BOLTON charity Fortalice has welcomed the government’s proposals to criminalise emotional torment suffered by women in abusive relationships.
Home secretary Theresa May headed a consultation yesterday to adjust current domestic abuse laws by adding a new offence to include men who bully and cause psychological harm to their partners.
Home Office statistics state two women are killed every week in England and Wales through domestic abuse.
Gill Smallwood, director of services at Fortalice, a charity set up for women and children who are affected by domestic abuse in Bolton, says that emotional abuse is often where domestic violence begins, with many women not even aware it is happening.
She added: “If this goes through it should give women the opportunity to escape the clutches of their abusive partner as emotional abuse will be recognised as being a crime.
“Many women who are being abused don’t even realise what is happening because it is seen as ‘normal’ to them, and that’s where it begins.
“It is so subtle that it becomes a way of life.
“Emotional, controlling behaviour can build and build, and sometimes we see this explosion because the victim cannot take it any more. The danger of this is that the victim can become a criminal from their actions relating to the years of emotional and physical abuse.”
The consultation, launched by Home Secretary Theresa May, asks whether the law needs to be strengthened in order to provide better protection to domestic abuse victims.
Under existing law, non-violent coercive and controlling behaviour is covered by legislation that covers stalking and harassment but this does not explicitly apply to intimate relationships.
CASE STUDY 1
TRICIA, aged 65, endured 42 years of marriage before finally fleeing her home and her controlling husband.
He would not allow her to have her shoulder-length hair cut and when she left the house he would check where she was going and how long she would be. He went through the till receipts just to see if she had been to the shops and check the time involved.
If he felt she had been somewhere other than where he had approved, he would constantly question her until all hours of the night, preventing her from sleeping. She would then have to get up for work as usual the next day.
He tried to isolate her from her children, which caused constant arguments when he would become violent.
Until the physical abuse started, Tricia thought her husband’s controlling behaviour was “normal and acceptable”. She had only ever been in a relationship with him so had nothing to compare it with.
CASE STUDY 2
LOUISE arrived at the refuge with her severely autistic seven-year-old dau-ghter after suffering 12 years of mental, emotional and physical abuse.
Her partner had not allowed her to nurture her son or to be a mother to him. She was never allowed to show love to her son, which she said was “breaking her heart”.
In the refuge, Louise finally began to get to know her son. She said: “He makes me smile all the time.”
CASE STUDY 3
LISA, a mother of five children aged from two to 11 years old, was forbidden to see her friends or family.
Her partner constantly demanded who had called or sent her text messages and would often smash up her mobile phone. This made her feel even more isolated and unable to look after the children to the best of her ability.