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First anniversary of the new domestic abuse law

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Today (29/12) marks the first anniversary of a new law established to protect victims of domestic abuse and violence.

The Serious Crime Act 2015 was amended last December to include a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour. It’s been described by one survivor as ‘domestic abuse without the bruises.’

Since the law was introduced last December, we’ve arrested 59 people for this new offence.

One of our domestic abuse survivors, Claire*, has bravely decided to speak out about her experience. This is part of her story –

“The day we got married everything changed. Literally, overnight. He knew marriage was important to me as a Christian. He knew he had me. As soon as we got into the hotel room he said ‘go and have bath now.’ I was in so much shock; I just went and had a bath.

“The honeymoon was horrible, horrible. When we got back everyone expected us to have had a lovely time. That’s when I started lying. I became very good at it.

“When I was pregnant the violence escalated, especially as I started to show. I wasn’t worried about myself but I became very protective of my baby. During this time there was coercion in our sex life. It wasn’t violent rape but he issued threats; ‘have sex with me because if you don’t I will have sex with the girl down the road’. It was rape but I didn’t see it as such. I saw it as my wifely duty.

“It got to the point where I didn’t say anything. I was too scared not to have sex, too worried about the consequences.

“As the pregnancy progressed, it escalated. It triggered something in him and it went to another level. Once he smashed all the kitchen glass. He would tell me he was going to kick the baby out of me. I had to reassure him I loved him. I had to make him feel loved, secure.

“I loved giving birth but it was tainted by his anger. During my contractions I asked for some lip balm and explained that he was looking in the wrong bag. He said ‘you wait until this is over, I will get you’. I knew he meant he would kill me. At the same time he bought chocolates and the nurses told me I was so lucky to have someone so supportive. It was traumatising.”

You can read Claire’s full story here.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Sue Mountstevens said: “No one has the right to control or abuse another person either physically or mentally. Controlling and coercive behaviour includes isolating a person from their friends and family; depriving them of their basic needs; monitoring their time, communications and much more.

“There are no excuses for domestic abuse and I believe you should be able to trust your loved ones and have a mutual respect for one another. Being in an intimate or family relationship is not an excuse to control or coerce another individual and that’s why I so strongly welcomed the change in legislation a year ago.

“Any type of abuse is an inexcusable form of cruelty and will not be tolerated in Avon and Somerset. If you have been a victim of this terrible crime, please know that you are not alone and that help and support is available. If you choose to report to the police know you will be listened to, taken seriously and believed.

“The Constabulary and I are working closely with all local authorities to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the services that can help if you’re a victim or know someone who is. We know that domestic abuse can happen to anyone and I ask everyone to look, listen, ask and ask again to take us one step further in our battle against domestic abuse.”

Domestic Abuse lead for Avon and Somerset police Supt. Andy Bennett said: “Most people understand domestic abuse to be physical violence between two people in a relationship. While this is true, there are other, perhaps more subtle ways someone can be controlled or abused by another in a domestic setting.

“It might include someone having their finances controlled, being told what to wear or humiliated on a daily basis –things that people outside looking in might not pick up on or see as domestic abuse.

“This legislation covers all familial relationships – not just partner or spouse. It can include parents, children (over 16) or in-laws.

“Although this type of abuse is hard to prove, we want you to tell us and you will be believed.

“Our advice to anyone in an abusive relationship of any kind is simple – just tell someone. Speak to someone you trust and just let them know or give them a sign.

“Of course you can always speak to us or get support and advice from the independent website thisisnotanexcuse.org.

“To friends or family members who suspect a loved one is being controlled or abused we ask you to look, listen, ask, ask again.”

The law around coercive or controlling behaviour carries a maximum prison sentence of five years, a fine or both.

To report any incident of domestic abuse, call us on 101 or make a report on our website here. Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Information and support services can be accessed on thisisnotanexcuse.org.

*not her real name.

Posted on Thursday 29th December 2016
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