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Domestic violence: a step in the right direction

As family law solicitors, we deal with a vast amount of cases. Most common, perhaps, are divorce, finance and disputes regarding children. However, beneath the surface of many of these cases, there is quite often an underlying issue which relates to some form of domestic abuse.  In many cases, that abuse is actually the central issue. Having had a great deal of experience in working with victims of domestic violence, I have always been concerned about the lack of recognition and support when that abuse does not ticked the box of physical or sexual assaults.

The criminalisation of ‘coercive control’ in section 76 of the Serious Crime act 2015 is therefore greatly welcomed. It is a step in the right direction, towards the acknowledgment and prevention of other forms of abuse. We recently saw this new law in action with the conviction of a man who had ‘controlled every aspect of victim’s life.’.

Karen Renshall, a reviewing lawyer at the Crown Prosecution Service, said:

“Controlling or coercive behavior can have an extreme psychological and emotional impact on victims. Today’s conviction shows that this behavior will simply not be tolerated. No-one has the right to restrict someone else’s freedom. [The convicted man] controlled every aspect of his victim’s life. He prevented her from seeing her friends and questioned where she had been if she came in late. He stopped the victim from using her mobile phone and controlled her social media, such as making her delete friends on Facebook.”

Domestic violence has become an increasingly worrying problem in the UK, with more and more awareness of the issues being raised. It is a concern for both men and women and can have devastating effects on the entire family.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistics:

  • Two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner (Office for National Statistics, 2015). One woman is killed every three days
  • One in four women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and eight per cent will suffer domestic violence in any given year (Crime Survey of England and Wales, 2013/14).
  • Globally, one in three women will experience violence at the hands of a male partner (State of the World’s Fathers Report, MenCare, 2015).
  • Domestic violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime (Home Office, July 2002).
  • Every minute police in the UK receive a domestic assistance call – yet only 35 per cent of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police (Stanko, 2000 & Home Office, 2002).
  • The 2001/02 British Crime Survey (BCS) found that there were an estimated 635,000 incidents of domestic violence in England and Wales. 81 per cent of the victims were women and 19 per cent were men. Domestic violence incidents also made up nearly 22 per cent of all violent incidents reported by participants in the BCS (Home Office, July 2002).
  • On average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police (Jaffe, 1982).

It is step in the right direction that domestic abuse is now being recognised in its many forms. However, not all cases will receive the assistance of the criminal justice system. In my experience, there are many cases where victims are advised by the police to seek help from a family solicitor.

Some protections are available under family law. Victims can seek advice regarding a non-molestation order. This is an injunction against the perpetrator and can prevent any form of contact, intimidation, harassment, threats or violence. In urgent cases, a family law solicitor can file your application and seek the order from the court within a matter of hours. If breached, this can carry sanctions through either the criminal or family courts.

Any case of separation or divorce can be a very difficult time. However, in cases where there has been abuse, it is inevitably even harder. Any one experiencing such difficulties should seek advice from a family law solicitor. Not only can you seek urgent protection by way of court orders, but you can also seek advice and assistance in relation to all other issues arising from the separation.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing difficulties, then please do not hesitate to contact a  specialist family law solicitors for a confidential chat.

Amy is a solicitor at the Stowe Family Law office in Beverley. She specialises in a wide range of family cases, including divorce, separation, cohabitation, adoption, pre- and postnuptial agreements and matters involving children.

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  1. Andy says:

    It’s all very well and good gaining life experiences in divorce and the wider picture,this can reveal all matter of underlying issues.
    Yet again,the laws introduced of this broken society seem to only be one way traffic towards supporting the female and of course when divorce is instigated all matter of accusations, threats and asset division escalate to varied and out of character reactions by both parties..

    What about the male in all this,you show a picture of a woman defending herself by the violent partner.
    Seems stereo typical,when going through divorce the introduced law has made domestic violence a tool to gain further funding of legal aid and all matter of assistance and support for the female…What about the male in all this ,well, for instance as an example and only an example. You are going to once was the marital home,you intend to obtain personal belongings upon this you ask and go through the correct channels of entry all informed including the local police just in case. As you are in the property your ex partner as always seem to fall and bang her head or other area that can prove evidence of bruising etc.

