Support through the justice system

Refuge’s independent domestic, sexual and gender-based violence advocates can support women through the criminal and civil justice systems.

It takes a huge amount of courage to bring a case against a violent partner or ex-partner, and the legal system can be confusing, frightening and isolating for victims of domestic violence. Women who have reported incidents to the police may feel intimidated into withdrawing their support for the case; the idea of facing a perpetrator in court can be too much to bear, and often victims are not aware of their rights.

Independent support from a Refuge advocate can make all the difference. During 2015-16, when Refuge advocates were able to support a client right through to the conclusion of their court case, the successful conviction rate was 75%.

  • Demystify the criminal and civil justice process and ensure the woman knows what is happening at every stage
  • Arrange a pre-trial visit so that a woman can familiarise herself with the environment, if she is attending court to give evidence
  • Request special measures in court such as a screen so that a woman does not have to see her perpetrator
  • Support a woman to write a victim impact statement
  • Provide you with information about protective orders or child contact issues
  • Help to keep women and children safe throughout the criminal justice process and beyond – they can help assess the risk your abuser poses to you, and can bring agencies together to address these risks

IDVA small“Refuge supported me massively throughout the criminal trial and at the family court. I had an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate with me which helped me beyond belief as I wasn’t eligible for legal aid.”


Zoe, who was supported by a Refuge IDVA


“Throughout the court process, my independent domestic violence advocate (IDVA) was the only one that I felt was on my side, she explained everything in detail . . . Without her support I feel I would still be experiencing abuse. Instead my confidence has grown over the last few months and I feel like a new person.”


Kay*, who was supported by a Refuge IDVA


“One of our IDVAs supported a woman through a very difficult court case. She had experienced abuse for almost 30 years and had not reported any incidents before making a self-referral to our service. She shared her experiences of verbal aggression, threatening behaviour and physical violence. She described how she lived her life in constant fear, never knowing what was coming next. Our IDVA supported her through a series of complex issues in court – there were several moments when the client wanted to give up. Now, her courage and persistence has resulted in the perpetrator being given a six year sentence.”


IDVA service manager, Refuge

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity