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Frontline domestic violence professionals demand law change

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Frontline domestic violence professionals demand law change

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Central Government, Communities, Housing

Frontline domestic violence professionals demand law change Frontline domestic violence professionals demand law change

Pressure is increasing on the government to criminalise coercive control, psychological harm, and patterns of abusive behaviour, in light of a survey released today by the Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign.

The campaign aims to criminalise patterns of abusive behaviour, psychological abuse, and coercive control: the intimidating, humiliating, and tyrannical behaviour perpetrators use to control their victims.

The survey of 182 frontline professionals working in the domestic violence sector revealed:

• 96.7% thought psychological abuse and coercive control should be recognised in law
• 75.6% reported that victims who experienced coercive control and psychological abuse did not report it to the police
• 56% reported that the police did not take into account patterns of perpetrator behaviour and coercive control in their investigations
• 60.2% reported that in their experience, perpetrators were sentenced on the basis of physical violence alone

Respondents to the survey reported a lack of understanding of the psychological aspects of domestic violence from police, the courts, the CPS, and victims themselves. This leaves many women experiencing domestic violence at risk of further intimidation and control by the perpetrator, as action is not taken to limit his control or support her to repair the psychological harm caused by his abuse.

The Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign is a partnership between Paladin, the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation and Women’s Aid Federation of England.

Laura Richards, Chief Executive of Paladin said: “Not only is coercive control the most common context in which women are abused, it is also the most dangerous. Domestic violence functions largely through fear and control we need to get away from this idea that it’s all about physical violence.

"It is vital that our police, prosecutors and courts have the powers they need to hold perpetrators of domestic violence to account. If we are to better protect women and children, create cultural change for domestic violence to be seen as the serious crime that it is and challenge the behaviour of perpetrators appropriately, the legislative framework needs to reflect the reality of domestic violence in all its guises. This will save both lives and money.”

Rhea Gargour, Chief Operating Officer for the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation said: “This survey offers invaluable insight for the campaign as it reflects what front line workers are experiencing on the ground. We know that the law needs to recognise that domestic violence is a pattern of both psychological and physical abuse and over 96% of those professionals who completed our survey agree.

"This overwhelming evidence further underlines the fact that the law must change in order for us to be able to effectively respond to this epidemic that currently kills two women every week.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Frontline domestic violence workers are the best possible experts in domestic violence on the ground, and they are overwhelmingly in favour of recognising coercive control and psychological abuse in law.

"Women and children cannot be properly supported by the justice system until the law reflects the reality of domestic violence. We urge the government to reconcile criminal law with it’s own definition of domestic violence, and criminalise coercive control, patterns of abusive behaviour, and psychological abuse.”

Case study

When Claire first met her partner, he swept her off her feet: he was charming and really interested in her, and seemed like he provided all the answers to her problems. Very quickly, she had moved to live with him and was unexpectedly pregnant. Knowing she couldn’t go back to her old job, he isolated her from family and friends and demanded to know where she was every minute when they were apart.

He constantly read her emails, texts, and phone records, denying her any privacy and tracked her movements through her phone. He would question her about where she’d been, threatening her and turning physically violent if she lied or couldn’t remember the specifics. He spread lies to her friends and family online, making them turn away from her. She felt she could never escape his control because it was so total.

Claire said: “I felt that I had absolutely no escape. It was impossible to talk to anyone about my experiences and try to make plans to leave because I would have been found out and put in more danger. The constant hounding through so many different mediums and the total lack of privacy or being able to shake him off compounded the fear and made me feel that I would never, ever be free, even after I’d asked him to leave.

"I felt really low. The more isolated I got the more everyone assumed I had a really great life. I knew if I did something he didn’t like, he’d be physically violent. He controlled every aspect of my life, and left me terrified and feeling worthless and alone.”

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