The government has announced that it wants to introduce a new crime of domestic abuse. It wants to strengthen the law by explicitly stating that domestic abuse covers coercive and controlling behaviour as well as physical harm. There are lots of laws that cover violence, stalking and harassment but none refer to personal relationships, which is why this change would be a significant difference. It's thought that if this becomes law, it will encourage more victims to come forward and report the crimes.
The hope is that by introducing this new law and making domestic abuse a specific crime the police will be clearer about when to intervene. The offence would cover violence, emotional harm, incidents of psychological control which cut the victim off from friends and family, or prevent them from having access to money. The government wants to make it clear that domestic abuse is not just physical.
Controlling behaviour is defined as ‘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 the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour’.
Some examples of controlling or coercive behaviour are: your partner preventing you seeing friends of family, constantly checking up on you or following you, uploading tracking software on your phone, accusing you unjustly of having affairs, humiliating or belittling or threatening you. If you feel frightened, change your behaviour because of your partner or feel like you can't do anything right for your partner or are fearful of your partner’s reaction, then these are also signs of domestic abuse.
A report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary showed that there are thousands of victims of domestic abuse at risk of serious harm because the police are failing to deal with offenders. It was found that the police were not taking domestic abuse, especially in its non-violent form, seriously enough. A Crime Survey for England and Wales suggests that 30 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men will experience domestic abuse during their lifetime.
Any new law would apply to offences committed by men or women and could result in a prison sentence.
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Published on: August 26, 2014