How Can The Law Protect Victims Of Domestic Abuse?
The Law Of… Safeguarding Victims Of Domestic Abuse
In 2016 a staggering 1.8 million adults aged 16 – 59 said that they had experienced domestic abuse, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Reporting domestic abuse and seeking help can be some of the hardest steps for victims to take, especially when they're unsure about how the law can help them.
Carol Chrisfield, Associate in Family Law, explains what options you have and what support our Family lawyers can offer you.
What Is Coercive Control And How Can The Law Help Me?
Coercive control refers to someone controlling their partner through a pattern of behaviours, and is now recognised as domestic abuse. Some of these behaviours can include isolating you from your friends and family, dictating when you can go out and who you can see, and restricting how you spend money or your access to bank accounts.
In December 2015, coercive control became a criminal offence that carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years with it.
"For many individuals, knowing when their partner's behaviour becomes controlling or abusive can be difficult and they often don't know what steps they can take next", Carol explains.
"It's helpful to keep a diary of any abusive events – whether they're verbal or physical (or both) – and speak to someone you trust about your situation. If you want to find out how the law can protect you, one of our friendly Family lawyers will be happy to speak to you."
Can Just A Warning Letter Be Sent To My Ex-Partner?
A warning letter is written by your solicitor, on your behalf, to the individual responsible for the abuse and informs them that if they don't stop their behaviour, the court will become involved.
In some cases of domestic abuse, a warning letter can be very effective in resolving matters without the need for court action, for example if you want to stop your ex-partner from harassing you on the phone or via social media.
But, we know that it might not necessarily be the best option for everyone, especially if sending the letter could put you or your children at risk of harm.
Our Family lawyers can discuss the best options with you, and will ensure that the safest and most effective option is taken to protect you and your family.
My Ex-Partner Is Harassing Me – Should I Notify The Police?
Reporting domestic abuse is incredibly difficult for many people, who might fear that their actions could make the situation worse.
But, it's important to remember that domestic abuse and forms of harassment – such as stalking, threatening phone calls or messages, and damaging your property – are criminal offences and the police can take action. Depending on the circumstances, this could range from putting a restraining order in place or even taking your ex-partner into custody and prosecuting them.
If you need some advice about, speak to one of our Family solicitors as soon as possible on 0808 129 3320.
The Police Have Decided Not To Take Action – What Can I Do Now?
It can be worrying when you find out that the police aren't taking action, but there are other legal options available to ensure that you and your children are safe from domestic abuse.
One of the most effective ways of protecting you and your family would be to make an application for a non-molestation order or an injunction, which our solicitors can help you with.
These are types of court orders that can prevent your ex-partner from behaving in a certain way towards you, and your children, and it's a criminal offence for them to breach these orders.
Non-molestation orders can, for example, prohibit your ex-partner from:
- Subjecting you, or your children, to physical abuse or threatening you with this type of behaviour
- Harrassing, intimidating, or pestering you
- Communicating with you
Our Family lawyers can advise you about which order is appropriate for you and will walk you through the process of applying.
If your ex-partner has breached this order, you can enforce it by reporting them to the police or speaking to one of our team about what further action you can take.
I Don’t Want To See My Ex In Court – Is There Anything That Can Be Done?
For many victims of domestic violence, the thought of facing their ex-partner in court is understandably terrifying. But, there are some options that we can consider in this situation, such as asking the court for permission for you to give evidence through a video link if the court has this facility or from behind a screen.
It might also be possible for us to arrange a separate waiting room for you at court.
Can I Get Legal Aid?
It's possible that you might be able to qualify for legal aid depending on your circumstances – this is something we'll be able to identify for you.
"The Government's decision to scrap the 5-year time limit on legal aid for victims of domestic abuse will hopefully make it easier for victims of abuse to come forward and get the help they deserve", Carol comments.
How Can Simpson Millar Help Me?
Our Family solicitors are experienced in supporting victims of domestic violence and their families through what can be the most challenging times of their lives, and will ensure that the appropriate steps are taken to protect you.
If you're ready to take action, we will provide you with personal advice, walk you through your options, and explain the process step by step whilst ensuring you're in control of the situation.