Guide

Domestic abuse: support
Last updated: 15 April 2019

Check a partner's history of abuse

If you're concerned about someone being abusive, you have the right to ask the police about the background of:

  • your partner
  • potential partner
  • someone in a relationship with someone you know (like a friend, relative or neighbour)

If checks show someone does have a record of abusive behaviour, the police will consider sharing the information with the people best placed to protect potential victims.

Find out more about checking if your partner has a history of abuse.

Your rights

As a victim of crime, you have rights. The Victims' Code for Scotland sets out these rights and who to contact for help and advice.

Contacting the police

If you or your children are in immediate danger and need help, call 999.

If you're experiencing domestic abuse (or have witnessed it) and are worried about your safety or the safety of a child, you can report it by:

What happens after reporting domestic abuse

The police will help and protect you when you report domestic abuse. This includes:

  • putting you in touch with a specially-trained domestic abuse officer and with support agencies
  • helping you feel safe – by taking you to a safe place like a refuge, or taking steps to make your own home secure
  • getting you medical treatment if you're injured

The police will need to gather details of the incident or incidents from you and investigate fully. They'll take a number of steps including:

  • interviewing you – you can ask for a female or male officer
  • detaining your partner/ex-partner and taking them to a police station for an interview if a crime is established
  • advising you what happens next – and what's happening with your partner/ex-partner
  • with your permission, referring you to local advocacy groups and support services like Victim Support Scotland, Scottish Women's Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland for practical and emotional support

Where there is enough evidence, the police will arrest your partner/ex-partner.

If it's likely your case will result in criminal charges, you'll also be introduced to a Victim Information and Advice (VIA) officer who will:

  • keep you updated on the progress of your case
  • give you information about the criminal justice system
  • tell you what steps have been taken to protect you
  • put you in touch with support organisations who can help you
Tell the police right away if you feel you're being harassed or intimidated because you reported domestic abuse.

Extra support at court

If you're asked to give evidence at court, you'll be entitled to use special measures like:

  • giving evidence via a live TV link
  • screens to stop you having to see someone else involved with the case
  • a supporter staying with you while you give evidence
You can also ask for information about your case at any point. You have rights to support, information and advice at all stages of the criminal justice system – from reporting the crime to going to court.

Can I drop the charges at a later date?

No. Once the details of the crime have been passed to the Procurator Fiscal, it's up to them to decide whether it is in the public interest to proceed with the case or not. You can let the Procurator Fiscal know if you have any concerns.

What is domestic abuse?

If you or your children are in immediate danger and need help, call 999.

Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse. It can affect men and women in both straight and gay relationships, regardless of culture, religion, age or class. It can also affect your children, even if they're not directly experiencing abuse.

It can go on for a long time and often gets worse over time. It can be life threatening.

Domestic abuse is carried out by partners or ex partners. It can be:

  • emotional or psychological – like threats, humiliation, criticism and name-calling (including racial abuse), undermining your self-confidence, controlling what you do or who you speak to, stalking, isolating you from your friends and family, threatening to or distributing intimate images
  • physical – like hitting, punching, kicking or burning
  • sexual – such as rape or forcing you to engage in sexual acts
  • financial – like not letting you work, withholding money

Forced marriage is also domestic abuse.

Whether you decide to tell the police or not, you can still get help. Support organisations are available for women and men experiencing domestic abuse.

Check a partner's history of abuse

You have the right to check if someone has a history of domestic abuse. This right is called the 'Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse Scotland'.

A disclosure means sharing confidential information. The information here is given to help protect a potential victim of domestic abuse.

How to apply

To check if your partner or someone else's partner has a history of abusive behaviour, you can ask the police to tell you. Fill out a domestic abuse disclosure form to start the application.

You can also speak to the police about your concerns by:

Who can ask for a disclosure

You can apply to find out about:

  • your own partner's history of domestic abuse
  • someone else's partner – you do not have to be related to the person
  • someone you work with if you're a professional
If you apply for someone else you may not receive information. Police will share information with the potential victim or the best person to protect the potential victim.

What happens after you apply

Before the police disclose information, they will:

  • investigate the information they've received
  • ask for a face-to-face meeting to check the information given
  • meet with partner agencies, such as Social Work Services or the Prison Service

The meeting with partner agencies will decide whether disclosing information is 'lawful and necessary'. They will disclose information if:

  • police checks show that the partner has a record of abusive behaviour
  • there is other information that suggests a potential victim is at risk

A disclosure should take a maximum of 45 days to be given.

What kind of information you may be given

A disclosure will give information about the partner's previous violent or abusive behaviour.

This disclosed information will be given to the best person to protect the potential victim. The information should be used to:

  • keep the potential victim and yourself safe
  • keep any children involved safe
  • ask what support is available
  • ask for advice on how to keep yourself and others safe
The information you're given should be treated as confidential – it must not be shared unless agreed with the police.

The partner agency group will work with you on a safety plan for the potential victim.

It's unlikely that information will be given if the partner does not have a record of abusive behaviour. But support and advice can be given if the partner is behaving in a worrying way.

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