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.