    Police are called you get arrested, you have done nothing wrong never shown any aggressiveness and the system treats you as you are violent..and the introduced law that has made this scenario all to real…
    As lawyers and legal advisors would almost support this area of action by your ex only to line there pockets for more financ s with additional letters etc..
    But what about mental abuse,,where you are treated to daily occurances of verbal and systematic actions that treat you like a slave…here is one comment that I had been told to me some time ago..a person you were talking to at a family gathering knocks the wooden door frame,looks at you,says, that’s you,thick,,,now after months ,years and time periods things such as that build up to create situations such as I make comment on..whole family members turn againsed you and put spin on anything you never did and make you have to fight for your innocence….

    And the law supports the femail in all this,,,it’s high time the law was brought into the 21st century not just 17century law…

    • Amy says:

      Hi Andy, thank you for your comment. I agree that much more needs to be done and especially when raising awareness and support to male victims. Any move forward is welcomed, but there is a long way to go.

  2. Elena says:

    This is a great article: it is just spot on.
    There is no support or recognition of the effects of emotional and financial abuse cause to family and particularly children. My children and myself have been subjected to such abuse and what I have found is that he has used the children to manipulate situations to alienate the children from me and my family. Listening to other victims, the common reason for doing this is simply because the perpetrators know that the easiest way to destroy the victim is through the children. And they will do this whilst ‘ playing the victim or the charmer and the reasonable and stable parent’ to professionals such as lawyers, judges and psychologists and friends and family so that they have the support. Quite often as well perpetrators are better off financially so they will starve the victim financially who will not be able to support the family and or have the funds to defend herself or himself. Finally, it is my experience as a mother but I would like to say that I have heard some horror stories where the mothers were the perpetrators and it is also a very sad picture to look at.

    • Paul Apreda says:

      Thanks for posting this valuable comment Elena. Yo make some excellent points about emotional and financial abuse. The most important point you made from my perspective was ‘Listening to other victims, the common reason for doing this is simply because the perpetrators know that the easiest way to destroy the victim is through the children.’ From our experience of dealing with mothers and fathers in Wales (around 30% of those who contact us are female) the power imbalance achieved by women allows them to use emotional ad financial abuse against men. A case we dealt with last year involved the mum – who worked full time – making allegations of threats to kill against the dad who was the primary carer for the children. This allowed her to gain an occupation order and a non-molestation order which effectively excluded him from the lives of the children for the best part of a year. After an extensive Finding of Fact hearing where all 30 points were found in favour of the father the Judge made a Child Arrangements Order allowing the children to stay with the mother but for the father to have alternate weekends, one mid week overnight and half the holidays. The judge stated in the case that the mother had lied and deceived for personal financial gain.
      It is unquestionably true that both genders can and do use domestic violence as a tool to secure advantage in acrimonious divorce and child contact cases. The difficulty is that because services apply a gendered perspective to these issues it is more often the woman who succeeds in gaining advantage.

      • Elena says:

        Paul, it is such a sad story and what parents do not realise that at the end of the day the real victims are the children.

        In my case also, my ex made many allegations (different ones) but nevertheless which were gratuitous, unqualified and uninformed judgements: he was claiming that I was “mentally ill” to the children i n front of me and to his (and my) lawyers and whoever wanted to listen to him.

        His ulterior motive was simply a ploy to get full custody so that he did not have to pay a cent on alimony (even he hides money) and not because he “loves them” as he often claims in public or to people who will benefit him but it is a different story behind closed doors where he will gaslight the children which is a very common tactic with abusive and manipulative people.

        But at the end of our divorce, he got caught in his own lies and he was continuously contradicting his allegations both in writing and in practice.

  3. stitchedup says:


    Could somebody please change the record??

  4. CG says:

    Why have you portrayed a woman cowering away in the image with this article?

    Why have you given an almost totally female perspective in your bullet point facts?

    Within those figures you have documented that out of 635,000 incidents, 19% were male victims – that’s almost 1 in 5 – that’s over 120,000 men – one hundred and twenty thousand men – and that’s just the ones who have recorded an incident.

    Shameful biased reporting, when the documentation around Coercive Control is so carefully to de-tenderise this subject.

    No wonder men don’t come forward to report domestic violence, especially when they don’t have physical bruises to back up their reports, when even those who put themselves forward as advocates for ‘justice’ (that would be you) portray their own institutionalised bias.

    And I’m a woman.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Dear CG
      If you were a more regular reader of the blog you would know that I took a different stance and made points along your line in posts both before and when it became law. I also gave radio interviews on the subject. We are all entitled to our opinions and to express them as the comments on this blog amply demonstrate.

