Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Domestic abuse can take many forms and affect anyone

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Domestic abuse is a pattern of controllin­g, coercive, threatenin­g, degrading and/ or violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner or ex-partner.

Overwhelmi­ngly experience­d by women and perpetrate­d by men, anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse.

For many women who live with it, there will be no scars, bruises or broken bones, but for some it can take their life. No one kind of abuse is more serious than any other.

Coercive control is against the law.

It’s a pattern of behaviour that is not obvious at first but does real damage.

Controllin­g and coercive behaviour was criminalis­ed by the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 and the legislatio­n came into force on 1st April 2019.

It is a course of conduct offence, where ongoing harmful and abusive actions in a relationsh­ip, which in isolation might not seem as serious, are examined together – this is about behaviour over time.

It reflects the lived experience­s of women, children and young people by bridging the gap in addressing controllin­g behaviours not covered by existing offences and crimes.

This legislatio­n is also the first to put children, now identified as potential victims, on the face of the law in the form of an aggravatio­n that will allow the judiciary to impose harsher sentences whenever children are involved.

It takes many forms, from name-calling and putting you down, refusing to trust you and acting jealously or accusing you of cheating.

A controllin­g partner can try to stop you from seeing family or friends, demand that you tell him your movements, and control who you call and who you spend time with.

They may put rules in place about how you do things, like how long you have to answer their calls or texts.

Those who experience this kind of behaviour report being trapped at home and prevented from leaving.

There can be threats of harm, not only to the person in the relationsh­ip, but also to children, loved ones and pets.

Charity Scottish Women’s Aid say it’s not unusual for the abuser to give a partner the silent treatment, blame her for the way he behaves or accusing her of making it all up.

Cheating on you, telling you what clothes or make-up you can or can’t wear and threatenin­g to leave with the children are all examples of coercive behaviour.

So too is making you feel like a bad parent, telling the children not to listen to you, or threatenin­g to hurt himself.

Here is one story, as told to Scottish Women’s Aid:

“From the outside, we look like the perfect couple.

“But inside, I feel like a hostage.

“He told me who I’m allowed to talk to and who I’m not allowed to talk to and then he acted like it was all just a joke. But it wasn’t. He was deadly serious.

“He gets the kids to tell him who I see and where I go. He complains that I don’t call him enough, then that I call him too much.

“He goes into my email and deletes things and he sends messages from my account.

“He tells me if I ever try to leave him, he will cancel my visa and I would have nowhere to go, that I would bring shame and dishonour on the family and I’d never see the kids again.

“Iamtrapped.whathave I done wrong?”

After opening up to Scottish Women’s Aid about how she felt suffocated by her partner’s coercive behaviour, another woman is gradually building her life.

She told the charity:“i could not put my finger on when it changed. It wasn’t one thing that he did. It happened bit by bit.

“I could never predict what would upset him. In the supermarke­t, I would stand in front of the cereals, scared stiff about what me might do if I chose the wrong kind.

“He would smash a plate right beside me and laugh at me when I flinched.

“He knew he didn’t have to hit me to keep me under control.

“He’d get angry, then apologise, saying:‘you know I love you, but you make me lose my temper. It is your fault.’

“I thought I would be safe if I toed the line.

“All it took was one person to ask me the right questions. Then, I began to open up.

“I started to see I am not mad. I started to see the patterns in what he did to me. It is taking a long time to find myself again.”

* Scottishwo­men’s Aid is the lead organisati­on in Scotland working towards the prevention of domestic abuse.

The charity plays a vital role coordinati­ng, influencin­g and campaignin­g for effective responses to domestic abuse.

It works with a network of 34 specialist localwomen’s Aid groups toward a shared vision of a Scotland where domestic abuse is not tolerated.

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