What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence (also known as domestic abuse) is abusive or violent behaviour carried out by a partner or ex-partner and can take place within heterosexual or same sex relationships.
Physical, psychological or sexual violence taking place within an intimate relationship is classified as domestic violence, also if the abuse continues to take place once the relationship has ended.
The abuse can begin at any stage within the relationship and can last for years.
Although anyone can be a victim of domestic violence (male or female, young or old), statistics and research shows that in 95% of cases, women and children are the victims. This statistic is of course from known cases, which may be an issue in itself where men often feel embarrased to report or even tell anyone that they think they are the victim of such abuse.
Similarly, domestic violence is not confined to any particular section of society. It occurs across all walks of life, irrespective of age, class, abilities or disabilities, sexuality, religion and culture.
The formal legal definition of Domestic Violence is:
“From the 31st March 2013 the definition of domestic violence (also referred to as domestic abuse) changed to include individuals aged 16 and 17. The change was introduced to increase awareness that young people from this age group are also victims of domestic violence and abuse.”
The UK Government defines domestic violence as:
“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 psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.”
Domestic Violence Awareness
The Zero Tolerance Campaign
In 1992, Edinburgh City Council launched a campaign raising awareness of domestic violence through leaflets, educational materials and posters on billboards, bus stops and other prominent sites. The Campaign has since been adopted by other local authorities and worked with employers and trade unions to develop workplace policies.
Facts about Domestic Violence (statistics from reported cases)
- In the vast majority of cases the abuser is a man and the abused a woman.
- Children are often involved.
- Abuse may be physical or sexual. Effects range from bruising to permanent injury or even death.
- Often abuse is emotional, mental and verbal. This may involve threats, belittlement, isolation or control or money and activities. This form of abuse is less visible but equally damaging. Effects may include diminishing self-esteem, fear, guilt, insomnia, depression, agoraphobia and difficulty in trusting other people.
- Although most victims are women and children, men affected are equally vulnerable to the same damaging effects.
Effects of Domestic Violence
The effects of domestic abuse and violence vary from person to person, and also range from physical effects to psychological effects.
Physical effects may include:
- Broken Bones
Psychological effects may include:
- Post traumatic stress disorder
- Panic attacks
Having suffered and maybe experienced some of the effects above, other feelings may include:
Effects in work or school
A victim of domestic abuse or violence may find it increasingly difficult to carry on with their day to day life and activities. Signs that someone may be suffering could include:
- Poor time-keeping
- Persistent absence
- Poor concentration
- Lack of confidence
- Lack of self esteem
Over time, these traits can cause further difficulties, for example poor exam results if in school, or disciplinary issues in the work place, both leading to further stress for the already suffering victim.
Domestic Violence policies within the workplace
It is advisable that employers should implement a policy on domestic violence in order to protect any member of staff who may be a victim.
Reasons to introduce a policy:
- Recruitment and retention – Building up a team of trained and experienced staff costs money and good support will reduce the cost that occurs when staff leave. A workplace policy is a good investment, helping to retain skilled and experienced staff, and contributing to motivation and job satisfaction.
- The costs of replacing an employee could includes: recruitment advertising, possible cost of temporary cover, training new recruits, management time for new recruits.
- More effective staff – Support and security at work play a vital part in the well being of any organisation. Staff will feel fully supported and confident in approaching their employer for help. This can only increase commitment to their organisation.
- Getting the best people for the job – An employer with family friendly policies will be attractive to a much wider pool of potential applicants.
- An improved public image – Employers who have a policy on domestic abuse are demonstrating a powerful commitment to the principles of equal opportunities and community investment.
- Equal Opportunities – Domestic abuse policies constitute an essential part of a strategy to achieve equal opportunities in the workplace for women.
What might an employer include in their policy covering domestic violence
- Confidential and sympathetic response by managers and colleagues. This is crucial if women who are experiencing domestic abuse are to come forward for help and support.
- Awareness training for all staff. This is important if managers and colleagues are to understand why there is a need for a workplace policy and know how to behave and help in the situation.
- Extended special or compassionate leave. Women who are experiencing domestic abuse will need time to visit solicitors, arrange re-housing and to get advice and support from the appropriate agencies.
- Advanced Pay. Money may be tight and advances in pay may help in the short term.
- Relocation. There may be requests to be re-deployed or relocated for safety reasons. This is key if work is to provide a safe environment. Changes in working hours or other temporary measures to working time may also help.
- Practical help. The employer should keep telephone numbers of appropriate agencies which can offer help and assistance, for example, housing and benefits agency, women’s aid etc.
What the Government can do
The government’s approach is to:
- provide timely support and protection – co-ordinated and effective help at the right time can save lives
- bring perpetrators to justice – the legal system must deter crimes of violence against women and provide support and protection for women pursuing cases through the Courts
- prevent violence – like other crimes, violence against women(or anyone) is unacceptable and there are laws in place to deal with such crimes.
Domestic Violence and the Law
Acts of Domestic Violence (and domestic abuse) are a criminal offence under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 (amendment in 2012).
There is also additional protection for children via the Children Act 1989, which has the best interests of the child at heart. This questions the basis on which Courts decide whether to grant a violent ex-partner visiting rights to his children by way of a Court Order known as ‘Contract Order’.
Calls for the introduction of a national disclosure scheme gained momentum following the tragic case of Clare Wood, who was murdered by her former partner in Greater Manchester in 2009. Her partner had three previous convictions under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
A Pilot scheme was put in to force in 2012 by Gwent and Wiltshire Police; The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, known as Clare’s Law.
Under the scheme women will have the right to ask the police whether a new or existing partner has a violent past. If police checks show that a person may be at risk of domestic violence from their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information.
The pilot will also look at how the police can proactively release information to protect a person from domestic violence where it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so.
Both processes can be implemented within existing legal powers but new guidance developed for the pilot will help ensure that recognised and consistent processes are in place.
Forces in Nottinghamshire and Greater Manchester have also since joined the pilot, which runs until September 2013.
Where can I get help and advice (women and children)
Women’s Aid Federations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales refuges for women and children escaping domestic violence. They provide help lines, information, training and resources and monitor policy and practice. They campaign for better legal rights and support and protection for women and children experiencing violence.
Where can I get help and Advice (men)
While there is sufficient evidemce to back up the fact that it is predominantly woman and children who are the main victims of domestic abuse, it is becoming increasingly known that men are also victims.
Therefore, Women’s Aid have set up a specific department and advice line for men who are experiencing domestic abuse from their partner.
Men’s Advice Line
0808 801 0327 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10am-1pm and 2-5pm
What to do if you plan to leave your abusive partner
In any domestic violence situation the victims’ safety is paramount yet it takes a great deal of courage to make the decision to actually leave. If this decision is made then consider taking the following items:
- Identification – driver’s licence, birth certificate, children’s birth certificate, rent book, benefit book.
- Legal Documents – Passport, mortgage papers, car registration/insurance papers, personal/home insurance, work permits/visa (if applicable), your non-molestation order/injunction, divorce papers.
- money, bank details and credit cards
- house keys
- change of clothes for yourself and your children
- pictures of yourself/children/abuser
- You are not alone
- No one has the right to abuse you – assault is against the law.
- You are not to blame for the violence.
- Your partner / ex-partner relies on your silence to continue their violence
DON’T SUFFER IN SILENCE – GET HELP!
If you, or you suspect someone else is in immediate danger call the police.