What is Domestic Violence?

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Domestic violence is often perceived only as physical acts of violence. However, it’s much more complicated than that. And this is why people often don’t think that the behaviour they’re witnessing or experiencing amounts to domestic violence.

It therefore often goes on unreported and is often ignored. But domestic violence can happen at any point in a person’s relationship and there are many forms that it can take.

If you have suffered domestic violence by your spouse, an intimate partner or a family member, get in touch with our Family Law Solicitors for initial advice.

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Domestic Violence Definition

Practice Direction 12J (3) provides a definition of Domestic Violence within Family Law Proceedings. This states that:

‘Domestic abuse’ includes an incident, or multiple incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour on someone aged 16 or over who has/had an intimate partner or family member. This is regardless of gender of sexuality.

‘This can encompass, but is not limited to: Psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.

‘Domestic abuse also includes culturally specific forms of abuse including, but not limited to, forced marriage, honour-based violence, dowry-related abuse and transitional marriage abandonment.’

What Does this Mean?

The following terms can be broken down as follows:

Coercive behaviour is defined as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim”.

Controlling behaviour means “an act or pattern 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”.

Financial abuse is when a person aims to limit a victim’s ability to access assistance. This can include not allowing a person to have access to shared money, making a person account for everything they spend, preventing them from working or encouraging them to quit their job, using your identity and putting contractual obligations in a partner’s name.

Emotional abuse aims to reduce the confidence and independence of the victim to limit their ability to leave the relationship. Examples include intimidating and threatening behaviour, criticising and making unpleasant comments, undermining the victim and making them feel guilty, isolating the victim from friends and family.

Psychological abuse is a form of abuse which results in a person experiencing psychological trauma. This can include isolating and/or ignoring a person, insulting the victim and excluding them from meaningful events.

Physical abuse is a broad area which includes injury caused by bodily contact. It can include actions such as kicking, pulling hair, punching, slapping and strangling.

Sexual abuse is where an individual is forced to participate in unwanted sexual behaviour. This kind of behaviour is often ongoing, so if it’s infrequent or occurs for a short duration, it is known as “sexual assault”.

The term “domestic violence” can therefore cover multiple forms of abuse and all are on an equal level, meaning that there is no ‘hierarchy’ of abuse. It may be that an individual is suffering from one form of abuse or a mixture of these behaviours over a period of time.

It often manifests itself gradually, which is why it can go undetected initially and then be hard for individuals to break away from it once in the cycle.

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Steps to Take

If you believe you’re experiencing any form of domestic violence, you should contact the police as a matter of urgency.

The police have immediate powers to deal with any domestic violence issues should they deem it appropriate, and are available to call 24/7. It’s worth noting that police records, statements and interviews can be exhibited as evidence in Family Law proceedings if ordered by the Court.

There are also various independent organisations who can provide support and assistance. It’s advisable that you seek their help to receive practical advice, such as emotional support and alternative accommodation. This includes women’s refuges, Citizens Advice and various helplines designed to support victims from every culture.

It’s also worth contacting Family Law Solicitors to discuss your options. Solicitors are able to apply for protective measures which can be put in place through the Family Court.

This can include a Court Order for the abuser to vacate the property for a period of time and/or to halt contact with you, or stop them coming within a certain distance of you. By using a Solicitor, you won’t have to deal with your abuser directly, even if the case goes to Court.

Our Family Solicitors can discuss and guide you as to what protective measures can be put in place for you and your children and which option is the most suitable for you.

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