The Domestic Abuse Bill is reaching fruition. What is it and what significance doe it have for adults who are being, or have been, groomed?
The aims of the bill are:
- to make legal provision in relation to domestic abuse;
- to establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner;
- to prevent cross-examination in person in family proceedings in certain circumstances;
- to make illegal certain violent or sexual offences, and offences involving other abusive behaviour, committed outside the United Kingdom.
So far so good, although many feel that the bill doesn’t go far enough.
What is Domestic Abuse (DA)?
The government definition of Domestic Abuse for the purposes of the bill is:
Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening
behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. It can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
Domestic abuse is one of the most common crimes in England and Wales. According to Government statistics, an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in the year to March 2019, two-thirds of whom were women. Police recorded 1.3 million domestic abuse incidents; 57% were recorded as domestic abuse-related crimes – accounting for a full 35% of violent crime. Yes, that’s just over a third of all violent crime is what police used to define as ‘a domestic’ (an attitude that still prevails with SOME officers in our experience).
Furthermore (again, government figures), of the 366 domestic homicides recorded by police between April 2016 and March 2018, 270 of the victims were women (almost three quarters). So whilst men have every right to say ‘what about the men?’, women are disproportionately affected. (Or men aren’t reporting?) This is clearly a life or death issue.
Many of us are welcoming this change in focus from violence as a crime to abuse being mentioned as a crime. It backs up coercive control legislation, which also sees financial abuse as a crime.
What is Controlling Behaviour?
Controlling behaviour is where someone behave in a way to make the other subordinate or dependent on them, by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their ‘resources and capacities’ for personal gain, depriving them of their independence, ability to resist or escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
What is Coercive Behaviour?
Coercive behaviour, (according to the act) is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. (For me this understates coercive control.)
Does this offer hope?
Whilst it will clearly need to be tested in court, at least some forms of adult grooming would appear to fall under domestic abuse, giving us hope that for future victims/targets there may be some justice.
What’s happening to the bill?
The bill is going through Parliament. There is a helpful explanation on the government website: here. The bill has had its first readings and the reports and recommendations are due back on the 25th of this month (June).
It will then go through the required approvals.
What’s the bill about?
In a nutshell, the bill:
- creates a domestic abuse commissioner, with powers to be heard and taken seriously; and a support committee;
- gives powers to create notices and protection orders;
- puts onus on local councils to make some provisions for victims;
- special measures in courts, including preventing abusers from cross examining their victims;
- allows, at least in part, acts committed abroad to be dealt with under UK law;
- permits the use of polygraphs and sets conditions for their use;
- addresses tenancies and housing issues to help victims;
- suggests that the police need guidance on handling.
- Womens Aid response and interaction with the bill
- Home is not a safe place for everyone (Antonia Filmer, Sunday Guardian Live
- Safe Lives views and recommendations (good background reading)
- Joint briefing on the Domestic Abuse Bill
- The SEA (Surviving Economic Abuse) view
The bill is a significant stride forwards. It is sad that it doesn’t seem to go further, especially where children are stuck in the middle. However, it may offer some hope, in their description of coercive control, that sexual grooming at least may fall under this umbrella and see justice for victims.
Disclaimer: this is not legal advice. It is merely a summary/opinion of the government bill in its current form – a bill to which you should refer before taking action based upon it. Always seek legal advice.
See a copy of the bill and notes