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Relationship breakdown and domestic abuse

Domestic abuse and getting emergency housing

You have the right to get emergency housing if you need to leave your home because of domestic abuse.

What domestic abuse and violence is

Domestic abuse or violence is behaviour that causes you mental or physical harm. This can be behaviour by either a partner or an ex-partner.

Anyone can experience domestic abuse, including women, men and non-binary people, and everyone is protected by law.

Examples of domestic abuse include:

  • physical or sexual violence

  • isolating you from friends or family

  • frightening, humiliating or punishing you

  • controlling your money and building up debts in your name

  • coercive control, telling you where you can and cannot go, or controlling your social media

Check the Scottish Women's Aid website for more information about domestic abuse.

If you're at risk

Call the police on 999 if you’re in immediate danger.

If you’re reporting something that happened before or you’re worried could happen later, call them on 101.

Domestic abuse support services

Anyone can call the free 24-hour National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline Scotland on 0800 027 1234.

If you're a black or minority ethnic woman who's experiencing domestic abuse you can also contact Shakti Women's Aid on 0131 475 2399, 9am to 5pm weekdays – calls may be charged.

Contact on 0131 624 7270 for support services and advice for LGBTQ+ people experiencing domestic abuse - calls may be charged.

Finding a refuge

A refuge can be a place to escape someone abusing you. Refuge staff are trained to support you while you decide what to do next.

Women’s refuges

Women’s refuges help with accommodation in an emergency. They cannot tell the person abusing you where you are.

To find a place in a refuge contact the National Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline. You can:

You can also find a refuge by contacting your local Women’s Aid.

Men's services

If you're a man who is experiencing domestic abuse contact:

There are currently no refuges for men experiencing domestic abuse in Scotland. You can make a homeless application to any council in Scotland if you're fleeing abuse. The council must give you somewhere to stay while they look into your situation.

Getting emergency accommodation from the council

Contact the council's housing department to make a homeless application. The council must give you somewhere safe to stay if you need it.

The council cannot:

  • make you go back to where you feel unsafe

  • contact the abusive person

  • insist you tell the police before you make a homeless application

Check our guidance on making a homeless application.

If you’re not a British or Irish citizen

Your rights to get homeless help could be affected by this. Check how your immigration status affects your housing options if you're not sure.

Things to take with you when you’re leaving

If it's safe take what you can, for example:

  • bank and credit cards in your name

  • yours and your children's passports

  • your driver's licence

  • bills in your name

  • your tenancy agreement

  • your phone

  • your clothes and children's clothes

  • your house, car and work keys

  • legal papers, such as birth and marriage certificates

  • any police reports or court order papers

The Scottish Women's Aid website has advice on staying safe when leaving an abusive partner.

Last updated: 17 March 2023

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England