What is domestic violence?
The government generally defines domestic abuse (also known as domestic violence) as “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.”
There isn’t a legal definition of controlling and coercive behaviour, but the government generally defines it as:
A range 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.
An act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
Domestic abuse can take several forms, but is generally one of 5 types:
Physical violence is the most obvious form of domestic abuse and includes kicking, punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pulling hair out, burning and strangling.
The most common form of sexual abuse is rape – when someone is forced to have unwanted sex, but it can also involve touching, groping and being forced to take part in unwanted sexual activity, including being forced to watch pornography.
This can be verbal or non-verbal abuse where the abuser wants to frighten their partner or make them feel bad or lose confidence.
It can include shouting, name calling, embarrassing and shaming, controlling, intimidating, threatening violence, checking up on someone, and isolating them such as stopping them for seeing friends and family.
This can include withholding money, taking money, not allowing someone to work, or controlling their finances.
Who can suffer domestic violence?
Though the majority of domestic violence and abuse is encountered by women, it can also affect men and can happen in heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender relationships.
It can happen to people of any ethnicity, religion and social class background.
Is domestic violence against the law?
There isn’t a specific crime of ‘domestic violence’, but many of the actual acts of domestic abuse and violence are against the law. For example, rape, attempted murder, assault (including sexual assault), false imprisonment, harassment and criminal damage.
In August 2014 the government announced plans to consult on making coercive control a crime. This would include abusive behaviour and psychological abuse.
How can Graysons help if I am being abused?
Our solicitors are experts in dealing with all types of domestic violence and abuse and can help you to protect yourself from your abuser.
We can apply for court orders, commonly known as injunctions, which require your partner to do, or not to do, something. In very urgent cases these applications can be made quickly and without your abuser knowing beforehand. Please click on the following pages to read about the most common court orders are:
This will order your partner or ex-partner not to molest you or your children. Molesting means harassing, pestering or intimidation and includes threatening behaviour and assault. It can also include texting, posting comments about you on social networks and loitering outside your home. A non-molestation order can also stop your partner from getting someone else to harass you on his or her behalf.
This regulates who can live in the family home and can also order your abuser not to come within a certain distance of the home. An occupation order can:
- Allow you to stay in the home if your partner is trying to get you out.
- Allow you back into the home if your partner has already thrown you out.
- Remove your partner from the home.
- State that you and your partner must live in separate parts of the home.
- Stop your partner from entering the surrounding area.
- Order the abuser to maintain the mortgage payments for your benefit.
What happens if my abuser breaks the court order?
Breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and gives the police automatic powers to arrest your partner and take him or her back to court for criminal sanctions to be imposed.
If the police do not take action (for example if the Crown Prosecution Service believes there to be insufficient evidence) and/or if your partner breaks an occupation order, you can return the case back to court and ask for your partner to be punished. Punishment can include a financial penalty or a term of imprisonment, which may range from a few days to several months depending on the seriousness of the circumstances.
How long will my protection last for?
Ordinarily, injunction orders are made in the first instance for a 6 month term. Sometimes, the court will make an order in the first instance for a 12 month term. These are intended as short term remedies designed to allow a heated situation to calm down. Most people find that the initial term is more than adequate to give them the protection they need. However, if harassment continues, the court can extend the injunctive period for as long as a person needs protection, as well as imposing penalties for the breach.
What else can be done?
Since March 2014, domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs) offer police and magistrates the power to protect a victim in the immediate aftermath of domestic violence. These orders can stop the perpetrator from returning to a property or having any contact with the victim for up to 28 days. This gives the victim time to consider their options and put injunctions in place if they wish to.
Under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law), this allows you or someone concerned on your behalf to ask the police to check if your partner may present a risk of harm to you.
I would like to say that Nicola Cancellara and her staff were absolutely fantastic and very helpful. They are an absolute asset to Graysons, can’t thank you all enough.