The Archers Helen and Rob storyline came to a conclusion last Sunday. Helen Titchener was found “not guilty” after stabbing her abusive partner Rob Titchener in an act of self defence.
Domestic Violence – Not Just Physical
It raises a number of questions to an audience and society that does not often like to address this uncomfortable issue. The interesting part of this story line which has aired over 2 and half year is how domestic violence is not just physical. It can be coercive. Rob was a prime example of a partner who systematically and continuously undermined his wife.
The Change in the Law re Domestic Violence
On 29th December 2015 under the Serious Crime Act 2015 controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships became a new offence. The coercive or controlling behaviour during a relationship between intimate partners, ex partners who still co-habit or family members. It is the intention of this statute to help victims of behaviour and acts which are falling short of actual physical violence but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse. It likewise must be a pattern of acts or behaviour which enables someone to ”exert power and control or coerce another.” The maximum punishment being 5 years imprisonment.
What is Domestic Abuse?
What counts as domestic abuse in that case:
- Physical aggression of any sort or even the threat of this
- Jealously or possessiveness
- Isolating you from family and/or friends
- Actions of a controlling nature such a monitoring your phone or movements
- Verbal abuse, criticism or belittlement whether behind closed doors or with other
- Swings of mood someone can be charming one moment and abusive the next
- Using anger and or intimidation to achieve submission of the other party
As such the new statute all sounds great on paper. The problem continues, however, to be a failing on the part of authorities to use this power.
Domestic Abuse Law in Action
Three Police forces in England have all reported prosecutions of ten or more, however, the majority of forces only exercised two or less control actions from December 2015 to June 2016. It is disappointingly low. Nine police forces had failed to charge a single individual under the 2015 act.
In the first six months since this new law was introduced it has been used 62 times in total. Take this figure and put it against the number of victims of domestic violence. It is estimated that there are as many as 1.4 million victims from 2015 alone.