Anti-domestic violence campaigners call for law change

Psychological abuse should be made a crime, according to campaigners, who want legislation to be brought in to make "coercive control" an arrestable offence.

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Abuse defined by more than 'physical violence'

The criminal justice system needs to focus on more than physical violence when pursuing a domestic violence case, experts said.

The chief executive of Women's Aid, Polly Neate, said in order to prevent the two deaths which occur every week at the hands of a controlling partner or ex-partner, authorities would need to take the psychological harm inflicted on the victim into account as well.

These survey results clearly reflect what our member services have been telling us for a long time: the criminal justice focus on individual incidents of physical violence cannot reflect the ongoing psychological harm caused by coercive control in intimate relationships.

We welcome the Government's recognition of coercive control in the Home Office definition of domestic violence...

Two women a week die at the hands of a partner or ex-partner; the next step to preventing these deaths is reform to allow the criminal justice system to take account of patterns of controlling and violent behaviour.

– Polly Neate

Authorities 'fail to recognise controlling behaviour'

Some 88% of abused women questioned by three campaign groups felt the criminal justice system did not take psychological abuse into account

Women's Aid, the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation and Paladin carried out an online survey of 258 abuse victims and found:.

  • A further 94% felt that mental cruelty could be worse than physical violence
  • Of those questioned, 88% (228) had experienced domestic violence for more than a year

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Calls to make 'coercive control' an arrestable offence

Patterns of psychological abuse, such as dictating what a partner can wear, should be outlawed, according to campaigners.

Three groups want the Government to criminalise "coercive control" - patterns of abusive behaviour which cause psychological harm.

The groups said current laws focus too much on individual criminal acts rather than a long-running pattern of behaviour. Credit: PA

It can include being excessively jealous, isolating your partner from family and friends, controlling what they wear or deliberate sleep deprivation and threats.

The Home Office included the term "coercive control" in their definition of domestic violence last year, but they have to legislate against it.

Two women in the UK each week are killed by their partners and campaigners from Women's Aid, the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation and stalking advice service Paladin said the most dangerous cases involve domestic violence, stalking and this type of control.

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