West Lothian Child Protection Committee




Domestic abuse is defined as mental, physical and/or sexual abuse by a partner or ex-partner. In most cases domestic abuse is perpetrated by men against women and may impact on children. Domestic abuse may often be serious and in some cases can be life threatening. Domestic abuse includes emotional, psychological and financial abuse. It cuts across social, racial and cultural boundaries. It occurs irrespective of age or ability and regardless of class, race or sexuality. For example - older women have reported domestic abuse; many ethnic groups such as Asian, Polish and Chinese women report incidents; domestic abuse may also occur within lesbian relationships.

Impacts on women

Domestic abuse can begin with a single incident or a change in behaviour by a partner or ex-partner, which makes you feel afraid. it may include violence or threats of violence. As it continues you may experience low self esteem or self worth and/or your mental health may be affected. For example, many women experience depression, anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a direct consequence of living with a perpetrator of domestic abuse.

Usually domestic abuse involves an ongoing pattern of violence and abuse. Descriptions of incidents of abuse include the use of tactics of control which may involve isolation from family, friends and/or social network, humiliation, degradation, physical violence and/or sexual violence. these behaviours may be features within the pattern of coercive control developed by the perpetrator to extend their dominance. Typically the perpetrator abdicates all responsibility for the abuse and attributes blame to the woman. It is a situation of repeated victimisation in which the woman is vulnerable precisely because, in the majority of cases, she shares or has shared her home with her abuser and may have or have had feelings of loyalty or love towards him.

Evidence suggests that domestic abuse escalates in frequency and intensity over time and may increase at specific times in a woman's life, e.g. when she is pregnant, when she is about to leave or shortly after she has left the abusive relationship.

Extent of the problem

Impacts on Children

Emotional abuse of children is a consequence of witnessing the abuse of their mother. In 90% of reported incidents of domestic abuse children are present in the same room or in the next room6. The safety and well being of any child is closely linked to that of the adult victim. No matter what the context, any harm to the victim has an impact on the child.

Exposure to domestic abuse can impact on a child’s health and wellbeing. The effects can be wide ranging. Some children may experience physical symptoms such as bed-wetting. Some may be ‘jumpy’ or angry; experience behavioural difficulties even at nursery stage and many have difficulties concentrating, affecting their performance at school.

Other Impacts

In some ethnic minority populations, children and young people are significantly affected by forced marriage with 30% of reported cases affecting minors. Given the hidden nature of forced marriage it is difficult to capture an accurate picture in Scotland, or indeed in West Lothian. However we know the devastating consequences on those affected such as:

Teenage mothers seem to be particularly likely to experience domestic abuse. A small American study found that 70% of teenage mothers at one hospital were in a relationship with a violent partner.

There are links between domestic abuse and all forms of child abuse.

Children affected by Domestic Abuse in West Lothian

Due to the hidden nature of domestic abuse there is a high number of unreported incidents. As a result the number of children who are living in a household where domestic abuse is present, in West Lothian, is unknown. However, in 2008-2009 where incidents were reported to the police, 1483 children were involved.

In response to the high numbers of children experiencing domestic abuse West Lothian Council set up the Domestic Abuse Service (DAS) to supplement the existing multi agency response to domestic abuse.

The Domestic and Sexual Assault Team (DASAT)

The Domestic and Sexual Assault Team (formerly the Domestic Abuse Service (DAS)) was set up in February 2007 to provide a specialised service to women and children in West Lothian who are experiencing, or have experienced, domestic abuse. In December 2010 the service was expanded to provide support to victims of recent rape and/or sexual assault. In August 2011 the service was made available to both victims of recent and historical rape/sexual assault. In January 2010 the Domestic Abuse Court was set up in Livingston and the team now provides specialised court advocacy support.

DASAT has a versatile and committed team comprising of manager, two full-time children's workers and four full-time women's workers and admin support. The women's workers have specialised remits:

  • working with women from minority populations

  • working with women having substance misuse issues

  • working with women who have mental health issues

  • working in court advocacy and supporting victims going through the court process

A counsellor from Open Secret has been seconded to the DASAT team with a remit to work with adult survivors of child sexual abuse and domestic abuse. All adult support workers are involved in supporting both victims of domestic abuse and rape/sexual assault.

