Protecting Yourself from Domestic Abuse: Advice from a PSNI Domestic Abuse Officer


Domestic Abuse is a problem within our society as a whole and an issue that the PSNI are increasingly trying to address.

Sergeant Joanne Eakin is a Domestic Abuse Officer with the Belfast Public Protection Unit within the PSNI.   In her guest blog for Life Law NI, Sergeant Eakin provides some useful advice on protecting yourself from domestic abuse.


Working as a Domestic Abuse Officer within the Belfast Public Protection Unit of the PSNI, I have witnessed my fair share of domestic crimes against both men and women.

The PSNI believe that domestic abuse should not be tolerated and that it is not acceptable in any shape or form in today’s society. Therefore, within the PSNI there are specially trained officers like myself who deal with those victims who are at a risk of serious harm due to the domestic abuse.

I believe that one of the most important things for any victim suffering from domestic abuse to recognise is when it is happening to them and to accept that they are not to blame. Here is my professional advice to those who are suffering domestic abuse or know someone else who is:

I want to escape an abusive relationship – what can I do?

If you are in an abusive relationship and want to leave, follow the advice below to make sure you do not put yourself in unnecessary danger:-

  • Seek legal advice. You might be able to get an injunction or Orders to protect you from your abuser after you leave.
  • Get immediate medical help for any injuries you sustain. Record and photograph them.
  • Take anything that will identify your abuser, such as a recent photo or car details, to help others protect you.
  • Be extra careful about who you discuss your plans with because secrecy will increase your success.
  • Take a note of emergency numbers and people you can contact (family, friends, doctors etc). Programme them into your mobile if you have one.
  • Prepare a bag with essential items, such as clothes, keys and money. Get extra copies of your home or car keys. Keep it safe or give it to someone you trust.
  • Keep important documents, such as birth certificates, mortgage papers or passports, in a safe location. If possible, take any items of personal importance with you, such as photographs or jewellery.
  • Talk to your children about the possibility of leaving and try to take them with you, whatever the long-term arrangements might be.
  • Plan an escape route out of your home and teach this to your children.
  • Keep a note of the family’s essential medicines and have an immediate supply available.
I know someone who is in an abusive relationship – how can I help them?

If you have a friend or family member who is being abused, there are practical things you can do to help them:-

  • Find out information about your friend / love one’s rights and the services available so they can make informed choices – for example, contact specialist support agencies such as Women’s Aid who can provide practical and emotional support.
  • Agree a code word or action that if he/she says to you or you see, you know they’re in danger and cannot access help alone.
  • Find out information for your friend / loved one so they can make informed choices.
  • Get some support yourself. You have to be strong if you’re going to be able to help them. Most domestic abuse services are happy to help with any worries you may have or provide suggestions as to other actions you might take.
  • Most importantly, don’t give up on them. You might be their only lifeline.

Useful points of contact

There is much support in Northern Ireland for victims of domestic abuse. If you are suffering from domestic abuse or know someone who is, here are some useful contacts:-

Police Service of Northern Ireland

For non-emergency calls and general enquiries, call 101.

In the case of an emergency dial 999 or use the emergency text phone by texting 18000

24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline

This line is available to anyone who has concerns about domestic or sexual violence, now or in the past. It is open to all women and men affected by domestic and sexual violence. Please call 0808 802 1414

Women’s Aid

Women’s Aid is the national domestic violence charity that helps up to 250,000 women and children every year. They work to end violence against women and children and support over 350 domestic and sexual violence services across the country. Call Women’s Aid on 0808 802 1414 or visit their website

Men’s Advisory Project

This is an excellent service for men experiencing domestic abuse. Call on 028 9024 1929 or visit their website

Your GP

Your local GP can offer help and support. Many people experiencing abuse believe that their GP can be trusted with disclosure and can offer practical support.

Social Services

Social Services can provide practical assistance and guidance to those suffering from domestic abuse. Contact your local Social Services office for more information.

Domestic Abuse is a serious offence which no one should have to suffer. If you are the victim of such abuse or know of someone who is suffering, please contact the PSNI for advice and assistance.

Sergeant Joanne Eakin│Domestic Abuse │Belfast Public Protection Unit

If you would like any further information on domestic abuse please contact us here at Life Law NI