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Proposed changes to domestic violence law

  • rubytuesday
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12 Dec 11 #301676 by rubytuesday
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This article from the Daily Mail:

Men accused of ‘bullying or abusing’ their wives could face criminal charges under new domestic violence laws.
It could mean prosecution for husbands who treat their wives in a controlling way but do not assault them physically.
The change is being proposed by Liberal Democrat ministers as part of a review of domestic violence to be published this week.

Ministers are also likely to confirm plans to criminalise parents who force their children into arranged marriages.
Critics of domestic violence laws point to the lack of an agreed legal definition or specific criminal offence for attacks in the home.
The guidelines could cover anyone exercising ‘coercive control’ over their partner.
This would include demonstrating a pattern of threatening behaviour or emotional abuse.
It could also cover ‘economic control’ and the manipulation of children.

For the first time, the law could make clear that under-18s can be victims of domestic abuse.
A government television campaign has targeted abusive boyfriends amid fears girls are becoming victims in their teenage years and are unable to break the pattern throughout their lives.
The new definition would also cover women who bully their male partners.
Around 5 per cent of men report having been the victims of domestic abuse.
Around one in four women is thought to be a victim of domestic violence. But figures suggest that only one in 15 cases that reach the criminal justice system leads to a conviction.

A government-agreed definition of domestic violence already exists. This describes it as ‘any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality’.
But ministers fear the police, councils and government agencies are not applying this rigorously enough and will consult on whether there should be a new legal definition and how it should be phrased.
The proposals could, however, raise concerns that the law is being widened to criminalise non-violent behaviour unfairly.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone will launch the proposals on Wednesday.
Earlier this year three police forces began trialling Domestic Violence Prevention Orders, which allow the courts to prevent suspected abusers returning home to their wives or girlfriends for 28 days.
Domestic violence is thought to account for one in five of all crimes of violence committed every year.
A Home Office action plan published in March made 88 recommendations for changes to cut violence against women and girls.
Earlier this year, David Cameron described forced marriage as ‘little more than slavery’. Up to 3,000 British Asians, many of them young and vulnerable, are forced into arranged marriages every year.
Currently the courts can impose Forced Marriage Prevention Orders, which instructs parents and relatives not to take children abroad and make them marry against their will.
Breach of such an order will become a crime.
Separately, ministers are considering a new law allowing women to find out if their boyfriend has a history of violence.
It would allow the police to tell women who ask whether their prospective partner is a danger to them or their children.
The planned legislation is known as Clare’s Law after Clare Wood, 36, who was killed in 2009 by a man she met through Facebook.


The Telegraph also carried this story - Bullies face prosecution in domestic violence crackdown


The focus in these two articles is on women as victims and men as abusers. The Telegraph article states Any changes will be mainly be aimed at men who abuse women and girls. Ministers already have an "action plan" aimed at tackling violence towards females which includes 88 separate initiatives.. We need to move away from the mis-guided concept that women are victims and men are abusers. There is endless data and statistics collected on women who suffer violence and abuse within a domestic arrangement, but such extensive data is missing regarding men in abusive/violent relationships, although a survey by Parity (men's rights campaign organisation) claims that around 40% of domestic abuse victims are men - data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey back this up, and show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09. I would suspect that these figures are not a true reflection of the actual numbers, as men who do try to report domestic violence/abuse are not met with a sympathetic system. There is also the stigma of being a man abused by his partner, and many male victims find reporting incidents difficult.

While any move to a zero tolerance approach to domestic violence and abuse (as there is in Scotland) is very welcome, I do wonder how there can be a true and legal definition of "controlling behaviour". While there are obvious examples, as cited in both the above articles, I am concerned that any such definition will be open to mis-interpretation and abuse by those who seek to manipulate the system to their own advantage, and especially those who seek to remove a parent from the lives of their children.

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12 Dec 11 #301819 by rubytuesday
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I would be interested to read other's thoughts on how to a legal definition of emotional abuse and controlling behaviour can be reached.

Any thoughts?

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