The definition of domestic violence and abuse states: Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or 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. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
- psychological, such as being isolated from friends or family, low self-esteem, blaming themselves for things (including their abuse), and humiliation in front of others
- physical, such as bruising or broken bones
- financial, such as limited access to money and damage to the home or other property, such as cars
Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is: 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.
This definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.
Case study - Maria
Maria is 50 years old and has been married for 30 years to her husband Ray and they have two daughters together, one daughter still lives in the family home. For 20 years of the marriage, Maria has suffered domestic abuse. Maria described her life with her husband as volatile, she felt consumed with pleasing her husband, and considering what he might do if she changed something in the house, cooked something different, changed her hair, treated the family or indulged in luxury occasionally. Maria described a typical abusive day which would start with Ray being verbally abusive, name calling, hurtful names, saying things like ‘ You’re not going shopping looking like that are you’ saying she looked like a clown. This was his plot to prevent Maria going out. This would then make Maria feel bad all day as she knew from then it would only get worse. Maria would need to provide receipts for cashpoint withdrawals and they would go through the till receipt together to make sure all the money was accounted for. Their 17-year-old daughter started to challenge her father, calling him names, threatening him that she would report him. Little did she know that Maria would be blamed for this and physically abused as her punishment, Ray knew if he touched his daughter the ‘Authorities’ would get to know. It was Maria’s daughter that finally encouraged her to seek help, whilst they were out shopping her daughter had asked her to ring the specialist service helpline IDAS from her phone.
IDAS carried out a thorough risk assessment and together they thought a ‘planned leave safety plan’ was what Maria would aim for. Maria left her husband with her daughter in July 2020 they had two suitcases that had been strategically packed by the eldest daughter when she visited week by week, little by little and secretly done whilst Maria was ironing.
IDAS supported Maria and her daughter to leave the family home with the help of the Local Authorities Housing Options team who provided her with temporary accommodation.
During this time IDAS assisted in getting a non-molestation order protecting her and her daughter from Ray. Maria and her daughter were safe in the accommodation and gave consent to share the order with the Local Authority and the Police in the event that Ray breached the order. A Non-Molestation order carries a fine and in some cases a prison sentence if breached.
A new safety plan was completed with IDAS, Maria and both her daughters. Leaving a relationship can be a high-risk time so the Police domestic abuse team were notified and all three mobile numbers were recorded on the Police Control room log. In December Maria and her daughter were offered a property by the Local Authority which they accepted and moved in.
Maria said her life has started, despite being in lockdown due to COVID-19 she feels free, she recommends anyone in this type of relationship to do the same, safely with professionals who really understand.