Solicitors in Milton Keynes - Family Law, Motoring Law, Domestic Violence

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Emotionally Criminal – the Law on Domestic Abuse

Many years ago I lost count of the number of victims of domestic violence (usually women) that I have acted for who have complained of emotional abuse. Women who are told what they can wear, when they can speak (and to whom), when they can go out and to where; what they can do and with whom. Women who have one thing in common – the fact that it was their ‘fault’ whatever led to the argument/being given the cold shoulder/being sent to Coventry. Sometimes the ‘wrong’ would lead to devastatingly offensive insults and sometimes to hours of cross questioning and accusations. Always though the consequences would be the same – anxiety, nervousness, depression, lack of self-esteem and even thoughts of suicide.

In a seemingly pragmatic but ill-thought out twist of logic, the government has recently suggested that there should be a specific offence of domestic abuse so as to criminalise the emotional and psychological torture that some (usually) men inflict on thier partners. Emotional abuse is every bit as harmful as physical abuse or indeed sexual abuse but it is difficult to see how a law which criminalises what is said in the home, in the context of an intimate relationship, can ever be an effective tool. Is it really useful for the state to act as unseen arbiter in every aspect of personal relationships? Or would it be better to empower the victim with knowledge, resources and support so that they can recognise the early warning signs of emotional abuse and leave the relationship before it’s too late? The government’s proposal is a bit like closing the gate after the horse has bolted. The law already has the family law injunction which is more than capable of closing down wild horses.

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