The legal definition for domestic abuse includes physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; controlling or coercive behaviour; economic abuse; and psychological, emotional or other abuse. The legal definition makes it unequivocally clear that domestic abuse is not limited to physical abuse.
Sadly, statistics show that domestic abuse is a common and serious problem. Domestic abuse:
Will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime;
Leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year;
Accounts for 16% of all violent crime;
Has more repeat victims than any other crime;
Is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless; and
Is the reason why approximately 400 people commit suicide each year who have attended hospital for domestic abuse injuries in the previous six months, while 200 of these attended hospital on the day they committed suicide.
Ending an abusive marriage can be very difficult; there is often a complex emotional background to the relationship and the fear of changing things and navigating the process of separation and divorce can be overwhelming. However, if you are in an abusive marriage, it is important to note that studies have shown that abusive spouses are unlikely to mend their ways which means that your circumstances are unlikely to change if you continue to stay in an abusive marriage.
It is vital to seek the right support as early as possible. A specialist family lawyer can guide you through the legal process, as well as providing practical advice to ensure you are safe while helping you navigate your way out of an environment of abuse.
With the much needed amendments to divorce law now in place, a spouse can apply for a divorce on the basis that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This has brought about a significant benefit for domestic abuse victims who no longer need to cite their abuser’s unreasonable behaviour before they can commence divorce proceedings. In the past, many victims of domestic abuse wished to divorce their spouse but were dissuaded once they realised that they would need to revisit their trauma by citing unreasonable behaviour allegations. Many were also fearful of their abuser’s reaction to this approach. As such, the new no fault divorce law allows victims of domestic abuse to experience a divorce which is more efficient and less hostile.
While it is appreciated that some domestic abuse victims may want to hold their abuser accountable for their unreasonable and abusive behaviour, ultimately, the most important priority is that you end the marriage safely and promptly. The new divorce law will not be the forum for this, nor will it alleviate all of the fears that come with exiting an abusive relationship. However, the legal process is at least more straightforward and will allow you to focus on the wider challenges that may be faced.
If you find yourself in an abusive marriage, we, the family law team at Boyes Turner, are here to assist you from a legal and practical point of view. As well as legal advice, we always adopt a holistic approach so will signpost you to other resources and professionals whose services you will benefit from. These may include specialist therapeutic or coaching services to help process the emotional challenges, financial advisors to ease worries about money or charities that can help with practical or emergency support. Whatever your circumstances, we have the connections to help build the right team around you and together we can help you exit the abusive relationship.
Please do not hesitate to contact a member of our specialist family law team should you require our assistance or would like to have a private and confidential conversation.
In the meantime, please stay safe and keep the following safety advice tips in mind:
Keep a fully charged mobile phone at hand in case of emergencies.
Know the telephone numbers of any relevant organisations, such as social services or a domestic abuse support agency.
Know telephone numbers for trusted friends and relatives by heart.
Ask friends and relatives to keep in daily contact if appropriate.
Identify a code word to use when calling others to identify that the police should be alerted.
Keep any car fuelled, with a spare key at hand.
Keep a bag of essential items at a place of safety containing cash, clothing, important documents, a spare mobile phone and telephone numbers.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.