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Frontline Domestic Violence Professionals Demand Law Change

Pressure is increasing on Government to criminalise coercive control, psychological harm, and patterns of abusive behaviour, following a survey released by the Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign.

The campaign aims to criminalise patterns of abusive behaviour, psychological abuse, and coercive control: the intimidating, humiliating, and tyrannical behaviour perpetrators use to control their victims.

The survey of 182 frontline professionals working in the domestic violence sector revealed:

  • 96.7% thought psychological abuse and coercive control should be recognised in law
  • 75.6% reported that victims who experienced coercive control and psychological abuse did not report it to the police
  • 56% reported that the police did not take into account patterns of perpetrator behaviour and coercive control in their investigations
  • 60.2% reported that in their experience, perpetrators were sentenced on the basis of physical violence alone

Respondents to the survey reported a lack of understanding of the psychological aspects of domestic violence from police, the courts, the CPS, and victims themselves. This leaves many women experiencing domestic violence at risk of further intimidation and control by the perpetrator, as action is not taken to limit his control or support her to repair the psychological harm caused by his abuse.

“Frontline domestic violence workers are the best possible experts in domestic violence on the ground, and they are overwhelmingly in favour of recognising coercive control and psychological abuse in law,” said Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid. “Women and children cannot be properly supported by the justice system until the law reflects the reality of domestic violence.”

“We urge the Government to reconcile criminal law with its own definition of domestic violence, and criminalise coercive control, patterns of abusive behaviour, and psychological abuse,” she added.

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