Raising Awareness of Support and Help for Victims of Domestic Violence

Judi Bonham, Managing Partner and Head of Family Legal Services at WSP Solicitors

Support and help for victims of domestic violence

In excess of 940,000 domestic violence incidents were reported to the police last year. At the end of 2015, the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationship. The new law has expanded the powers of the police to prosecute perpetrators of controlling or coercive behaviour:

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of means for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is a continuing act or a pattern of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim.

The recent Radio 4 Archers storyline has raised the profile of this type of abuse which included:

Not being allowed to work

Not being allowed to drive

Bullying

Mind games

Not being able to see friends or family without being watched or tracked on a telephone

Having your whole life taken hostage and if you dared to protest being made to feel that you were losing your mind

In one in five cases victims admitted that their children saw or heard the attack in their home. Even witnessing abuse can have lasting physical and emotional effects on a child or young person; and they are also at increased risk of experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence as adults. Sadly, the reality is that the actual number of children who witness domestic violence may be higher because parents are too frightened to come forward. Research suggests victims experience 35 incidents on average before reporting it to the police for the first time.

Helping children and families open up about experiencing domestic violence needs to be a public health priority, experts from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have announced.

 

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