A new domestic abuse law has come into force in England and Wales in an attempt to target those who subject their family members to psychological or emotional torment.

The new legislation is in answer to the results of a Home Office consultation in which 85% of those questioned felt there wasn’t enough protection for those suffering unnecessarily when it comes to personal choice.

It also comes not long after the UK’s umbrella charity Citizens Advice published figures showing that instances of those seeking advice for domestic abuse had risen by a staggering 24%.

The changes in the law will, it’s hoped, pave the way for charges in cases where there is evidence of repeated “controlling or coercive behaviour.”

The Athena Programme, which specialises in the safeguarding and protection of vulnerable adults, backed the Women’s Aid charity who said it was a “landmark moment” in tackling abuse.

Sarah Carlick, founder and director of The Athena Programme, says:

“This is a huge coup for those victims whose every movement has been judged, mocked and humiliated by spouses, partners and those in a position of authority within the family environment.

“Their daily lives have been left open to attack by those considered closest to them. For too long they have been the silent victims and this new legislation gives them a voice and a chance to break free from what is ultimately an unnatural act.”

The Crown Prosecution Service said the type of abuse covered by the new offence could include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation, whether that be in person or through social media or spying.

It could also involve stopping someone from socialising, controlling their social media accounts, surveillance through apps and dictating what they wear.

Friends and family are often the only ones who suspect someone is in an abusive relationship, so it is important more people know how to recognise abuse and feel able to suggest specialist help to victims as early as possible.

New law:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/482528/Controlling_or_coercive_behaviour_-_statutory_guidance.pdf

Coercive control law/Citizens Advice findings: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/how-citizens-advice-works/media/press-releases/coercive-control-law-a-welcome-step-to-ending-suffering-of-domestic-abuse-victims-says-citizens-advice/