Machaela O’Brien, Family Executive at Coodes Solicitors outlines what protection is available locally in Cornwall for victims of domestic abuse.
While progress is being made to provide more protection for domestic abuse victims, many people still suffer in silence and feel that they can’t ask for help.
Sadly, domestic abuse is still a prominent issue. In November 2018 the latest statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales were released showing an increase in cases of domestic violence. The latest figures show that an estimated two million adults aged between 16 and 59 experienced domestic abuse in 2017-18, compared with 1.9 million in 2016-17.
We know that the majority of cases are not reported to the police. In many circumstances victims are scared of retaliation if they report the abuse and are often, understandably, frightened by the prospect of facing their abuser in court. Some abusers take control of their partner’s entire lives, whether that’s restricting their access to money or letting them see their friends. Some may have a children with their abuser and stay with them over fear of losing their family.
The good news is that there are a number of local services that are available to people experiencing domestic abuse victims. I would encourage more people to reach out to them.
Although there is now more awareness that domestic abuse can take many forms, this is still not widely understood.
Domestic abuse is defined as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, threatening or violent behaviour perpetrated, in most cases, by a partner or ex-partner.
Domestic abuse can occur in different forms, from physical abuse or coercive control. It’s important to recognise the signs of domestic abuse so we can spot these behaviours affecting ourselves or someone we care about.
Domestic abuse can include:
In many cases, the most effective resolution is to inform the police so that the perpetrator can be arrested and prosecuted.
Also, if you are concerned about a loved one’s partner or wish to know if a new person in your life poses a risk to you, you have the right to ask police if they have a violent past. The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, sometimes referred to as Clare’s Law, enables you to apply for disclosure on someone’s background. The police will disclose the information if it is legal, proportionate and necessary to do so.
The Family Law Act 1996 provides protection for those suffering from domestic abuse through two types of injunctions, a Non-Molestation Order and an Occupation Order.
A Non-Molestation Order can be put in place to prevent an associated person from using or threatening violence and harassing or intimidating an individual. In some cases, if an individual is in immediate danger an application can be made to the court on the same day without the abuser being given notice.
The order can be made for a specific period of time, which is usually six months but it can be extended. It is a criminal offence to breach a Non-Molestation Order and can result in the arrest of the perpetrator.
An Occupation Order regulates who can live in the family home. It is most commonly used to remove an abuser from the home to enable the individual to return or remain in the house without further fear of violence. An Occupation Order can also be used to restrict an abuser from entering the surrounding area.
A lawyer will be able to help you secure either of these orders but it’s important to look for a lawyer that has experience of dealing with domestic abuse. Many members of our Family Team have expertise in domestic abuse and have undergone extensive training to help provide the best support possible.
There are many local services in Cornwall and across the South West that are dedicated to help and support anyone who is experiencing any form of domestic abuse. Here at Coodes, we work closely with many of these organisations and often refer our clients to them for support.
First Light is a charity supporting people in Cornwall, Devon and Wiltshire. It offers local helplines, confidentiality and specialist advisors for children.
Women’s Aid is a national charity offering help to women and children affected by domestic abuse. They have a 24 hour helpline and a range of online services.
The SUsie Project offers support to men and women who have experienced domestic abuse and are no longer with their abuser. The project aims to help people in Cornwall regain their confidence, self-esteem and realise their ambitions for the future.
The Women’s Centre Cornwall supports women and girls over the age of 11 who have experience some form of abuse. It provides a safe and supportive environment and access to a range of services and helplines.
CRASAC: Cornwall Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre offers counselling for anyone who has been sexually abused. The centre provides help for parents and weekly support groups for men and women.
SPLITZ, Devon Domestic Abuse Support Services offers one to one support for victims of domestic abuse who are at medium or high risk of harm. The support service can help with safety planning, court proceedings and issues such as housing or separation.
Machaela O’Brien holds a Level 2 Domestic Abuse Training through Barnardos/Safer Futures. If you have been affected by any of these issues please contact Machaela in our Family Team at 01579 347600 or firstname.lastname@example.org