- Anna Hunter, Director of Major Family Law, Newcastle and North East’s leading divorce and children’s specialists, comments in the Accent Magazine:
WHAT IS IT?
What do you think of when you hear the term domestic violence? Do you think physical abuse? People often picture a woman beaten and broken, but abusive relationships don’t necessarily involve physical violence, or only physical violence.
Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused.
Psychological, sexual, financial and emotional forms of abuse are equally common, although not always so easy to spot. Emotional abuse in particular is often minimized or disregarded, even by the victim, although the scars and damage can be as lasting as a physical assault.
The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is: any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.
HOW DO YOU SPOT IT?
Given that the nature of domestic abuse is that it takes place largely behind closed doors, how can you tell if you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence?
Other than outward evidence of physical abuse, often passed off as the result of an accident, some generic traits of victims include seeming overly anxious to please their partner and behaving submissively towards them. They may “check in” with their partner overly frequently when out and receive numerous intrusive calls from them. Once outgoing, confident people can become withdrawn, depressed and have low self-esteem. They may well make repeated excuses not to attend social events or accept invitations from friends and family.
Key tactics used by abusers to exert control over their victim typically include dominance, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial and blame. This can lead to the victim being convinced or afraid that no one will believe them or that the abuse is actually their fault. This is only exacerbated by the fact that many abusers can appear charming and entirely “normal” to others.
HOW DO YOU STOP IT?
“I wouldn’t put up with that! Why doesn’t she just leave him?” Ending a relationship is never easy, but it can be even more difficult when you’ve been isolated from your family and friends, financially controlled, physically threatened and had your self-esteem destroyed.
Having nowhere to go, having no access to money, and having children are all factors that contribute towards victims believing they cannot leave, aside from fear of retaliation.
If intervention and protection is required though, there are a number of mechanisms available to protect both victim and any children of the relationship. As well as support networks and women’s refuges, the police are now better equipped than ever to deal with domestic abuse through training and education and new powers.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders now offer protection in the immediate aftermath of a reported incident, even where the police have insufficient evidence to charge the perpetrator with a criminal offence. These orders can ban the perpetrator from the home and/or from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days.
In addition, and in the longer term, an injunction offers similar types of protection, with Orders available to keep the abuser away from the victim, and out of the family home. Ultimately, detailed legal advice is likely to also include advice about divorce/separation and financial entitlement.
Such steps take a great deal of courage and determination, but the help is there when you need it. An expert solicitor will be sympathetic, discreet and supportive and will advise if you are eligible for financial assistance.
Domestic abuse does not discriminate: it can happen to anyone. Everyone should have the opportunity to live without fear. If in doubt, talk to a professional in confidence.
Anna Hunter is a Director at Major Family Law, the Divorce and Family Law Specialists, 12 West Road, Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne NE20 9SU
T: 01661 82 45 82 www.majorfamilylaw.co.uk. Twitter: @majorfamilylaw
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