Please note that this Briefing Note is not maintained, and reflects the law as at the date of publication or update
This guide provides a general overview of domestic abuse, highlighting examples of types of domestic abuse that may be experienced and what steps can be taken. It serves as a general introduction. For specific advice tailored to your own circumstances you should consult a specialist family solicitor.
What is Domestic Abuse?
The UK Government’s definition of domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse) is currently:
“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, 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. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional.”
Examples of Domestic Abuse are:
- Physical abuse
This can include punching, hitting, pushing and kicking. It can also involve the use of weapons.
- Verbal abuse
This is where the victim is called names, sworn at or belittled by their partner.
- Emotional abuse
This involves one person repeatedly making the other person feel intimidated or scared. It can include a person being blackmailed or constantly criticised by their partner or their partner demanding to know where they are all the time or having their mobile phone checked constantly to see what messages have been received. In some circumstances people have experienced trackers being put on their mobile phone or tablets so that their partner can track their movements.
- Coercive control
This is the same as emotional abuse. Coercive control is also now a criminal offence under the Serious Crime Act 2015.
This is a form of psychological manipulation and is a form of emotional abuse. It occurs when one person is made to question their own sanity; when the abuser makes the victim question what happened. Tell-tale signs are:
- You frequently second guess your ability to remember the details of past events;
- You feel confused and disorientated;
- You feel threatened and on edge around the abuser but don’t know why;
- You feel the need to apologise all the time for what you do or who you are;
- You never feel quite “good enough”;
- You feel there is something fundamentally wrong with you;
- You feel that you are constantly over reacting or are too sensitive;
- You feel isolated, hopeless and depressed;
- You feel scared and as though something is terribly wrong although you don’t know why.
- Sexual abuse
This occurs when a person is forced to have sex without consent (this is rape this is a criminal offence). It also includes unwanted sexual activity such as touching, groping or being made to watch pornography.
- Financial abuse
This occurs when one partner controls another partner financially. Examples are a person not being allowed to have their own bank account, being able to access their own bank account. One partner could withhold finances from the other partner unless they act in a certain way. It could also include a person having to give their salary or wages to their partner.
- Digital/online abuse
- Honour-based violence
- Forced marriage
- Female genital mutilation (FGM)
Who can suffer Domestic Abuse?
Anyone can experience domestic abuse, regardless of their race, religion or sex. It can be suffered by heterosexual or homosexual people, transgender people and those who are gender fluid.
In addition, vulnerable people such as the elderly or infirm can also experience domestic abuse.
What can be done if you experience Domestic Abuse?
- Report matter to the Police.
- Apply for a Non-Molestation Injunction Order under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996.
- Apply for an Occupation Order under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996.
- Seek advice and assistance from a domestic abuse charity.
Non-Molestation Injunction Order
An application can be made to the Family Court for a Non-Molestation Injunction Order under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 to protect the victim and their children from experiencing any further domestic abuse.
Once the Order has been granted by the Court, breaching the Order becomes a criminal offence meaning that the abuser can be arrested for having broken the terms of the Order.
In emergency situations an application can be made to the Court without notice being given to the abuser in the first instance in order to protect the victim.
Occupation Orders can be granted by the Family Court under Part IV of the Family Law Act 1996 in relation to properties which the victim (and their children) has lived in, whether they are owned or rented. They have the effect of enabling a party to re-enter and re-occupy a property, if they have left that property. Alternatively, this type of Order can force the abuser to leave a property.
In addition, Orders can be made with regard to the payment of rent or mortgage and bills.
Who can apply for a Non-Molestation Order or Occupation Order?
In order to apply for either a Non-Molestation or Occupation Order, the victim must have a formal association with the abuser and be known as an “associated person”. This means that they must fit into one of the following categories:
- they are or have been married to each other;
- they are or have been in a civil partnership with each other;
- they are cohabitants or former cohabitants (this includes same sex couples);
- they live or have lived in the same household;
- they are relatives;
- they have agreed to marry one another (whether or not that is no longer the case);
- they have or have had an intimate personal relationship with each other which is or was of significant duration;
- they have a child together or have Parental Responsibility for the same child; or
- they are parties to the same family proceedings.
How long does a Non-Molestation Order/Occupation Order last?
Generally, these types of Orders can be granted for six/twelve months, or longer. However in some circumstances they can be extended for a further period of time, depending on the specific circumstances of a case.