An unwelcome guest at Christmas by John Bolch

Family|December 19th 2013

Unfortunately, domestic violence can often be an unwelcome guest over the Christmas holidays. Couples are ‘forced’ to spend time together, stressed by the ‘requirement’ that they have a good time, and fuelled by excess alcohol.

I said in my earlier look at festive strife that I can’t give much advice on how to avoid domestic violence. However, I can give a little advice on what to do if you are unfortunate enough to be a victim.

The first point to make is that domestic violence does not just mean physical violence by one party against the other. It has been defined as “Any incident of 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.” It therefore includes such things as making threats, verbal abuse, harassment, withholding money and social isolation.

So, what do you do if you have been a victim? Well, this depends upon a number of factors, including the level of violence, and whether you want to remain with your partner (for example, because you believe that they will change). But here are some things to consider:

  • If the situation is urgent, then contact the police. They should attend, and may arrest your partner if an assault has taken place.
  • If the police are not involved or have not taken any action, you can still seek a court injunction restraining your partner from molesting you.
  • If you want your partner to leave the home, then you can only force them to do so by obtaining a court order. But the court is only likely to make such an order if there has been serious or sustained violence.
  • If you decide to leave the home yourself, then it is unlikely that you will be able to force your partner to leave the property to allow you to return later, unless you act quickly.
  • Lastly, if you do stay with your partner then make a plan of action in the event that there is any repetition of domestic violence. This may include such things as leaving the house quickly and contacting the police.

Whatever course of action you choose to take, you should seek legal advice from a specialist family law solicitor, even if you don’t plan to take any court proceedings at that time. Being informed as to your legal position is essential. If you cannot afford to a solicitor then you may be eligible for legal aid (yes, legal aid is still available for domestic violence cases).

I hope you have a peaceful and happy family Christmas, but if not then remember there are steps that you can take to protect yourself.

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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  1. Tristan says:

    Encouraging women to seek non-molestation orders (one of the most highly abused tools available in her DV armoury) when the police themselves have decided there is no justifiable cause, is an irresponsible incitement to inflict damage on innocent third parties.

  2. Stitchedup says:

    But it earns a nice christmas bonus!

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