Understanding court support for victims of domestic abuse

Mapping the provision of court-related domestic abuse support and advocacy across England and Wales

Courts, both criminal and family, are an essential avenue for victims and survivors of domestic abuse to seek protection, both for themselves and their children. But this system is routinely failing victims and survivors. We believe dedicated court support provides better outcomes for victims and ensures those perpetrating domestic abuse are held to account.

This report was commissioned by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. It shines a spotlight on the support victims and survivors of domestic abuse receive in both criminal and family justice system.

  • 71%

    of survivors received no court support from domestic abuse service

    (or any other formal support)

  • 38%

    of survivors had negative experiences from attitudes of criminal justice professionals towards domestic abuse

  • 35%

    of Isvas and 25% of Idvas were prohibited from supporting clients in court

Key findings

  • The majority of survivors are not receiving dedicated court support and their needs are not always being met
  • Specialist court support improves the experiences of survivors
  • The Family and Criminal Justice System retraumatises victims
  • The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt by services and victims for years to come
  • The report has identified barriers for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence to accessing effective support across the justice system. It has also identified that the support offered doesn’t always meet the needs of victims


The Family Court process has left me severely traumatised, worse than the DV itself. I was belittled, undermined, exposed to my abusive ex repeatedly, my children were not listened to and it felt like father's rights trumped mine and negated his history of DV. I've never been more frightened and alone in my life.



The report concludes with a number of recommendations, including:

  • better strategic support, coordination and understanding of sexual violence
  • a need for urgent action on court backlogs and increased long-term investment
  • recognising the role of Idvas as an integrapl part of court systems
  • realising ‘trauma-informed’ courts and driving cultural change

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