Domestic Abuse: A new dawn for legal protection?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour on the part of the abuser designed to control their partner. It can happen at any point in a relationship, including after you have split up.

Domestic abuse is not always physical violence. It can also include:

  • Coercive control and ‘gaslighting’
  • Economic abuse
  • Online abuse
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse

More than 40,000 calls and contacts were made to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline during the first three months of lockdown, most by women seeking help, figures show. More needs to be done to support victims of domestic abuse, and it appears that this year may introduce significant changes in relation to domestic abuse cases.

Domestic Abuse Bill

The second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill was heard on 5 January 2021 in the House of Lords which will introduce, amongst others, a new definition of domestic abuse, extra protection for victims and witnesses in court, and remove the so-called “rough sex” defence.

Landmark case

The Court of Appeal is being asked to consider how the Family Court treats allegations of domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour, in a ground-breaking case when deciding how the alleged perpetrator should spend time with their children, that is likely to result in fresh guidance being issued to judges. The Court is hearing four linked appeals related to family proceedings involving the welfare of children.

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division stated

“The Court of Appeal was last asked to give general guidance on the approach to domestic abuse in child contact cases two decades ago. The last time these issues were looked at by the Court of Appeal 21 years ago, the phrase was “domestic violence”. My memory is, at that time, the court was only occupied in determining whether there had been violence.”

This aptly highlights the need for an update how the Courts deal with domestic abuse cases.

The case is due to be concluded by the end of the week.

Codeword scheme

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need immediate help, ask for ‘ANI’ in a participating pharmacy. ‘ANI’ stands for Action Needed Immediately but also phonetically sounds like the name Annie. If a pharmacy has the ‘Ask for ANI’ logo on display, it means they’re ready to help. They will offer you a private space, provide a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.

Signs to look out for

If you believe that you or someone else could be a victim of domestic abuse, there are signs that you can look out for including:

  • Being withdrawn, or being isolated from family and friends
  • Having bruises, burns or bite marks
  • Having finances controlled, or not being given enough to buy food or pay bills
  • Not being allowed to leave the house, or stopped from going to college or work
  • Having your internet or social media use monitored, or someone else reading your texts, emails or letters
  • Being repeatedly belittled, put down or told you are worthless
  • Being pressured into sex
  • Being told that abuse is your fault, or that you’re overreacting

If you are a victim and you need help, we are here to help and guide you every step of the way, providing you with support and advice to help you get your life back.

Contact us, we are here to help

We’re here to help, so please pick up the phone or drop us an email and one of our dedicated team will help with your enquiry.