Domestic Abuse

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What is domestic abuse?

The Government defines domestic violence as: “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.”

Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship became a criminal offence in December 2015, punishable with up to 5 years imprisonment, by virtue of section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.

What are the types of domestic abuse?

In the vast majority of cases, domestic abuse is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men. The very sad reality is that children suffer when they witness domestic abuse. Domestic abuse might be manifested in the following ways:

Coercive Control

This is 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. This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour thereby creating invisible chains and a sense of fear that pervades all elements of a victim’s life.

Physical abuse

This is hitting, pushing, strangling, burning with cigarettes and using weapons.

Sexual abuse

This is forcing sex, or withholding it, using pornography or other ‘aids’ without consent, forcing to have sex with others, controlling or refusing contraception.

Financial or economic abuse

This is can include controlling money, having to justify all expenditure, not being allowed to work, or in the alternative having to hand over wages, using family funds, including benefits, for personal pleasures such as alcohol. It can include using credit cards without permission, putting contractual obligations in their partner’s name and gambling with family assets.

Harassment and Stalking

Stalking is a pattern of persistent and unwanted attention that makes you feel pestered, scared, anxious or harassed. Some examples of stalking are can including regularly giving unwanted gifts; making unwanted communication, damaging property, repeatedly following or spying on you, or threatening you.

Taken in isolation, some of the behaviours may seem like small acts, but together they make up a consistent pattern of behaviour that is frightening and upsetting. It’s important to know that stalking is a criminal offence and because of this, if you go to the police, they will take it seriously.

Online or digital abuse

Online platforms are increasingly used to perpetrate domestic abuse. Online domestic abuse can include behaviours such as monitoring of social media profiles or emails, abuse over social media such as Facebook or Twitter, sharing intimate photos or videos without your consent, using GPs locators or spyware.

Legal Aid for victims of domestic abuse

Victims of domestic abuse can still get legal aid and when seeking an injunction, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) waives all upper eligibility limits. However, a contribution may be required.

Am I in an abusive relationship?

Everyone has arguments, and everyone disagrees with their partners, family members and others close to them from time to time. And we all do things at times that we regret, and which cause unhappiness to those we care about. But if this begins to form a consistent pattern, then it is an indication of domestic violence and abuse. The answers to the following questions may help you:

  1. Has your partner tried to keep you from seeing your friends or family?
  2. Has your partner prevented you or made it hard for you to continue or start studying, or from going to work?
  3. Does your partner constantly check up on you or follow you?
  4. Does your partner unjustly accuse you of flirting or of having affairs with others?
  5. Does your partner constantly belittle or humiliate you, or regularly criticise or insult you?
  6. Are you ever afraid of your partner?
  7. Have you ever changed your behaviour because you are afraid of what your partner might do or say to you?
  8. Have you ever changed your behaviour because you are afraid of what your partner might do or say to you?
  9. Has your partner ever destroyed any of your possessions deliberately?
  10. Has your partner ever hurt or threatened you or your children?
  11. Has your partner ever kept you short of money so you are unable to buy food and other necessary items for yourself and your children or made you take out loans?
  12. Has your partner ever forced you to do something that you really did not want to do?
  13. Has your partner ever tried to prevent you from taking necessary medication, or seeking medical help when you felt you needed it?
  14. Has your partner ever tried to control you by telling you that you could be deported because of your immigration status?
  15. Has your partner ever threatened to take your children away, or said he would refuse to let you take them with you if you left him?
  16. Has your partner ever forced or harassed you to have sex with him or with other people or made you participate in sexual activities that you were uncomfortable with?
  17. Has your partner ever tried to prevent your leaving the house?
  18. Does your partner blame his use of alcohol or drugs, mental health condition or family history for his behaviour?
  19. Does your partner control your use of alcohol or drugs (for example, by forcing your intake or by withholding substances)?

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