  5. yvie says:

    Domestic violence is horrible but it is not gender specific. Women can be as aggressive as men, verbally perhaps even more so. Has the writer of the article taken into account the well established rouse of a wife who wants to move on with someone else, but needs to get her present partner out of the house. Many of us will be aware of it – wait until partner comes home from work, start a row out of nothing, and then call the ;police stating she is too afraid to be in the house with him. Another case of domestic violence for the official figures, and, game, shot and match to the accuser. Useful trick, but it denigrates the seriousness of real domestic violence when one or other in the partnership could get badly hurt.

    • Amy says:

      Hi yvie, thank you for your comment. I completely agree with you regarding abuse effecting both men and women. Unfortunately, the situation you describe is sadly not unheard of. I have spent many years helping domestic abuse agencies on a voluntary basis, including agencies working to raise awareness about male abuse. The subject area is one which raises many issues and is sensitive. I am sure you will appreciate that the contents of a blog is quite limiting and was written with the view of reporting the case, rather than covering the subject area in its entirety. However, if you would like a blog on a particular aspect of domestic abuse, please let us know.
      – Amy

  6. JamesB says:

    Re: wait until partner comes home from work, start a row out of nothing, and then call the ;police stating she is too afraid to be in the house with him.

    Yes. Thank you for posting that. Exactly how me and my ex wife split up. I won’t go into details, but I am sure lawyers and woman’s aid charities have a template of these things. The pity is it makes it hard to identify the genuine cases when most of them are not.

  7. JamesB says:

    Another one they do is change the locks and shout DA when you try to go home. If you break in you get arrested then a non mol for being arrested. Bloody crazy.

    Perhaps a better law would be to stop the BS and only allow wives and people over 60 to own houses in this country.

  8. JamesB says:

    I have sympathy for DA victims. Not the women who cry Wolf. They disgust me as they make it harder for the real victims who need support. I am glad controlling behaviour isn’t in divorce petition or I would have lost everything for drinking out of an unclean glass or something as ridiculous.

  9. Vincent McGovern says:

    I had assumed this article was a wind up when I read the statistics of the British Crime survey dated……..2001/2. I notice the current one from Feb 2012 dealing with DV is significant by omission. Perhaps this is because it severely contradicts the 2001 edition. And let me take a wild guess, most if not all of the research statistics Ms Foweather quotes were done by feminist academics justifying standpoint research? And then I discover Ms Foweather is a Family Law Solicitor. And as usual the harvesting facilitation and promotion of (usually) false allegations against men and fathers is a source of much needed income to lawyers. And then it made sense.

    I’m reminded of my much better known countryman Oscar Wilde and his comment “there are lies, damned lies and statistics.” And there are misandric family law solicitors who exercise child endangering gender discrimination. But who cares when there is income to be derived.

    When Marilyn Stowe writes her blog they are normally excellent. John Bolch much less so. As for this portrayal male beast female angel model it demonstrates the crudest anti man bigotry I have ever read since Spare Rib magazine in the 1970’s.

    • JamesB says:

      Good post.

    • Yvie says:

      John Bolch seems to have very little sympathy for beleagued dads following divorce. I sometimes get the impression that he feels the role of a father after divorce to merely to ensure that full maintenance is paid to his children, but to then step to one side as leave mother in peace to bring up her children. Times have changed and dads want to be fully involved in the upbringing of their children. The state should fully support this 50/50 shared residence by default, leaving the parents to work out the exact arrangements to suit themselves and their children. Both parents should be fully away that they are both responsible for their children, and that responsibility should be shared equally as much as possible. When the usual mumbo-jumbo ‘best interests of the child’ is continually spouted, an uncooperative parent, can use this as an excuse for court action, or even worse, alienation of the children.

      • JamesB says:

        John Bolch had / has a website called and a sister site to it which I never got as far as.

        I stopped looking at it years ago as it was not very objective or well written, like his articles on here.

        The best I can say is he is being deliberately provocative to try and stir up things and get communication and a debate. The worst I can say, I won’t on here. Suffice to say I think perhaps if you put a case often enough, like being in family law as a solicitor, you are too close and perhaps you begin to believe it.

        Having been on the receiving end of the nonsense, unlike him, he is mostly wrong and silly if not disingenuous. I wouldn’t bother with his site if I were you, there is no point engaging in debate with someone as closed minded and biased and blind to reality and prejudiced as that, the closest I got was a close to retirement circuit court judge who literally couldn’t hear the litigant in person father, just an anecdote as how he was and John appears are very similar.

        It is easy but not right to make the easy decisions and to just go woman angel man beast as John and the author do is out of order.

