What constitutes domestic abuse?
It is needless to state that domestic abuse is an extremely traumatic and distressing experience. The impact of domestic abuse can be detrimental, and some survivors require emotional and psychological support to overcome such abuse. Recent statistics released by Women’s Aid indicate that 80% of women, who were survivors of domestic violence, experienced psychological and emotional abuse.
Further statistics released by the Office for National Statistics in March 2018 suggests that victims of domestic abuse are less hesitant when reporting domestic abuse as the total number of domestic abuse incidents recorded by the authorities has increased by 23%. Domestic violence can never be justified nor are there any valid reasons to accept such ill intent and harm. The Government and police strive to assist those in such circumstances however, the law in the past has not always been clear which is now slowly beginning to change.
What is the current law surrounding domestic abuse?
The UK government has implemented a cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse which defines domestic violence 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.”
The abuse is not limited to physical abuse and includes, psychological, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.
Although the above definition is not a legal definition, it has attempted to encompass all types of behaviours and/or acts which may be deemed to be abusive. A recent example of this is the fact that controlling and coercive behaviour have been included within the definition. Controlling behaviour includes any act or behaviour which forces another person to be entirely dependent on the abuser which can be done through isolation from friends and family, controlling their expenditure and planning their entire day.
Coercive behaviour has been further explained on the government website as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim”. Such behaviours were previously not considered to be domestic violence and as such the law has attempted to assist those who have been subjected to such behaviour. It is definitely worth noting that coercive or controlling behaviour, which was made an offence in December 2015, carries a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment. This recent implementation means that victims can report this type of behaviour to the authorities if it amounts to extreme psychological abuse.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and you are concerned about your safety in the UK, please contact us today for a confidential discussion on your matter.
What remedies are available to victims of domestic abuse?
Recent changes in law have meant that police have been provided with the power to issue a Domestic Violence Protection Notice which can be deemed to be an emergency non-molestation and eviction notice. A Domestic Violence Protection Notice is usually issued by the police officer who attends an incident of domestic violence and it is usually effective as soon as it served on an individual.
The main advantage is that the notice provides the victim with immediate support and protection as it forbids the alleged abuser from contacting the victim. This is extremely vital in cases involving allegations of domestic abuse as victims feel extremely unsafe having been subjected to such a traumatic experience. The police can issue such a notice on anyone aged 18 years of age or older, if it is reasonably believed that the alleged abuser has been violent or has threatened violence against the victim.
Usually following an issuance of this notice, a magistrates’ court will hear an application for a Domestic Violence Protection Order; this application must be made by the police within 48 hours of issuing a Domestic Violence Notice. If an application is successful, the alleged abuser will not be permitted to contact the victim or return to the victim’s place of residence for up to 28 days. In cases where the alleged abuser fails to comply with the Domestic Violence Protection Order, he/she will be deemed to be in contempt of court.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and you require further guidance on a Domestic Violence Protection Order, contact us today for an in depth and friendly discussion.
In accordance with the Family Law Act 1996, as amended by the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004, a victim can make an application for either a non-molestation order or an occupation order. These are both referred to as an injunction which essentially prevents an abuser from undertaking certain acts or remaining in close proximity to the victim as well as any children.
It is worth noting that a non-molestation order provides protection to a victim and their child in circumstances where the abuse was not been physical, but the victim has experienced harassment. A non-molestation order can prevent the abuser from coming within a specified distance from the victim’s home as well as also preventing the abusive behaviour from continuing. An individual can apply for this order if he/she is a victim of domestic violence and requires protection from an individual that:
- they have been with a relationship with; or
- is a member of their family; or
- is an individual whom the victim resides or resided.
An occupation order differs slightly in that the order primarily focuses on those who reside with the victim as the order can be relied upon in order to remove the abuser from a shared residence with the victim or alternatively, it can require the abuser to remain in certain parts of the property only.
In some circumstances, the abuser will not allow the victim to return to their shared residence and as such, an occupation order will require the abuser to allow the victim back into the property. A victim of domestic abuse and violence can make an application if the victim owns/rents the home that was intended to be the family home. Alternatively, a victim can still make an application for an occupation order if the home is not owned or rented by the victim but where the victim is married to his/her abuser.
When the courts consider such injunctions involving abuse, victims and children, the courts have a legal obligation to consider the health, welfare, safety and the resources of all parties involved. The court will also consider the impact on a victim and any minors if the order is not made.
Evidently, domestic violence is distressing and extremely frightening for anyone regardless of their gender. It can take years to recover from such a traumatic event and victims require ongoing support, not just from professionals but also from friends and family. It is therefore essential to seek help and guidance from trusted and friendly professionals early on.
If you are a victim and you require help, please contact us today without delay and a member of our dedicated team of family law specialists will assist you in obtaining justice and a peace of mind.