Your Legal Rights
Domestic abuse is defined as ‘any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.’
Abuse is the manifestation of a desire for power and control over others. All situations are unique but there are common behaviours which can include things that might not be considered to be abusive such as:
- destructive criticism and verbal abuse
- pressure tactics
- threatening to withhold money
- disconnecting the telephone
- giving no choice in decisions
- showing disrespect
- persistently putting you down in front of others
- isolation in not allowing you to see friends or family
- harassment including following you , checking up on you.
It also includes more obvious things like threats to harm or kill and sexual or physical violence.
The statistics as to the frequency of domestic abuse are frightening. Women’s Aid report that one in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. One in ten women will be experiencing domestic abuse right now. Three women die each week in this country as a consequence of domestic abuse.
Often victims will experience abuse many times before deciding to take action. Many fear the consequences of taking action and are not clear what their options are. Once they do decide to take action they must seek legal advice immediately to explore those options.
What legal support is there?
There are two courses of action ; one involves the criminal law and the other involves applying to the court for a civil order.
The police are available 24 hours a day. They are usually the first port of call in an emergency. If a criminal offence has been committed then the abuser can be arrested and charged and removed. Until prosecution bail conditions can be imposed to keep the abuser away. Even if there is insufficient evidence to arrest and charge, the police can be called out to prevent a breach of the peace. Via the police it is also possible to pursue an injunction and restraining orders can be obtained.
In the alternative an application can be made to the civil court for an injunction. There are two main types of injunction
- a non-molestation order. This provides personal protection and prevents the further use or threats of violence or intimidating, harassing or pestering behaviour
- an occupation order. This regulates who can live in the family home and can impose restrictions on the abuser as to how near they can come to that home.
Both orders can be applied for urgently without the abuser knowing in more serious cases.
Everyone’s situation is different but in all cases it is essential to get advice as to the options available so you can decide what is right for you.
Action to end abusive behaviour may result in the ending of a relationship and often other issues arise e.g in respect of children or housing. Sue Leadbeater and Julie Bailey are Family Law specialists both with over 20 years experience in advising in all aspects of Family Law including domestice abuse cases and the consequences of action taken to stop it. Sue is also an accredited specialist in the area of domestic abuse.
For further advice on this or any other Family Law issue contact either Sue or Julie.