Q. I am very concerned that my friend is being controlled and bullied by her partner, especially as she can’t see what he is doing to her. Am I right in thinking that non- physical abuse is taken just as seriously as physical abuse these days?
A. The cross Government definition of domestic violence and abuse is: “Any incident 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. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse.”
Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploring 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 pattern of acts of assaults, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.
Whatever form it takes, domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident and typically involves a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour that worsens over time. Domestic abuse occurs right across society, regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, wealth, and geography, although statistics show the violence is mainly by men against women. Children are also affected and there is a strong correlation between domestic violence and child abuse.
Police are aware of non-physical domestic violence and should take complaints seriously. There are injunctions you can apply for and protection your friend can obtain, both for her and any children of the family. It is also worth mentioning that Legal Aid is available for family cases involving domestic abuse. Your friend should see a family solicitor as soon as possible.