Domestic violence - it can happen to anyone
Domestic violence, also called domestic abuse, includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse in relationships or between family members. The issue of Domestic Violence has come to the fore in the press following the restrictions imposed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, and has highlighted the fact that it is something which can affect people of all ages, and people of all backgrounds, both women and men. Victoria Derbyshire has talked movingly about the effect that it had on her family growing up.
There are many ways in which you can receive help and support including:
- Obtaining a non-molestation injunction or occupation order under the Family Law Act either independently or with the help of a lawyer;
- Women can call the National Domestic Abuse helpline, which is run by the refuge, telephone: 0808 2000 247
- Men can call Men's Advice line, telephone: 0808 801 0327
- If you identify as LGBT you can call Galop, telephone: 0800 999 5428
- You can call the police.
- You can seek support from your GP.
Domestic abuse has a common factor of power and control over the victim.
If you believe either you or a friend is experiencing domestic violence, some signs include:
- being withdrawn, or being isolated from family and friends
- having bruises, burns or other physical marks
- having finances controlled, or not being given enough to buy food or pay bills
- not being allowed to leave the house, or stopped from going to college or work
- having your internet or social media use monitored, or someone else reading your texts, emails or letters
- being repeatedly belittled, put down or told you are worthless
- being pressured into sex
- being told that abuse is your fault, or that you’re overreacting
If you are suffering from violence, threats or intimidation, it is possible to apply in the family courts for an injunction to help protect you. There are two types of injunction:
- non-molestation order to prohibit your partner or spouse from using or threatening violence against you or your children, or intimidating, harassing or pestering you. It can contain very specific provisions depending on the particular type of harassment happening to you.
- In deciding whether to make an order, the court considers the health (mental and physical), safety and well-being of the applicant or any relevant child. It must be satisfied that there is evidence of molestation and that the applicant or children need protection from the court. Molestation involves any form of physical, sexual or psychological molestation or harassment that has a serious impact on the health and well-being of the applicant or any relevant child. Molestation is not only defined as violent behaviour, it may be other forms of behaviour.
- Any non-molestation order the court makes will contain a list of things that the respondent is prohibited from doing. The order can last either for a specified period of time or indefinitely. Breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and the police can arrest someone who is disobeying an order.
- occupation order which will set out who can live in the family home (or certain parts of it) and can also restrict someone from entering the area surrounding a home. An occupation order does not affect each person’s financial interest in the home, simply who can live in it.
- The court applies different tests depending on the relationship status of the people involved and whether the applicant has any legal right to occupy the home. For certain categories of applicant, the court will apply a 'balance of harm' test, in which it balances whether any person or child is likely to suffer significant harm if an order is or is not made. In other cases the court must exercise its discretion taking into account all the circumstances. The process is quite complex.
Subject to means testing public funding is available for assistance in representation for applications for non-molestation and occupation orders.