Shelley Workman of Coodes Solicitors’ Family team says that despite recent changes to the law, there is a long way to go in raising awareness of the different forms of domestic abuse.
“In December 2015, we welcomed a change in the law relating to domestic violence. The new legislation was designed to target those who subject spouses, partners and family members to coercive and controlling behaviour. Recent reports have shown that there has been a low take up of the new legislation: it was used just 62 times in the first six months and eight out of 22 police forces have made no charges. At Coodes we still see many people who do not recognise themselves as suffering domestic abuse because they have not been physically harmed.
“So, despite changes to the law there is clearly still a long way to go for people to become aware of the various forms that domestic abuse can take. There is also very low awareness of the support that is out there. Victims of domestic abuse often qualify for Legal Aid, which means they can get free legal representation to help them get out of an abusive relationship and get the protection they need.
“We also know that not all perpetrators of abuse are men. In fact, recent research has shown that the number of women convicted of domestic violence has tripled in the last decade. While this may indicate that more people suffering abuse from female perpetrators are coming forward, we still see many people who have not recognised that they are being abused by a female partner.
“If your current or former spouse, partner, or a family member is making you feel worthless – whether that is through physical abuse, emotional abuse, harassment or controlling behaviour – you can get help. This could range from us issuing a warning letter to an ex-partner who is causing problems, to putting a Protective Order in place through the court, which we can often do within a day for serious cases. We can assess whether or not you qualify for Legal Aid and can also put you in touch with support services.
“Even if you have separated from an abusive partner and you do not require protection from domestic abuse, the fact that you have been a victim may well entitle you to Legal Aid. It can help you to deal with divorce, financial issues and any difficulties with any children you may have with your former partner.
“While the law may have changed, there is a long way to go in terms of awareness. I hope that Domestic Violence Awareness Month will encourage more people suffering in silence to speak out and get the help they need.”
For more information on this or any family enquiries please contact Shelley Workman, Family team, Coodes Solicitors on 01726 874700 or email@example.com