Domestic Abuse; what is it and how can you protect yourself?
Our Solicitor, Jennifer Allen was interviewed live on BBC Radio Gloucestershire to provide expert advice on the issue of domestic abuse. Jennifer was asked to comment on a study in Gloucestershire that suggested there could be 50,000 cases of abuse in Gloucestershire over the next three years.
Surprising as this figure may sound to those who are not affected, Jennifer confirmed in her expert opinion that there are likely to be this many victims/sufferers of abuse in Gloucestershire alone, yet only a small number of sufferers may actually be aware of all of the forms of abuse now recognised in law. The victims include men, women and children. Furthermore, a number of victims/sufferers may be scared to take steps to protect themselves and many more may be too embarrassed to discuss the abuse.
Jennifer has dealt with many cases that include severe violence, physical, sexual, verbal and financial abuse. Together with her colleagues at Hughes Paddison, Jennifer recognises the concerns sufferers have and the need to deal with each case sensitively for the benefit of the victims.
A recent Supreme Court ruling (Yemshaw v. London Borough of Hounslow  UKSC 3) has extended the definition of domestic violence to recognise that abuse extends beyond physical abuse to include other forms of conduct. In the Court Judgement Lady Hale last week said that ‘domestic violence’ [in section 177  of the Housing Act 1996] includes physical violence, threatening or intimidating behaviour and any other form of abuse that directly or indirectly, may give rise to the risk of harm. Lady Hale also added that international and governmental understanding of the term has developed and therefore there is far more recognition that domestic violence has developed beyond physical contact.
A prime example of the issues faced is amply demonstrated in a case Jennifer has recently assisted a victim with. The case involved an unmarried couple who lived together for a number of years. When the relationship broke down the partner of Jennifer's client became verbally abusive and began to intimidate the client on a regular basis causing the client to feel victimised and to feel unsafe in her own home. The victim suffered panic attacks due to the threats and fear caused by the offender. Jennifer made an urgent application to Gloucester County Court which resulted in a Family Law Act injunction to prevent the offender from causing the her client further harm (whether directly or indirectly) and the Court also made an order to prevent the offender from returning to the family home. This provided the client with protection from further abuse and gave her peace of mind that she would be able to enjoy peaceful occupation in her own home without the constant worry of further threats or verbal abuse. Attached to the Order made by the Court was an automatic power of arrest. This was of particular importance as if the offender was to breach the order in future then the police could automatically arrest the offender and be brought before the criminal court.
Sadly, during a period of economic downturn, it is to be expected that people will feel the pinch of a lower income. This can often be a trigger for arguments or fall outs in a relationship. It is less well known (in comparison perhaps to physical violence), there is a form of economic or financial abuse in a relationship which is recognised and considered to be a form of domestic abuse. For example; a person preventing their partner from working in order to retain control so their partner has to ask for money or preventing them having independence. There are various other examples of abuse to include emotional abuse, using isolation, using children, minimizing or denying bad behaviour and blaming, using threats, using intimidation and sexual abuse.
Hughes Paddison has a highly qualified and experienced team who can help victims or people suffering in an abusive relationship. Victims ought to be encouraged to seek advice about the level of protection the law can provide and gain protection from an abuser. Jennifer and her colleagues can help you to apply and obtain a civil injunction or protective order on an emergency basis. An injunction is an order made by a court that forbids or prevents someone from doing or threatening to do something. There are two main forms; a non molestation order and an occupation order. Such orders are aimed at preventing abusive behaviour.
Sufferers of any form of domestic abuse ought to be aware that there are many options available to them and there are many informed and experienced organisations who care and who want to help. You may also be worried about the safety of someone close to you. Some of the organisations are listed in the links attached to this page.
In case of emergency, of course the urgent advice is to call 999 for police or an ambulance and then seek advice as to what further assistance there is available. In Gloucestershire there is a designated Domestic Violence Unit with specially trained Police.
The websites and help lines below can offer help and advice on how to stay safe and how to get access to emergency refuge accommodation. They can also offer advice and possibly a ‘way out’.
National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline:
- To talk to someone in confidence for support, information or an emergency referral to temporary accommodation, contact the free 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline.
- Helpline: 0808 2000 247
- Website: www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/
Gloucestershire Domestic Violence Support and Advocacy Project
- GDVSAP support all victims, women, men and same sex throughout the county
- Advice and Helpline 01452 500115
- Webstite : www.gdvsap.org.uk
- Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
- To report information about any crime anonymously call 0800 555 111
- Website : www.crimestoppers-uk.org
- UK and Northern Ireland helpline: 08457 90 90 90
- Website: www.samaritans.org.uk
- Refuge is a national charity that provides emergency accommodation and support for women and children experiencing domestic violence.
- Website: www.refuge.org.uk