Domestic violence agencies, charities and support organisations have always stressed that abuse can manifest itself in many different ways, not just through physical violence.
“The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual,” states Refuge on their website. “Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.”
Until now, British law hasn’t reflected this — meaning victims of emotional abuse and controlling, domineering behaviour were denied justice. However, from Tuesday, Dec. 29, the Serious Crime Bill makes it a crime to act abusively or be controlling or coercive of your partner. Behaviour such as hiding someone’s keys or passport to prevent them from escaping will now be recognised as abuse in the eyes of the law.
Additionally, people who have been subject to this type of bullying now have two years, instead of just six months as it was previously, to report the crime.
Other examples of controlling or coercive behaviour, as defined by the bill, include stopping a partner from accessing bank accounts and refusing to pay child support.
The legal change was made earlier this year, but it didn’t come into force until now to give police and CPS time to learn new guidelines.
Shireen Jamil, 60, who endured a controlling relationship and campaigned for a change in the law alongside Harry Fletcher of Digital-Trust, a charity which supports victims of online abuse, and former Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd, said: “We have heard that two women a week are killed by their husbands and partners in this country.
“This figure is unacceptable,” she told the Express. “But what we are not given is a figure for the number of women who commit suicide every week, due to not just physical violence, but the even more sinister abuse that has finally become a crime. And that is coercive control.”
The charity Digital-Trust has compiled an e-book detailing incidents of coercive control, which is available at digital-trust.org/ebook.