Small Steps to Big Problems


Labour seem to be hitting the ground running on the issue of domestic violence. Ed Miliband has recruited Seema Malhotra as the party's first shadow minister for preventing violence against women and girls (VAWG). This comes after the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper vowed to introduce new domestic violence laws to prevent abusive partners avoiding prosecution.

Married Man

Sunday Morning Live Tackled the Issue

Not only will Seema Malhotra be working on VAWG, she will be actively involved with Labour's women's safety commission looking to introduce new domestic violence laws if Ed Miliband wins the next election.

Domestic violence is a slippery slope, as highlighted by Seema's first address to the world in her new position. Sunday Morning Live, a popular weekend panel show covering the week's major stories recently opened their show with the question "Should emotional abuse should be made a crime?" Polly Neate, chief executive of Women's Aid welcomed plans to change the law to see emotional abuse become a crime putting emphasis on the fact that, "extreme controlling behaviour is almost the defining element of domestic violence", sometimes more so than the physical violence that may accompany it.

She told how the victims she sees often say the effects of emotional violence are much longer lasting, and haunt them for some time after the physical scars of abuse have healed. Although she welcomed the opportunity for a new law to criminalise this kind of behaviour, she did clarify that however the law was finalised, it would need to be defined carefully.

What Can the Law Do Now?

The show also featured the story of Anna Lark, the former girlfriend of Justin Lee Collins. He was convicted of harassment causing fear of violence for emotionally abusing her. She felt as if her personality was gradually being eroded while he was "re-programming" her to become a submissive character. This is something that is often felt by victims of emotional abuse. Her case also showed that there are provisions in the existing laws to tackle this kind of violence, but the downside is that it does not specifically relate to couples, and those in a relationship.

One of the panellists commented that introduction of a new law would effectively 'criminalise marital discord', but emotional abuse goes far beyond that. It is a sustained attack on personal, emotional, and psychological wellbeing, in such a way that victims feel unable to get help.

If the criminal route is one you are unsure about taking, there are civil remedies. Non-molestation orders and occupation orders are ways of keeping an abuser away from you, your children and your house to escape physical and emotional violence.

Do you think a new law should be passed to make emotional abuse a criminal offence?

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