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Recognising domestic abuse in a relationship

View profile for Karen Johnson
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In 2012, the government introduced a new definition for the term “Domestic Abuse”. This provided that the term would cover;

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or 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. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical 
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

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 the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour 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.”

Domestic abuse is generally born out of one person’s desire to have power and control over another. It can be inflicted by men and women, although statistics show that women are almost twice as likely to experience domestic abuse in their lifetime as men [1]. It is also important to realise that the nature of domestic abuse, and complex social factors which come in to play, mean that it remains an issue which is significantly under-reported. This is particularly considered likely for male victims, racial minority groups and members of the LGBTQ community.

Recognising domestic abuse, can be harder than you might think. This is because it is often not so obvious as physical abuse and may involve a wide range of abusive behaviours such as;

  • name calling
  • putting you down
  • isolating you from friends or family
  • stopping you going to college or work
  • telling you what to wear, who to see, where to go and what to think
  • controlling your money or not giving you enough to buy food or other essential things

They might threaten to hurt you or others or destroy your things or even threaten to hurt themselves. It can be lots of little things that individually may not seem much, and which your partner might downplay and suggest is normal, but in actual fact is anything but acceptable behaviour in a normal healthy relationship.

In the event that you decide that you want to leave that relationship, it is important to consider how this can be done safely. This is particularly important as relationship breakdown is recognised as a factor which can increase the risks associated with domestic abuse. However, help is available. In an emergency, the police can be called using 999, and further help and support can be obtained by calling the Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

You are also likely to benefit from having legal advice from a solicitor specialised in dealing with cases involving domestic abuse. The advice will be tailored to your specific circumstances as domestic abuse can have significant consequences in terms of whether protective orders such as non-molestation or occupation orders are required.  Also, whether and what child arrangements should be put in place. We can then advise and assist in relation to the other issues that follow separation, such as divorce, and the need to resolve financial arrangements.

For more information about how our specialist team of divorce and separation solicitors can help you, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free 15 minute no obligation chat. I am based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 217305, or complete the online enquiry form here.

Karen Johnson is a family solicitor and Resolution Accredited Specialist in relation to domestic abuse and complex financial issues and part of our highly regarded and specialist team of divorce and separation solicitors.

[1] ONS: Domestic Abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2018 - reported that 7.9% of women between the ages of 16 – 59 had experienced domestic abuse compared with 4.2% of men.