Tougher laws for abusers says domestic violence campaigners

  • A survey of victims show that the vast many believe police and courts ignore psychological harm and patterns of abuse.

    Following a survey of victims showing that perpetrators often escape prosecution campaigners are calling for the law on domestic violence to be tightened.Sad Silhouette

    An online survey by Paladin, the national stalking advocacy, and two domestic violence charities, Women's Aid and the Sara Charlton Foundation, of 258 domestic violence victims found that 88% felt that the legal system didn't take psychological harm into account and 94% said that mental cruelty was worse than physical harm.

    The survey also revealed that 57% of victims who went to the police reported over three incidents of domestic violence, however 81% said that the police courts did not take any pattern of abuse into account, reports the Guardian.

    The majority of respondents felt that a reform of the law and practice on domestic violence was needed and that police, prosecutors, judges and magistrates should have to undergo mandatory training in the dynamics and impact of domestic violence.

    The people behind the survey want the law changed to make "coercive control", patterns of behaviour and causing psychological harm to become criminal offences. They believe it is necessary to ensure the response of the criminal justice system to domestic violence reflects both a new wider Home Office definition which includes coercive control and the reality of violent relationships.

    Laura Richards, director of Paladin, said: "It is possible for the law to criminalise a course of conduct and move beyond physical injury. Stalking laws now allow the criminal justice system to take account of patterns of controlling behaviour after a relationship has ended, but often this is far too late for victims as the behaviour has been allowed to escalate. The legislative framework must change to take account of a course of conduct, target patterns and address a broad range of harm and focus more on early intervention and prevention."

    Polly Neate, chief executive of Women's Aid, said: "These survey results clearly reflect what our member services have been telling us for a long time: that the criminal justice focus on individual incidents of physical violence cannot reflect the ongoing psychological harm caused by coercive control in intimate relationships."

    It has also been revlaled today through a survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, that about a third of all women in the EU have experienced either physical or sexual violence since the age of 15.

    The survey is based on interviews with 42,000 women and asked women about their experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence, at home and in the workplace. It also included stalking, sexual harassment and violence in childhood, reports the BBC.

    "What emerges is a picture of extensive abuse that affects many women's lives, but is systematically under-reported to the authorities," said Morten Kjaerum, director of the Agency for Fundamental Rights.

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