11 February 2020
Divorce and domestic abuse
Last week marked Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week. Many organisations, support agencies and B P Collins, are coming out to say that #itsnotok to be abused. As lawyers we’ve seen many clients looking to separate from their partner after suffering domestic abuse. But this comes after months or even years of mistreatment. In fact, on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police.
Domestic abuse is, unfortunately, extremely prevalent. In the year ending March 2019, 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse (ONS). According to ‘Living without Abuse’ domestic abuse will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime. Domestic abuse also accounts for 16% of all violent crime*, however it is still this crime that is least likely to be reported to the police. These statistics are truly shocking.
The latest definition of domestic violence and abuse from the Government states:
“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or 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. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
Controlling behaviour is: 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.
Coercive behaviour is: 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.”
It’s clear that the term domestic abuse covers a broad range of behaviours and does not always mean that there is physical abuse. However, there are common traits. We have advised clients who have often felt controlled by their abuser, who restricts contact with friends and family. Others have also said how difficult it is to relax when living with an abuser and feeling like they are walking on egg shells as they never know what behaviour will cause them to ”blow up”. Some clients are embarrassed to admit that they are the victims of domestic violence and sometimes telling their story to us is the first time they have been able to verbalise what is happening. The perception that domestic violence is something which affects women can make it harder for male victims to seek help.
What can you do?
We completely understand that taking the first step to speak to a lawyer about suffering domestic abuse can be a very difficult one to take. It’s not uncommon that clients need to build up their confidence before they can take any definitive action, and we will talk through all your options. Often, an abusive partner can make completely unfounded threats in relation to children or finances with a view to discouraging their partner from taking steps to stop the abuse. We have experience in dealing with all of these issues and will help you to achieve the right outcome for you and your family.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, and want to know more about the support and options available to you, please contact Fran Hipperson on firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential chat.
*Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report