Domestic Abuse

Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018

This Act came into place in 2019 and creates an offence with respect to the engaging by a person in a course of behaviour which is abusive towards that person’s partner or ex-partner. For the first time, as well as physical abuse, it will cover other forms of abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour that cannot be easily prosecuted under the existing law.

The Act also covers the impact on Children, and this is where it is important for practitioners, as their evidence can support cases for the abused person and children.

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

Coercive Control and The Domestic Abuse Law

Previously, the criminal law focused on physical violence; however, the changes now make coercive control a criminal offence.

To prove there was domestic abuse, the law will require to demonstrate that:

  • The abuse was directed toward a partner or ex-partner
  • There was a pattern of abusive behaviours (there were 2 or more incidents of abuse that a reasonable person would think would have caused the victim/survivor to suffer physical or psychological harm (including fear, alarm and distress).
  • The abuse can be, but doesn’t necessarily have to be, physical or sexual.
  • The perpetrator intended to cause physical or psychological harm, or was reckless as to whether the behaviour would cause such harm. This means that even if the perpetrator did not intend to hurt their partner or ex-partner, their behaviour could still be considered domestic abuse, and it is not necessary to show that harm was actually caused.

Who does it apply to?

The new law applies to any partner or ex-partner, it doesn’t matter if they live together or not. A partner can be a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, civil partner or anyone in an intimate relationship; and they can be living in the same house/flat or in separate housing.

The law protects victims/survivors even if all or part of the abuse happened abroad. You can report the incident to the police and the perpetrator can face prosecution in Scotland. The only condition is that the survivor must be either a UK citizen or Scotland should be their usual place of residence.

The new law will apply to all cases reported from 1 April 2019 onwards.

Further Information:

Scottish Government: The Domestic Abuse Act in force


Domestic Abuse Helplines

Domestic Abuse Awareness Raising Tool

Domestic abuse- and trauma-informed practice: companion document

Safe and Together Approach

The Safe and Together model can be useful to a variety of disciplines and systems including child welfare, community based mental health organisations, domestic violence agencies, the courts and law enforcement.

When professionals across systems are trained in the Safe and Together model they gain a common framework for discussing concerns, challenges and solutions for families experiencing domestic violence.

Scotland recently rolled out its annual report for actions the country plans to take in the coming year and beyond. The overall theme, Protecting Scotland’s Future, included a robust programme for tackling the tough issue of domestic violence.

The Scottish Government’s vision to make Scotland a fairer and more equal society where everyone is valued, protected and respected includes commitment to the principles of the Safe & Together™ Model: to keep children who have experienced domestic abuse safe and together with their non‑abusive parent, while supporting and acknowledging non‑abusive parents’ protective efforts and ensuring perpetrators are held accountable for their abuse.

This positions Safe & Together principles as central to the priorities within this strategy. The Institute will continue to work with the Scottish Government to create concrete actions for the year ahead.

“We welcome the commitment to promote the principles of the Safe & Together Model within Scotland’s Programme for Government 2019-2020,” said David Mandel, Safe & Together Institute’s founder. “This Programme represents more than nine years of work in the United Kingdom learning the local context, building relationships and applying the lessons we have learned from all over the world.”

Scotland enacted the Domestic Abuse Act in April 2018. To launch the Act, Scotland deployed a national public awareness campaign and training for police officers, members of the judiciary and prosecutors. As the report states, “Violence against women and girls is a breach of human rights. It is unacceptable in any society – everyone has the right to live free from the threat of violence and abuse. We have committed to ending it for good and our actions are focused on properly securing the rights of women and girls.

Safe & Together: Scotland’s Programme for Government Commits to Safe & Together Model

Safe & Together – Presentation

Safe & Together: How to be an ally to a loved one experiencing domestic violence

Safe & Together: Domestic Violence Informed Continuum of Practice

Safe & Together: Working with Men as Parents

DSDAS Disclosure Scheme 

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’.

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.

A disclosure means sharing confidential information.

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:

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.


DSDAS Right to Ask – Disclosure Scheme for Domestic Abuse leaflet

DSDAS Right to Ask Poster 


A Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is a local meeting where representatives from statutory and non-statutory agencies meet to discuss individuals at high risk of serious harm or murder resulting from domestic abuse. The meeting provides a safe environment for agencies to share relevant and proportionate information about current risk, after which the Chair will summarise risks and ask agencies to volunteer actions to reduce risk and increase safety. The primary focus of the MARAC is to safeguard the adult victim. However, the MARAC will also make links with other agencies to safeguard children and manage the behaviour of the perpetrator. At the heart of the MARAC is the working assumption that no single agency or individual can see the complete picture of the life of a victim, but all may have insights that are crucial to their safety. Ensuring that the victim is supported throughout and their needs represented at the MARAC is crucial to managing risk, improving and maintaining safety, and reducing repeat victimisation.

Any frontline agency representative that undertakes a risk assessment with a victim, and thereby determines that their case meets the high-risk threshold, can refer a victim’s case to a local MARAC. IDVAs, police and health professionals commonly refer high risk victims to MARACs. Anyone working with an individual they suspect is at risk as a result of domestic abuse can contact the Domestic Abuse Investigation Unit at Larbert on 01324 574905 for advice.

MARAC Further Information:

SafeLives’ MARAC Overview

SafeLives MARAC FAQs

SafeLives Resources for Professionals in Scotland

SafeLives Resources for People Making Referrals

Falkirk Council Resources:

Falkirk Council: Domestic Abuse informed service provision – Bringing the Safe and Together Approach to Falkirk

Practitioner Forum page for Domestic Abuse

Falkirk Council: Safe and Together, Domestic Abuse Briefing 1