The official definition of domestic violence is to be changed from March to include psychological abuse for the first time, it was announced recently. Though the change will help thousands of adults across the UK who are victims of “coercive power”, it is said to be specifically targeted to aid teenage victims of abuse.
The British Crime Survey recently found that young people are more likely to suffer partner abuse than any other age group, with 12.7% of women and 6.2% of men aged 16 to19 having experienced some kind of domestic abuse in the last year.
I think it is right and timely that this change is coming into play. To some, it may appear just a change of words that will have no real impact. However, for those on the front line of dealing with people who have been victims of abuse, it could be far-reaching and encourage many more people to come forward or take a stand.
Luckily, the majority of divorce cases we deal with at Woolley & Co do not involve domestic violence – or at least we are not instructed on those grounds. However, we have all had cases where both husbands and wives have cited domestic violence as one of the underlying reasons for a divorce. It shatters families and the mental scars it leaves can remain years after any physical ones have healed.
The law says everyone has the right to live without fear for their safety. No one has the right to cause you harm or threaten you. You have the right to complain to the police, as such behaviour may constitute a criminal offence. This is now being extended so that routine manipulative actions and words used to control someone will constitute abuse.
A solicitor will not necessarily be the first port of call for someone who decides enough is enough acts to do something about their situation, but we can help in a number of ways, namely:
• To apply for an injunction – a 'civil law order' which places legal restrictions on your partner to try to prevent or limit any further violence
• For orders to do with children – applying for/responding to orders under the Children's Act
• Getting a divorce or a judicial (legally recognised) separation
We also have significant experience in dealing with this type of case so can point at additional agencies there to support victims of domestic violence, like refuge.org.uk
For an abused wife, husband or partner, taking action is brave step. Anything that encourages them to do so that has to be a good thing.