charlie and Faye shows you what happens during a DASH (Domestic abuse, stalking and honour based violence) risk assessment. When you make contact with WORTH, we would usually do this risk assessment initially over the phone but can make alternative arrangements if this doesn’t work for you.

Immediate safety is always the priority, if you call WORTH and you are in immediate risk of harm, we will always take measures to get you immediate help.

WORTH can also help you to access refuge if you need to flee your home due to the abuse you are experiencing.

If, after understanding more about the circumstances, WORTH is not the right service for you, we will signpost or refer you to a service that is better able to meet your needs.

If WORTH is the right service to help, you will be referred to an IDVA based in the community who will contact you to create a safety and support plan.

IDVA’s may also liaise with other agencies on your behalf, they can help to support you at criminal or civil court, can help you to make a statement to the police and help you to obtain an injunction, as well as provide other means of practical and emotional support.

WORTH saved my life, WORTH are just AMAZING!

Ask us anything

Over the past six months, we have spoken to you a lot about domestic abuse and have encouraged people to speak out if something is wrong and contact us for help.

We now want to invite you to talk to us about domestic abuse because, we believe, that together, we can make our communities safer, and stronger, and make West Sussex a place where domestic abuse is not tolerated.

  • Do you want to know more about the services we offer?
  • Do you have an idea to improve our services?
  • Would you like to know more about how we work with the police?

Send your questions to

Whatever your question, we will do our best to answer it and all questions will be anonymous.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter to hear the answers.


For social media

Please feel free to download these images for use on your social media channels:

"The abuse wasn't physical" - Graphic 1 "The violence got too much" - Quote 2

Alongside our domestic abuse resources, below are some additional websites that may be helpful over the winter period, if you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse:

  • Galop - the LGBT+ anti-violence charity
  • Refuge – supporting men, women and children who have suffered domestic abuse
  • Sussex Police – find out what classes as domestic abuse, how to report it and how, under Clare’s Law, you can find out if a partner has a history of domestic violence or abuse.
  • Hollie Gazzard Trust – provides a helpful guide for people who have a friend, family member, neighbour or colleague who they think may be in an abusive relationship.
  • The Hideout – Women's Aid have created The Hideout to help children and young people to understand domestic abuse, and how to take positive action if it's happening to them.



WORTH Specialist Domestic Abuse Service

Specialist advisors are available Monday-Friday, 9.00am-5.00pm.

Contact WORTH:


Telephone: 033 022 28181



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