Who is affected?
The latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales show an estimated 2 million adults aged 16 to 59 years have experienced domestic abuse in the last year alone. However, whilst the number of cases recorded by the police has increased, the reality is that majority of cases do not come to the attention of the police.
What we do know is that domestic abuse is non-discriminatory. Any person may experience domestic abuse regardless of sex, race, gender identity, religion, sexuality, class, or disability. The recorded statistics indicate that women are four times as likely to experience serious violence and are three times more likely to report a physical injury. The perception of the gendered nature of domestic abuse can however make it more difficult to men to come forward.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Physical abuse;
- Sexual abuse;
- Harassment, whether in person or online;
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse;
- Controlling or coercive behaviour;
- Financial abuse.
Whilst the signs of physical abuse may be more identifiable, it is recognised that emotional and psychological abuse is domestic abuse. What often links all types of abuse is the ‘control’ element. All abuse is characterised by one person exerting power and control over another person, whether physical or otherwise.
What are the signs of emotional and psychological abuse?
Whilst everyone’s experiences are different, there is often a pattern of behaviour which indicates an abusive relationship. Examples of abusive behaviour can include:
- Belittling you, putting you down and making you question your self-worth;
- Calling you names, swearing at you and speaking to you in a derogatory way;
- Accusing you of having an affair;
- Spreading rumours about you to your friends and family, to try to isolate you;
- Stopping you from going to work or engaging in social situations;
- Telling you what to wear, who you may see and where you may go;
- Constantly phoning and texting you to find out where you are and who you are with;
- Blaming you for things you haven’t done.
This is a non-exhaustive list and perpetrators of domestic abuse can be extremely manipulative and adept at hiding their behaviour. It is not unusual for this type of behaviour to be combined with ‘love bombing’, where your partner is extremely attentive, buys you gifts and emphasises how important you are to them. This can be very confusing and makes it harder to recognise whether the relationship is abusive in nature. However, if you are modifying your behaviour to avoid an argument (for example, not socialising with your friends or going to bed early to avoid confrontation), and you feel that you are walking on eggshells around the other person at times, you may be in an abusive relationship. Sadly, the victim of this kind of behaviour often does not realise that the relationship is abusive until they have been isolated from their support network. It is not however too late to seek help.
What protection is available to me?
If you are in an emergency situation and you think you may be at immediate risk of harm, you should call the police. That said, you do not need to wait until you are in an emergency situation. Under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996, victims of domestic abuse can seek the following injunctions through the Family Court:
- A non-molestation order – this prevents your partner, former partner or associated person from being violent or threatening violence towards you or any children. It also prevents intimidation, harassment and pestering, whether in person or by phone, text, email and social media.
- An occupation order – this regulates who may live in the family home. It can also prevent the abuser from being in the surrounding area. You can also get an occupation order if you have left home because of violent behaviour but want to return without the perpetrator living there.
The breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and you can also deal with the breach in the Family Court. A power of arrest can also be attached to an occupation order, which would come into effect if the order is breached.
Who can apply for an injunction?
In order for you to apply for an injunction you must be an ‘associated person’. You are an associated person if:
- You are or have been married to each other;
- You are or have been civil partners;
- You are or have been cohabitants;
- You live or have lived in the same household (except in circumstances where you are employees, tenants, lodgers or borders);
- You are relatives;
- You have agreed to marry or form a civil partnership, even if that agreement has now ended;
- You have a child together or you share parental responsibility for a child together;
- You are parties to the same Family Court proceedings;
- You have had an intimate relationship with each other for a significant duration.
The criteria for either of these injections is very fact specific and whether there are sufficient grounds to apply for an injunction will depend on the circumstances of your case. It is therefore important that you seek legal advice on your case at the earliest opportunity.
Can I get a non-molestation order or occupation order without the abuser knowing?
If there is a risk that notifying your abuser may place you at risk of further harm or threats of harm, it is possible to apply to the Court for an ‘ex-parte’ order (i.e. without notice to the other party). In these circumstances, the Court will usually make a temporary Order which will need to be served on your abuser (often by a process server). This is the first time the abuser will be aware of the application and notice can be provided to the police in advance if you are worried about their reaction.
How much money does this cost?
As your case is unique, we do not offer a fixed fee for injunctions as this may result in you paying more. Once we know more about your circumstances, we will always provide you with a cost estimate in advance of commencing proceedings.
In some cases, you may be eligible for Legal Aid. If you qualify on the financial grounds and your case has merit, we can signpost you to the Legal Aid Agency.
What are the next steps?
We recommend that you make contact with one of our solicitors and attend an initial fixed fee meeting. This can be arranged at your convenience, at a time when you can easily attend one of our offices without raising suspicion. During the course of your appointment, we will discuss your options in full and if necessary, we can take urgent steps to apply for an injunction on your behalf.
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