Working with Children and Young People

Services to children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse are delivered in a range of ways to meet their individual needs. This can include both individual support and group-work programmes.

Individual Support to children and young people is tailored to suit their age, ability, awareness and individual needs and circumstances. It is available to children and young people in the refuge or in the community. It generally involves safety planning and looking at feelings and emotions, anger and aggression and other relevant topics and can use mediums such as art, games and other opportunities according to each individual child and his or her preferences.
Group Work is targeted at 5 - 7 year olds, 7 - 9 year olds and 9 - 11 year olds. The programme includes feelings/emotions, anger/aggression, safety and other topics.

Generally, when children are 3 years or less, support to the mother/main carer is considered to benefit the child in a more sustainable way than just individualised attention to the child. This can include work with the mother on play, routines, safety, emotional security and other factors.

Schools Work - Preventative Education Programme

In recognition of the importance of effecting culture change among children and young people on the issue of domestic abuse, DASAT and education have worked with key partner agencies to deliver a Preventative Education Programme and/or awareness raising sessions to secondary schools within West Lothian. It is envisaged that this work will be piloted in some primary schools in the near future. The team has piloted a Sexual Violence Awareness Raising Programme with COZ and Lothian & Borders Police.

Working with Women

DASAT have specialised staff to provide support to all women experiencing domestic abuse, rape and/or sexual assault. Women's workers provide a range of services including:

  • Safety planning

  • Emotional support

  • Advice/advocacy

  • Information and contacts for other services

  • Liaising with partner agencies

Safer Street Initiative

DASAT, in partnership with Lothian & Borders Police and Victim Support, implemented a pilot scheme in December 2009 aimed at offering early intervention (within 24 hours) following incidents of reported domestic abuse. The pilot was based on the premise that the sooner women are contacted after an incident of domestic abuse the more likely they are to engage with services. The co-location of DASAT and the Police in the Civic Centre has improved communication and effective working practices. Due to the success and unprecedented demand for this service the pilot was then extended.

Domestic Abuse Court

This initiative provided an excellent foundation for the support service now being provided to victims of domestic abuse going through the court process. The Domestic Abuse Court was set up in January 2012 and the support service is based on the highly successful ASSIST model currently operating in Glasgow. The Domestic Abuse Court is held once a fortnight.

Rape and Sexual Assault Support Service

A multi-agency initiative to support adult victims of recent rape and sexual assault began on 1st December 2010. This support service complements and works in tandem with Victim Support and the Federal unit. Federal is a team of dedicated police officers based in West Lothian who investigate crimes of sexual violence. In August 2011, the support service was extended to both victims of recent and historical rape/sexual assault - e.g. the service is now available to adult victims/survivors of child sexual abuse.


DASAT includes a counsellor seconded from Open Secret. The worker offers a service to adult survivors of child sexual abuse and, more recently, this service has been opened up to adult survivors of domestic abuse. Surgeries are held throughout West Lothian.

Art Therapy Group

The Open Secret counsellor facilitates this group which meets every Tuesday in the Howden Park Centre in Livingston and is open to adult survivors of abuse.  This offers survivors the opportunity to engage in a specialised therapeutic service.


DASAT has a limited training remit which, when resources allow, supports training on issues surrounding abuse. DASAT continues to have a key role in the delivery of Routine Enquiry Training to NHS staff with a particular focus on midwives, mental health professionals and staff dealing with substance misuse.

If you are interested in any of the services offered by the DASAT team, please contact Dianne Stott on 01506 281055 or email susan.lawson@westlothian.gov.uk

Useful telephone numbers:

Victim Support 01506 635050
Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 027 1234
Childline 0800 1111
Shakti Women's Aid 0131 475 2399
Family Mediation Lothian 0131 226 4507
Edinburgh Women's Rape & Sexual Assault Centre 0131 556 9437
SCET (Social Work Out of Hours Emergency Service) 01506 281028 or 281029
West Lothian Council Housing 01506 775000
Domestic Abuse Liaison Officer 01506 833834
Breathing Space - Mon-Thu 6pm-2am, weekend Fri 6pm-Mon 6am 0800 838587
Rape Crisis Helpline - Lines open 7 days (6pm-midnight) 08088 01 03 02


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