According to New Laws, Are You a Victim of Domestic Violence?
The new draft bill launching fresh approaches to domestic violence is a move towards redefining what could be legally considered an offence of this kind. This adjustment in legislation could dramatically change the level of protection that victims are able to access, and the point at which they may do so.
In the past, only particular actions taken by an abuser were punishable by law, but, thanks to new laws passed in 2015 and an additional draft bill consulted on in the Spring of this year, the UK legal system has really started to hone in on the cases that have, so far, been falling through the cracks.
If there are elements of your relationship that trouble you – for example, if you find yourself feeling afraid of your partner or the way they will react to things you do or say – you might have wondered whether their conduct amounts to domestic violence. If you recognise any of the behaviours below, the next steps you need to take are to make contact with a specialist lawyer or solicitor and get in touch with a domestic abuse helpline or the police.
So, according to changes in the law, what now constitutes domestic violence?
- Physical or sexual assault
Only a few years ago, this was one of the sole domestic crimes for which you could report your partner to the authorities. The abuse does not need to be ongoing to amount to a criminal offence – one incident is enough.
- The use of fear as a weapon
The threat of violence can often be as effective as physical blows. Angry gestures, shouting, threats against a partner or a partner’s friends and family members, insults, the destruction or abuse of possessions and household items, the harming of pets, the wielding of weapons or threats of suicide in order to emotionally manipulate a victim all now count as abusive behaviour.
- Controlling behaviour
You may have noticed ongoing references to “control” throughout the behavioural descriptions so far, and, indeed, this particular type of conduct is common in abusers. A major revision of legal attitudes towards domestic abuse and domestic violence has led to increased focus on something called “coercive control” – which is a psychological technique used by abusers to ensure that they constantly have the upper hand. Enforced rule setting and exerting pressure on a partner to do things they do not want to – sexual or not – are all included in the umbrella of behaviour known as “coercive control”.
- Restricting communication
Some abusers are prone to “banning” their partner from seeing certain individuals – including friends and family. It could be that they are suspicious of a particular friendship and see it as something more, or simply do not wish the victim to pay attention to anyone else but them. Not only does this behaviour strip the victim of any agency over their own activities and relationships, but it also makes it far more difficult for them to confide in anyone about the problems they are having at home.
- Restricting or tracking activities and movement
Many abusers make their partner ask permission to leave their side, then either grant or deny that permission according to their whim, or as a “reward” or “punishment”. If permission is granted, the abuser may then continuously “check in” with the victim, ensuring that they are where they say they are and sometimes asking for proof. They may download tracking devices onto a person’s phone, or plant them on their person or vehicle – actions which are now considered illegal. In more severe cases, victims of domestic abuse are forced to leave their job, abandon their social life and remain at home as a result of their partner’s controlling behaviour.
- Restricting spending
If one member of a partnership exerts control over another by confiscating credit cards or cash, ensuring their loyalty by giving them an “allowance” that they manipulate according to their victim’s behaviour or punishing them by draining their bank account, they could now be charged with domestic abuse.
- Reduction of self esteem
A common behaviour amongst domestic abusers is the act of purposefully putting their victims down. Convincing a partner that they are worthless and lucky to have anyone who loves them is a method used to ensure loyalty and retain full control.
Many people will be aware of the introduction of laws surrounding “revenge porn” – the threat or action of sharing intimate images of or information about another person to exert some form of “payback”, or to force a person to adhere to one’s wishes. This is also quite a common behaviour amongst domestic abusers. It could be seen as a move to take “ownership” of the subject, or a means of forcing them to remain under control.
- Constant jealousy
Abusers often voice or demonstrate feelings of jealousy, perhaps expressing the belief that a partner wishes to be unfaithful or is doing so currently. This may include efforts to make a partner appear less attractive, thus ensure they don’t stray (banning someone from wearing “nice” clothes or makeup is a typical means of doing this). Even subtle forms of this, when included alongside other accusations of domestic abuse, can prove extremely damning in a courtroom.
What Do I Do If It Is Happening To Me?
There are numerous domestic violence charities and helplines that exist to support and assist male and female victims. These include the National Domestic Violence Helpline which you can contact any time of day or night on 0808 2000 247. Along with reporting your experiences, it’s vital that you obtain legal aid to ensure that the case against your abuse is strong. Call DPP Law – legal specialists in crime and family matters – on 0333 200 5859 today for more information regarding representation and where to go from here.