International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

This week saw the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  The aim is to raise public awareness of the fact that there are women all round the world who are being subjected to domestic violence.  Statistics provided by UN Women, have highlighted the shocking fact that one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence.  This particular issue is extremely important, and one that should not be ignored.

It must be noted that domestic violence does not just include physical and sexual violence, but can also include emotional, psychological and financial abuse.  Unfortunately, it is all too often the case that a victim of domestic violence will have been subject to more than one incident of abuse which can take many forms, including being subjected to coercive and controlling behaviour.  The government website explains controlling behaviour as a “range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour”.  Coercive behaviour is explained as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation, intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim”.

It seems that the government is now live to the issue of abuse of a non-physical nature and plans are afoot to announce the criminalisation of acts of psychological and emotional abuse.  This means that an abuser could be found guilty of “coercive control” and could, potentially, face prison sentences of up to 14 years.  Although this has not been enacted into legislation as of yet, it will no doubt be a welcome move as at this time the police may not be in a position to prosecute an abuser if there is no physical violence.

It must, however, also be noted that there are other potential avenues if the police cannot take action and it may be appropriate to apply to the family court for a non-molestation order.  This can give various protections to a victim, e.g. the perpetrator isn’t allowed to communicate with the victim, come within 100 metres of their home, they are prevented from harassing or causing physical violence to a victim etc.  If this order is breached, then it is a criminal offence and the abuser can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of, potentially, 5 years.

If you require legal advice in relation to any family matter, please contact our specialist Family Solicitors on 0800 037 4628.

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