ON Saturday, millions of women across the world celebrated achievements of women as well as focusing on areas that require more attention. Sadly, one of those areas is violence against women.
Information released by the Office for National Statistics estimated that in 2012/2013, about 1.2 million women suffered from domestic abuse in the UK.
This figure seems incredibly high, but domestic abuse is not just physical. It can be your partner controlling and isolating you. It can be living in constant fear of violence by way of threats or intimidation. It can be sexual abuse. Domestic abuse can be financial. It can be name-calling, putting you down and making you feel useless.
A scheme came into force on International Women’s Day this year that allows you to ask the police to check whether a new or existing partner has a violent past.
The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, known as ‘Clare’s Law’ is named after Clare Wood who was murdered by her ex-partner in 2009.
If police records show that an individual could be at risk of domestic abuse, the police will consider disclosing this information, both to an individual and to an agency which believes that someone is at risk of abuse from their partner.
If you or somebody you know if suffering from any sort of domestic violence, there is always help available. The police are there to protect victims of abuse and should be contacted. They can also put you in contact with organisations that will give people who have been abused the support they need.
If there are criminal proceedings, the courts can grant the victim a restraining order. This protects the victim from future harm.
A new criminal power was enforced on International Women’s Day this year which enables the police and courts to put in place protection for victims immediately after a domestic violence incident.
This power is a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) and can ban the perpetrator with immediate effect from returning to a residence or from having contact with the victim for up to 28 days after the incident. This gives the victim time to consider their options and to get the support they need.
If the abuser is a member of your family, including unmarried partners, there is another option available in the family courts. Anyone at risk of any form of domestic abuse can make an application and ask the court for a non-molestation order. In an emergency, a non-molestation order can be made within hours and it is a criminal offence to breach it.
A lawyer can help you with this application, or you can make the application yourself with forms from the court. A lawyer can write a statement for you on your behalf, outlining to the judge why you need the order for protection and can speak on your behalf at court. Legal Aid remains available for this sort of help, subject to your financial circumstances.
Domestic abuse is happening on a shockingly high scale. But, there is help for women and also for men and children.