        • JamesB says:

          Not even easy as is inflammatory. As the Vincent above said about the man beast woman angel thing.

          • JamesB says:

            The man beast woman angel thing was Vincent’s phrase I did use it but don’t want people to think that the phrase was mine, it summarises well some of the debate which is why I reused it hope and think he is ok with that, I think I have used woman good man bad or similar equivalent before also it is not right to think in those terms as some and I include John and the author here, and most lawyers involved in family law in the UK do the law forges them that way as the law is sexist. John’s position, that that dodgy sexist anti male approach to family law in England and Wales is fair, is wrong.

          • JamesB says:

            For the ‘shock Jock’ John Bolch, I think he has been corrupted by his time in England and Wales family law to think it right to behave as he does and promote the nonsense he does. Like he says the law is ok to say spousal maintenance based on need and ability to pay which is so blatantly open to game playing nonsense and that he doesn’t acknowledge that shows that he like most of his peers who have been professionally involved in that law have become desensitised to its unfair and unjust nature especially when it comes to the children and non resident parents.

            It takes strong swimmers to not go with the flow, the lawyers involved are a bit like modern day salem witch burners. A bit like the bay of pigs fiasco. There’s a word for it Groupthink in this case lawyers and establishment groupthink that bad (family) law is not bad law. If everyone around them (except the non resident father who is to be necessarily bad) is saying is ok they begin and then do think is ok especially with the vested interests Vincent mentioned and I agree with in perpetuating the divorce industry I like to be positive and think cant go on like that any longer though and that he and they will be anachronism shortly and us saying so will become the mainstream.

            Like if everyone around you says the earth is flat then you would get laughed at for saying it is round, or the same for much of science. Bit like the story of the Emperor’s new clothes in this case family law isn’t fit for purpose and more and more people are pointing that out and the tide should turn to that given the number of people voting with their feet and avoiding the well dodgy divorce industry.

    • spinner says:

      ouch, this blog post would be great in a Guardian comment piece.

  10. ss says:

    As a male victim of dv the law in this country will not allow me residence of my children aged 6 and 4 after they have witnessed mum assault dad(me) just over 1 year ago. I went through all proper channels called police reported to gp removed children for their own protection and have been told that even though mums behavior towards us hasnt improved that i need to go to mediation and try for 5050 shared residence…. because it isnt that bad therfore i am forced to stay in this relationship as a way to protect my children. If i leave how can i protect them from mums abusive behavior???
    Child protection its laughable and i bet im not the only dad that wants to protect his kids from an abusive mum but feels let down by the law in this country and i feel certain that the outcome would be different if i had done to mum that she has done to us.

  11. Paul Apreda says:

    Hi Amy
    Very interesting a revealing post. I noticed that you also mentioned helping charities that work with male victims. I wonder whether any of these apply a ‘screening’ tool to determine whether the men who come to them for help are in fact lying manipulative abusers? I think Vincent McGovern has already challenged a number of your statistical references on the basis of the age of the data you’ve chosen to share. May I draw your attention to the fact that ONS statistics for 2015 show 81 deaths from homicide (or as Women’s Aid prefers – femicide) were at the hands of a partner or ex partner, a decline from 106 in the year ended March 2005. I appreciate however that 2 women a week is a much more compelling narrative.
    Thanks for your valuable contribution to the debate


  12. JamesB says:

    If I was excessive or bad in my words and review of John’s website I am sorry. I think I was a bit harsh perhaps as I did sort of advertise it and felt I needed to address the balance of that as I was uncomfortable putting the link in so put the negative review in to counter that that said many say that any publicity is good publicity which is why I felt compelled to not hold back on the criticism. That and because I left that site for here and then he turns up here and I feel hes like my ex following me around from there to here having a go at me.

  13. JamesB says:

    People can and will form their own judgements on his sites. I found them to be very similar to his postings on here and thus avoid them as I found them unhelpful and upsetting to me personally and to everyone and in general.

  14. Luke says:

    The feminist position of “man bad – woman good” is popular in the media but it isn’t supported by the evidence. Domestic violence is a two way street and men are NOT more likely to initiate the violence. The evidence against the feminist agenda is overwhelming – here is an article on the subject:
    I don’t agree that we have taken a step in the right direction, I think the new legal position is a disaster – despite the fact that women in relationships are on average at least as coercive as men – and trying to establish accurately what is illegal and what isn’t will be extremely unreliable – I suspect the default position that our legal system takes against men means that the overwhelming majority of people punished (often quite wrongly) will be men.

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