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Is the law on domestic abuse about to change?

It has recently been announced that the government is to consider making domestic violence a specific crime in order to protect victims from psychological and emotional abuse, as well as that of physical violence.

Whilst ministers redefined the term domestic abuse some time ago, to include both violence and acts of psychological control, there are no specific laws to protect domestic and romantic partners in this country. Families and community services are then reluctant to get involved. If a new law is implemented this will leave police with no doubt about their role and responsibilities within the community and this could help many men and women who are afraid in their own homes and relationships.

In terms of therapeutic work, potential new laws on domestic abuse could open up a whole new era. Presently clients are often ashamed to come forward when they have been involved in a domestic abuse situation. In our experience women are perhaps more forthcoming when physical violence is apparent, because they feel there is evidence to support what they are saying. In the case of psychological and emotional abuse, however, victims are less likely to come forward and may not always realise what is happening to them. They often feel they will not be believed or that they are in some way responsible for what is happening to them and that perhaps they could have done something to escape earlier.

Whilst the reporting of domestic abuse often cites the amount of women in danger, men must not be forgotten in all of this. There is often a lack of reporting or even a negation of their experiences. In the writer's experience men do not report domestic violence because they feel they will be laughed at and ridiculed or seen as "less of a man" because of the abuse they may be suffering. They as much as women carry the burden alone and stay silent.

This can all be compounded in same sex or alternative relationships where people may already feel different and less likely to ask for help. It may be assumed that women don't hit women and men can stand up to another man, however, this does not take into account the psychological aspects of abusive relationships, where someone's self-esteem is impacted to the extent they do not fight back and they stay when they should leave.

Shame, embarrassment, isolation, what people may say and having nowhere to go, all play a part in keeping people in unhealthy relationships and stop them seeking support and help from counselling and psychotherapy. The general public isn't always supportive because they don't understand how people can stay in abusive relationships, not recognising the subversive way an abuser strips away and erodes the self-esteem of his or her partner. If the new law comes to fruition this could change by bringing the topic out into the open and having guidelines about what does and does not constitute domestic abuse.

People have a right to be safe in their own homes and within their own relationships perhaps this will be the first step to seeing this happens. Let's help people get the support they need.

Is the law on domestic abuse about to change?