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. Chrystal Theofanous (pictured above), of Sills & Betteridge Solicitors, explains what you can do if you are affected…

Am I being abused? What constitutes an action being defined as domestic abuse?
Domestic abuse can manifest itself in many ways. Sexual, psychological, emotional and physical.

Being abused isn’t just about someone being physically violent which is a common misconception of ‘domestic abuse’ ie if my partner is not hitting me, I am not being abused. However domestic abuse also includes controlling and coercive behaviour ie controlling your finances, going through your mobile phone, making you feel bad for what you wear or for going out socialising.

The legal definition of domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.

If you think you are being abused there are services you can contact in confidence which will discuss your case with you and advise you what options there are available to you.

I no longer live with my partner – can I still be subject to “domestic” abuse?
Even after separation you can be subjected to domestic abuse. Your ex partner may continue to abuse you verbally, psychologically, physically for example. Just because a relationship stops, doesn’t mean the abuse does too.

How can the law protect me and why should I seek support from a solicitor?
If you believe you are being abused, it is really important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. A solicitor who specialises in domestic abuse can advise you and give you your options.

Under current provisions, warning letters can be sent to a perpetrator of domestic abuse warning them that if their behaviour continues, they may face court proceedings. If their behaviour continues we will advise you protect yourself by applying to the court for a non-molestation order.

Non-molestation and occupation orders  prevent a person from doing that which is stated in the order. So for example going within 100m of your property, not communicating with you, using or threatening violence, posting inappropriate things on social media about you.

I’m worried about how my abuser might react – can I take action without them being made aware?
It is always worth you speaking to domestic abuse services and getting legal advice. Your information will be kept confidential. You will be given advice about how to keep yourself save and how you can escape the abusive relationship.

I don’t have the means to meet costly legal bills. Is there any financial support available?
Legal Aid is available on a means and merits basis. It is always worth being assessed and speaking to a firm of lawyers who have a legal aid contract so that they can assess your eligibility for legal aid and advise you from thereon in.

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