Domestic violence is a term which is given to the abuse of one partner in a relationship. This abuse can be systematic or it can be irregular, and it can affect anyone in a relationship. It is a crime in the United Kingdom, and there are support networks available for people who are affected by domestic violence.
What forms can domestic violence take?
Most people assume that domestic violence resolves around physical violence; however this is not always the case. Other types of abuse will often play an important part in a violent relationship. This can include; emotional or psychological abuse, including undermining the confidence of the victim; financial abuse, such as the misuse or appropriation of money; and sexual abuse, including non-consensual sex or unwanted sexual advances.
Those who are experiencing ongoing emotional and psychological abuse will often be convinced that their relationship is normal or that domestic violence is acceptable in a relationship.
Who can be affected?
Almost anybody can be affected by domestic violence, regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, age or social background. It can happen to people who have been in a relationship for a long time, or it can happen to people who are just starting out in a relationship. Although statistics show that the vast majority of domestic violence is perpetrated by men and affects women, this is not to say that men cannot experience domestic violence too.
Some commentators argue that domestic violence figures may be slightly skewed because domestic abuse of men by women, and domestic violence in homosexual relationships is under reported. However, it is thought that man-on-woman crimes would still be in the majority. Domestic violence incidents are rarely one off incidents.
What can cause domestic violence incidents to occur?
Domestic violence is caused by the perpetrator’s desire to hold the power or control in a relationship. Domestic violence is not caused by the actions or responses of the victim. Although domestic violence is more likely to occur for the first time whilst the abuser is drunk or is on drugs, it is a mistake to blame the substance, rather than blaming the abuser.
Why is domestic violence able to continue?
Many people question why women in London stay with their partners if the abuse if so bad. The reason why this kind of abuse is allowed to continue is often down to a combination of factors and is unique to every circumstance.
Common factors include the individual experiences of either party (fear of abandonment, generational cycle of abuse, low self-esteem); society’s own attitudes towards domestic violence (blaming the abused person, failings in the legal system, lack of childcare, or a lack of a place for the abused to move to if they are fleeing their home); and the continuation of stereotypical beliefs about the roles of women and the sanctity of marriage (“A woman must love, honour and obey” and “Till death us do part”).
What can be done to end domestic violence?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to ending domestic violence, but steps can be taken to reduce the number of people who are affected. Many of these steps come from the legal system and from society, rather than from the individuals involved.
Changing laws and the attitudes of society can help to make it easier for abused people to escape the cycle of abuse. If more support were available for people who were fleeing domestic violence, then it would be easier for the abused person to leave their relationship and not need to return. Improved legal support for domestic violence sufferers could also help to increase the conviction rate in the United Kingdom.
Two of the biggest fears that domestic abuse sufferers have about leaving their partner are; whether their former partner will be properly punished for the abuse that they inflicted on their partner, and whether they will be able to have custody of their children if they leave the family home. Both of these factors are threats which are commonly used by the perpetrators of abuse to undermine the confidence of their partner and to try to prevent their partner from leaving them.
Many abuse victims fear that they will be unable to gain proper access to the Criminal Justice System because they will be unable to access adequate legal support due to a lack of funds. However, support may be available to victims of domestic abuse through the UK Legal Aid system. Even if you find that you are not eligible for Legal Aid, there are other charitable organisations and support networks in London and throughout the UK who can help to provide you with a legal advocate.
For example, the charity Refuge offers Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs) for women in London and all over the UK who need support with civil or criminal cases. These IDVAs may be introduced to an abused person by the police or by hospital staff after a woman has received treatment for a domestic violence issue. Alternatively, Refuge may put abuse victims in touch with an IDVA at their own request.
What support can a lawyer or advocate provide?
A lawyer or advocate can help to liaise with a number of different agencies on your behalf. Lots of different people tend to work on a civil or criminal case, and it can be hard to keep track of what is going on if you are not a legal expert. They will help to pull all of the stands together to make a solid case for you.
They will also work with you to help you to understand your rights and responsibilities in terms of the law. They can advise you against doing anything which might jeopardise your case or put you at risk of losing custody of your children. As well as helping you to understand your rights and responsibilities, they can help you to feel more confident about the whole process. This can include pre-trial visits and practice sessions so that you will feel more comfortable in a courtroom setting or formal legal chamber.
They can also take steps to help to protect you and your children. This includes helping to arrange safe accommodation for you at a refuge, and helping to get adequate protective support for you from the police. Advocates who specialise in domestic violence cases may be able to work with support charities to help to provide a safety plan for you and your children, should you find yourself in a position where you are threatened again by the perpetrator of the violence.
If you are concerned about seeing your abuser in court or your abuser being able to see you or your children, your legal representatives may be able to arrange special measures so that it is easier for you or your children to give evidence. This can include measures such as a protective screen so that you are not visible to your abuser or a video-link so that you do not have to be in the same room.
Your legal team will also help to prepare your evidence so that it is suitable for court. They will not put words in your mouth, but they can help to prepare your witness statements so that they are clear and coherent. Once in court, they can support you in giving evidence and they can advocate on your behalf.