Domestic violence and emotional abuse: why the new draft Domestic Abuse Bill is long overdue
Is domestic abuse on the increase? According to the Office for National Statistics, the figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales show
“Little change in the prevalence of domestic abuse in recent years.”
However, the ONS is the first to admit that:
“The majority of cases do not come to the attention of the police, and many of those that do, do not result in a conviction for the perpetrator of the abuse.”
This situation needs to change, and as LGFL Director Rita Gupta explains, progress is finally being made through the draft Domestic Abuse Bill.
Domestic violence: the stats
It’s shocking to learn that in the year ending March 2018, an estimated 2 million adults experienced some form of domestic abuse. The police recorded almost 600,000 domestic abuse related crimes during the same period, a rise of 23% from 2017 thanks to more victims coming forward. Equally, during those 12 months, over 75% of prosecutions ended in a conviction.
It’s not just women of course: out of those 2 million adults, 695,000 were men. Not to mention the possible 1 million or more children caught in the crossfire of domestic abuse, and suffering abuse themselves.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse covers both physical and mental abuse, defined by the government as:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. It can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
There are an estimated 600,000 transgender and non-binary people in the UK, accounting for just under 1% of the population. Of these, around 3,500 undergo treatment each year, according to The Royal College of Physicians.
What are the signs of emotional abuse?
As the government website so succinctly puts it:
“There are different kinds of abuse, but it’s always about having power and control over you.”
If you feel this applies to you:
- Talk to someone you trust as soon as possible.
- Find the strength to report assaults to the police. Most types of abuse are a criminal offence.
- Get checked over by a doctor or a GP if you have any physical injuries.
- If you are in physical danger, call 999 and remove yourself and your children to a place of safety. Many police stations have a Domestic Violence Unit or Community Safety Unit with specially trained officers to help you. There is a list of organisations who can help you here and excellent advice on how to stay safe from the CAB.
- Ask the police for a Domestic Violence Protection Order to give you time to explore your options, by banning an abusive spouse from your home for 28 days.
Talk to us
Once you’re immediate safety needs are met, you can come and talk to us about the legal implications of your situation, and to explore ways to formalise your long-term exit from the relationship.
We offer clear advice on all aspects including how to:
- Obtain a non-molestation order
- Apply for an occupation order
- Establish your legal rights to your family home
- Resolve who the children will live with
- Divorce an abusive spouse
Call us in complete confidence, or fill in our enquiry form, stating the best time and means by which we can talk to you.
Types of domestic and emotional abuse
The draft Domestic Abuse bill includes the first statutory definition of domestic abuse as:
- Emotional abuse, involving controlling or coercive behaviours where your partner might isolate you from friends, criticise what you wear or do, or accuse you of having affairs.
- Financial control and emotional abuse where they control your finances, don’t let you work or earn your own money, or don’t give you sufficient money for essentials and food.
- Threatening and intimidating behaviour, where your partner might say they’ll hurt, you, break items belonging to you, follow you outside the home, or make threats to kill themselves or your children.
- Physical abuse, including hitting, punching, slapping, holding down, choking and throwing items.
- Sexual abuse, including unwanted sexual demands, hurting you, or applying pressure to have sex. (Remember, if your partner has sex with you when you either say or indicate you don’t want to, this is an act of rape.)
- Cultural abuse, including forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and honour-based abuse.
Giving evidence in court; the new Domestic Abuse Bill
I firmly believe that one of the major barriers for domestic abuse victims coming forward is the current right for their abuser to cross-examine them in court. Having escaped once from an abusive relationship, it takes enormous courage to face your abuser again, let alone have them try to discredit everything you say through cross examination.
That’s why LGFL is a strong supporter of the draft Domestic Abuse Bill that would remove this right. The Bill, when passed will, according to the Law Gazette:
- End cross-examination of domestic violence victims by their alleged abuser.
- Introduce the first statutory definition of domestic abuse.
- Specifically include economic abuse which is an extremely important factor often overlooked.
- Also include controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse.
Giving evidence in court: other changes
This bill comes close on the heels of other much-welcomed changes to evidence requirements in private family law disputes including:
- No time limit on abuse evidence (formally 5 years).
- A wider remit for evidence to include statement from support organisations and housing officers.
- Easier access to legal aid (although still subject to means and merits tests).
Domestic abuse and child access for those accused of abuse
When a case goes before the Family Court for child access rights, the court is primarily concerned with the welfare of the children involved. If an accusation of domestic abuse is made, the judge must be satisfied that what someone has said happened did actually happen.
Preventing domestic violence
There are many factors that contribute to domestic abuse, some of which start with people unwittingly choosing a partner with a violent past. The domestic violence disclosure scheme allows you to check with the police if a prospective partner has a recorded history of violence that places you at potential risk.
This ‘right to ask’ also extends to friends and family who can ask on your behalf. The police can release the information if it is considered:
“Lawful, necessary and proportional to do so.”
Domestic abuse: we’re here to help
As an experienced family lawyer here at LGFL, I’ve seen my fair share of cases involving every type of emotional abuse, physical violence and coercive control. I know it can happen to anyone; male, female, young, old, regardless of gender, race, sexuality or social background. Nothing shocks me (sadly), I am genuinely here to help, and I take the utmost care to ensure your confidentiality. As my client, I place you and your children at the heart of everything we here at LGFL will do, using every legal method and safeguard to help you move forward with your life.
Call me to discuss your situation. I offer a free 30-minute consultation where you can meet me in our discreet countryside offices, or at my new private office in central Reading.