Freedom Domestic Abuse Programme

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“A very helpful and friendly group.  Glad I was offered a place on the course as I now have a much clearer view of how an unhealthy relationship works so I can now heal myself and my son from our experience of domestic abuse.”

We believe that all adults and children deserve a life free from domestic abuse

Home-Start East Sussex (historically Home-Start South Downs)  has been providing support to local families who have experienced domestic abuse since 1996.   We started delivering our domestic abuse programme in East Sussex and Brighton & Hove in 2016.

In the UK, two women are killed every week by a male partner or ex-partner.  Our Freedom course enables women who have experienced domestic abuse to break the cycle of abuse by developing skills to help keep them and their children safe from abuse in the future.

Our free 11-week programme offers a strengths-based approach to the nationally acclaimed Freedom Programme. We offer support, information and a safe space to women who have experience of living with domestic abuse. The programme examines the actions, behaviour and beliefs of an abuser and the beliefs and responses of the victim/survivor. It attempts to unravel the confusion that a survivor feels and helps them identify and understand how domestic abuse has affected them as an individual, and their children. The programme also helps women to draw on and recognise their own strengths and community support, helping them to identify early warning signs and break the cycle of abuse.   It is delivered with the knowledge that victim-survivors are the experts in their own lives and are not passive, as in our experience all victims of violence resist violence in their own way.

The programme is generally delivered in two different locations across East Sussex and Brighton & Hove each term (subject to funding), so please contact us if you want to be alerted about future programmes in your area.

Programmes confirmed so far for  2018-19:

  • Eastbourne –April to July 2018
  • Lewes – September to December 2018
  • Hove – September to December 2018
  • Hastings – January to March 2019
  • Seaford – January to March 2019

We hope to deliver programmes in Eastbourne and Uckfield from April 2019, as well as Hastings later in the year, although funding is not confirmed yet.

I thought I was cracking up. I thought I was making it out to be worse than it is. But now I can see, I can see what it was all about.”

“My expectations were more than met.  I have had interventions and domestic violence work done in the past but nothing has compared to the intervention and help received on this course.”

“I am finding what I have been through and how I was treated wasn’t right.”

“It opened my eyes and made me make a strong decision to leave the relationship I was in by the second session”


Suitable participants for the programme are:

  • women aged 16+ with lived experience of male to female domestic abuse
  • In line with our mission we prioritise those with children/ stepchildren (regardless of age and where the children are actually living), but we also support women who do not have children
  • Standard to medium risk.  Not currently in crisis, but vulnerable as a result of DA experience (referrers: less than 14 ticks on MARAC/DVRIM scale 2).  Could be currently experiencing non-physical abuse such as emotional or financial abuse.  Perpetrator not assessed as a physical risk to her or the other women attending the course

We have limited funding to offer victim-survivors with preschool children weekly support in their own home, in Refuge or leaving Refuge where it is safe to do so.  This could enable them to attend the programme.  Regrettably this service can only be offered to those living in East Sussex (not Brighton & Hove as yet)   This would be via our volunteer home-visiting service.  Please do talk to us about this.

Self Referrals

If you are looking for support for yourself, please submit an Enquiry Form or phone/text 07505 426118 to arrange a friendly, sensitive and confidential chat with Vicki.  If necessary, you can let her know if and when it is safe to call back.  We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Referrals from a third Party

We accept submitted Enquiry Forms from any statutory or voluntary agency who wants to refer their clients/service users.  It is the third party’s responsibility to gain permission to share the potential service-user’s contact details with us.    Confidentiality is always our priority to ensure the victim-survivor’s privacy.

We no longer send out referral forms and instead ask referrers to fill out an enquiries form on-line for the following reasons:

  1. Referrers told us they struggle to find the time to fill out detailed forms
  2. Forms go out of date
  3. We were receiving a lot of sensitive personal information from referrers about people that we sometimes did not end up supporting.  We now only request minimum information from referrers that is proportionate enough to be able to make contact  i.e. name, means of contact and also to make us aware of any relevant safeguarding/health & safety issues .  We only ask for more personal information once we have assessed the enquiry and have confirmed we can offer support and the service-user would like it.

“All other domestic abuse support in East Sussex is crisis intervention.  A lot of my clients are no longer in the abusive relationship but their experience is still affecting them.  Being able to refer them to a reflective course that will help them to understand their experience and to avoid abusive relationships in the future is really beneficial.”

Domestic Violence Against Women – National and Local Figures

  • Every year 1 million women in the UK experience at least one incident of domestic abuse
  • Domestic abuse happens in all communities regardless of deprivation, education, age, sexuality, ethnicity or ability.
  • Women experience an average of 35 incidence of domestic abuse before reporting an incident to the police
  • 1 in 4 women in England will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes
  • Based on national figures, it is estimated that 6,500 children are exposed to domestic abuse each year in East Sussex
  • In the 12 months to the end of September 2014, a total of 7152 domestic abuse incidents and crimes were reported in East Sussex
  • Between October 2013 and September 2014 a total of 527 cases of domestic abuse in East Sussex were discussed at Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARACs) 98% were female, 2% were male, 7% were registered disabled, 12% were BME, 3% were LGBT

So what does HSES do about this? It’s our charity’s aim to support or signpost every woman who asks for our help. Once free from her abuser, she can start to build better lives for herself and her child/children.

Domestic abuse is a gendered crime

Every incident of domestic abuse should be taken seriously and each victim given access to the support they need. Any form of violence or abuse is unacceptable.

In the future we would like to be able to offer support to male victims as we acknowledge that men as well as women can experience domestic abuse. However, there are  differences in terms the frequency and the nature of the abuse, which is why our first targeted domestic abuse service is aimed at women.  Domestic abuse perpetrated by men against women is rooted in women’s unequal status in society and social constructions of gender and family.

The United Nations defines gender based violence in the following way:

“The definition of discrimination includes gender based violence, that is, violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.” (CEDAW 1992: para. 6).

Women are far more likely than men to be killed by partners/ex-partners, which is the reason why we felt that our first specialist domestic abuse service needed to be specifically aimed at women. In 2015/16, this was 44% of female homicide victims killed by a partner or ex-partner, compared with 7% of male victims.[1]

One study of 96 cases of domestic abuse recorded by the police found that men are significantly more likely to be repeat perpetrators and significantly more likely than women to use physical violence, threats, and harassment. In a six year tracking period the majority of recorded male perpetrators (83%) had at least two incidents of recorded abuse, with many having a lot more than two and one man having 52 repeat incidents. Whereas in cases where women were recorded as the perpetrator the majority (62%) had only one incident of abuse recorded and the highest number of repeat incidents for any female perpetrator was eight. The study also found that men’s violence tended to create a context of fear and control; which was not the case when women were perpetrators. [2]

If you are a male victim of domestic abuse you can receive support here:


[1] Office for National Statistics, Crime Statistics, Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, Year ending March 2016, Chapter 2: Homicide (Published online: Office for National Statistics, 2017 – See Tab 2.05 in the Excel file linked to from section 6 of this web page)

[2] Hester, M, Who Does What to Whom? Gender and Domestic Violence Perpetrators in English Police Records (European Journal of Criminology, 2013 10: 623- 637), pp. 627 – 628.

Thanks to Women’s Aid for the above information.

National Support Organisations