09 December, 2008
In a world of increasing stresses, where conflict between work and home commitments collide and where people are less confined by social boundaries of what is good or bad behaviour, are we seeing an increase in domestic violence? What is domestic violence and who does it affect? Is there any protection from violence in personal relationships?
Slowly, a response to the issues above has been seen and Family legislation has been evolving in response to the problem, which is oblivious to social standing or class and immune to how wealthy or poor people are.
Domestic violence is now commonly and more appropriately referred to as domestic abuse because the harmful actions of the person behind the abuse go far beyond assault. Name calling, threats with regard to children, constant fault finding, destruction of property, isolating a person from family/friends, financially controlling behaviour and sexual assault are but a few examples of domestic abuse.
In recognition that this kind of behaviour is harmful, the legal definition of harm has been extended. Harm to children now includes any impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another person. It is perhaps obvious that the victim will suffer as a result of abusive behaviour but sadly children are often forgotten about witnesses of abuse which is known to have psychological and emotional consequences which can last, literally, a lifetime.
What can someone do if they find themselves on the receiving end of such abuse?
Behaviour can be reported to the police who have a range of laws they can use. If actions do not meet the criminal/legal definition of assault or threatening behaviour, the police have the Protection from Harassment Act to rely on. If appropriate this can lead to a prosecution and the imposition of a Restraining Order.
Another alternative is to consult a solicitor. A warning letter can be written or a civil Injunction Order can be sought. Injunction Orders can be made on an emergency basis, and without notice to the other party, so that the protection is in place at the point the perpetrator is first aware of the Order. Injunction Orders offer protection from violence, threats, unwelcome communications via letter, telephone or text and can, in some circumstances, exclude people from the home and the area around the home.
Domestic abuse does seem more widely reported upon with the increased stresses of modern life and it is not limited to life partners, family members are often found to be abusing other family members.
If you are a victim and feel unable to deal with matters using one of the routes above, consider confiding in other professionals including health care professionals. Do not leave it until you or your children are so psychologically/emotionally scarred that enjoying the fruitful and happy life we are all entitled to lead becomes impossible.
Forbes family law team is made up of specialist family / divorce solicitors who offer advice on all areas of family law, including divorce, division of assets following marriage breakdown, cohabitee issues, ancillary relief, civil partnerships, children matters and change of name deeds. For further information on family / divorce issues please contact any member of our family law team.