Controlling behaviour in relationships is now outlawed in the UK, and my story of abuse proves why it should be

If the law had been in place when I was with my husband, I would have been able to escape so much more easily

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The Independent Online

My experience of domestic violence has been horrific. Over the past five years I have been on a journey that I would not wish anyone to have to experience. A journey that not only affected me but affected my daughter, my family, and my friends.

While I was with my soon to be ex-husband, my life was a living hell. I was physically attacked by him over 50 times, and there were countless situations where he subjected me to emotional abuse. Coupled with the black eyes and numerous bruises all over my body, cameras were put up in my home so that he could watch me. Carrying out my everyday life became impossible.

He also used various methods of emotional and financial control to ensure I was dependent on him. He isolated me from my family and friends and at times didn’t even let me out of the house to meet with my clients. There were numerous reports of the attacks that he carried out on me by witnesses, but he was never charged.

When I finally found the strength to leave I moved to a location secret from him but soon he found me, and safety concerns grew for both myself and our one-year-old daughter. A panic alarm was installed in my home, and it was suggested by the Police that I move away, change my identity and cut of from everyone and everything I had known all my life.

I refused. I was the victim, so why should I be punished for the crimes he committed? Eventually, I agreed to move out of the area to safeguard both myself and my daughter.

The government announced last week that they'll be introducing a new law that would protect victims from extreme psychological and emotional abuse.

The maximum penalty for the new offence in England and Wales will be five years in prison and a fine for "coercive and controlling behaviour". This can include the abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or hobbies, refusing them access to money and determining many aspects of their everyday life.

 

I can't welcome this more. If it had been in place at the time that I was abused, I would have been far more comfortable reporting my husband to the Police.

Unfortunately for me, when I found the strength to do this, there was no law to protect me. I had numerous witness statements and telephone recordings of the physical attacks, as well as text messages and threatening emails that he had sent. But his behavior still went unpunished, and I felt totally let down by the criminal justice system.

Victims now shouldn't have to suffer like I did. Although it's by no means the end of the story; this law is no magic wand. It's essential for all police forces to undergo further training on how to tackle domestic violence, as according to one recent report, only eight out of 43 forces are dealing with it well.

Until this happens, there are also ways to help avoid situations like mine. If anyone feels unsure about their partners, they can use Are They Safe?, which I've set up to help others who might be at risk. As well as investigating a person's criminal background, we can also get an indication of whether they're married, what their address is, and that everything they've said about themselves is true. Something like this would have been invaluable to me when I was with my husband, who had previous convictions for violent behaviour.

But as we all know, there's often no way of knowing what might happen in a relationship. Which is why I'm glad that the legal system is finally recognising how serious all forms of domestic abuse are. Because I know how hard it can be to try and escape an abusive relationship, but now victims have another way out that might just save them.

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