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New Domestic Abuse Law from 29th December 2015

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The changes to UK criminal law now mean that a sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine can be given to perpetrators of emotional and psychological abuse.  Until now only offences of physical assault could be prosecuted. 

If a victim suffers serious alarm or distress that impacts on their day-to-day life or if there have been at least 2 occasions where they have been in fear of violence then the Police and Crown Prosecution Service can now charge and prosecute as a result of coercive and controlling behaviour getting recognition under criminal law.

There are concerns that the Police fail to arrest, and the CPS fail to prosecute cases of physical violence, so how they will evidence and prosecute often subtle emotional abuse that victims themselves frequently struggle to recognise or "prove" even to themselves?

Also that the issue of domestic abuse is totally misunderstood if physical and emotional abuse are seen as separate offences - every case of domestic abuse has coercive controlling behaviour at its core, physical violence is only one method of behaviour used by some perpetrators of domestic abuse to gain control.  Many victims of domestic homicides have been murdered by a partner or former partner who never previously used any physical violence.

It is also common for coercive and controlling perpetrators to extend their methods beyond just their victim to include extended family, friends and professionals and this can make them very effective in hiding and manipulating in multiple ways.  Recognising behaviour as coercive with the intention of gaining control is essential and the risks that some professionals may not see this or misunderstand what is happening or believe it to be unintentional raises risks for victims and survivors.

Domestic abuse is a complex issue.  Specialist domestic abuse services like HOMETRUTHS are essential in ensuring victims and survivors receive the individual support to recognise and understand their experience of abuse and then the correct help to ensure they are safe.

Often the generic services that have limited knowledge and understanding can make uninformed decisions that can impact negatively on a victim or their ability to stay safe.

There is also the additional concern that there isn't a similar change to the Family Court System that can make its own rulings about whether or not domestic abuse happened and decide how or even if this impacts on the children and then decide how perpetratros have access with the children.  Emotional abuse using children as a tool of manipulation is extremely common and it often continues once a relatonship has ended when perpetrators are able to use Family Courts as a route to continued contact with an ex-partner through child contact.

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