WITH one-in-four women and one-in-six men in the UK experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their lives, domestic abuse is sadly all too common a crime. Lisa McLaughlin (pictured above), of The Family Law Company, explains what you can do if you are affected…
Am I being abused? What constitutes an action being defined as domestic abuse?
The terms domestic violence and domestic abuse refer to any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour. This includes sexual violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been, intimate partners, and family members – regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:
- Controlling behaviour
- Coercive behaviour – an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim
- Harassment and stalking
- Online or digital abuse
I no longer live with my partner – can I still be subject to “domestic’” abuse?
Yes, most definitely.Sometimes perpetrators will increase their abuse if they suspect you are thinking of leaving and will continue to do so after you have left. This can be a particularly dangerous time. It is important to remember that ending the relationship will not necessarily end the abuse.
How can the law protect me and why should I seek support from a solicitor?
You have rights under criminal law. Being assaulted by someone you know or live with is just as much a crime as violence from a stranger. You can also apply for a civil court order to tell your perpetrator to stop harassing or hurting you (a non-molestation order), or to keep out of or away from your home (an occupation order).
A non-molestation order aims to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of you and your children by preventing your partner or ex-partner from using or threatening violence against you or your child, or intimidating, harassing or pestering you.
An occupation order regulates who can live in the family home and can also restrict the perpetrator from entering the surrounding area. If you do not feel safe continuing to live with your partner, or if you have left home because of violence but want to return and exclude your abuser, you may want to apply for an occupation order.
The law can also help to protect children. You can apply to the Family Courts for an order specifying where and with whom the children should live. This can also regulate the time they spend with the other parent.
I’m worried about how my abuser might react. Can I take action without them being made aware?
You can apply for a non-molestation order without giving any notice to the perpetrator. This is called a ‘without notice application’. You can then attend court and obtain a non-molestation order without the perpetrator having knowledge of what you are doing. The order is personally served upon the perpetrator; as soon as they receive it, you are covered by the terms of the order and can report any breaches to the police. A breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence.
I don’t have the means to meet costly legal bills. Is there any financial support available?
Although legal aid has suffered cuts, it is still available for cases concerning domestic abuse. However, receiving legal aid is dependent on your financial position. We can assess your eligibility for legal aid, and we offer a free first appointment. Please contact me for further information.