As the 16 days of Action come to an end, the Worcestershire Forum against Domestic Abuse are keen to remind everyone that support is always available for those who need it.
This year's campaign focus has been to highlight the lesser-known type of domestic abuse, the offence of coercive and controlling behaviour .
Coercive and controlling behaviour became an offence in December 2015 and gives powers to the authorities to bring prosecutions for psychological and emotional abuse, closing the gap in the law around patterns of such behaviour. Coercive control might be new in terms of legislation but it certainly isn't a new type of abuse that is happening.
Instead, it is the very essence of how perpetrators exert power and control over their partners; it is the ability to systematically destroy a person's way of being, knowing and existing.
The offence carries a maximum 5 year prison sentence and a fine.
Controlling acts may include, but not be exclusive to, manipulation, intimidation, sexual coercion and psychological abuse. The behaviour is intended to make a person become submissive, or to isolate them from sources of support, such as their friends and family.
It might include monitoring their time, or communication with others, including checking someone’s mobile phone or online communication.
It could also be exploiting their resources, such as their wages or access to money, depriving them of their independence and trying to regulate or control every day behaviour such as where they can go, who they can see and what to wear.
It may be stopping someone accessing specialist support services, repeatedly putting them down, humiliating or degrading them and making threats to hurt them or their children, or publish private information about them.
Something that may seem like harmless behaviour in isolation can have devastating effects on a victim when they are subjected to repeated controlling behaviour.? We would encourage people to speak to someone about any behaviour that is concerning them, all reports will be treated sensitively and taken seriously.
Perpetrators and victims can be from all backgrounds. Offences can be committed by anyone living together, or who has previously lived together, and could be parents and children and siblings as well as those in ‘intimate’ relationships. As with all domestic abuse it affects both men and women, as well as those in same-sex relationships.?
Martin Lakeman, Worcestershire's Domestic Abuse coordinator within Public Health said: “The misconception is that domestic abuse has to be physical. This simply isn’t the case, there are people living with all kinds of abusive behaviour and living with fear and intimidation that we can help to protect under this legislation. Abuse comes in many forms, but it is never acceptable.
We know that repeated patterns of psychological abuse can sometimes be more harmful than a single incident of physical violence. I would encourage anyone who is living with abuse, or knows someone who could be vulnerable to seek help and support.
We understand how difficult it can be for people to come forward and it takes tremendous courage to pick up the phone. The simple message is, please don't suffer in silence, tell someone. Call the domestic abuse helpline on 0800 980 3331. Calls to the Worcestershire domestic abuse helpline have increased by 26% this year".