DOMESTIC abuse in all its forms will not be tolerated under tough new laws.
From today, coercion, control, and psychological abuse of a partner will be a criminal offence, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
In a tough New Year message Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “We should not underestimate the serious harm that can be caused by someone being controlled and made to feel subordinate or dependent on another.
“Constantly belittling or degrading someone, isolating them from their friends and family, threatening their children and intimidating them to the extent where they cannot freely live their life is simply unacceptable – and is incredibly dangerous.
“As well as the terrible mental anguish caused by such abuse, the unrelenting erosion of their confidence and independence puts that individual in a very vulnerable position as they will find it very difficult to seek help and support. Some victims may not even see themselves as victims.”
Joanne Simpson, manager of the domestic abuse helpline, Independent Choices, said: “Making your partner do things against their will and controlling their every move has a long lasting and debilitating effect on victims which can take years to recover from.
“It will be interesting to see how the criminal justice system deals with reports of coercive and controlling behaviour. We believe that once successful prosecutions have taken place it will empower victims to come forward and receive support.
“If you are unsure if you are being controlled by your partner, we encourage you to ring us at the helpline where we can talk through what has been happening and what options are available.”
The types of behaviour associated with coercion and control include monitoring someone’s time, checking their phone or social media accounts, preventing them from seeing people or having a job, controlling their finances, putting them down, threatening them or someone they love, damaging their things and telling them what to wear.
Mr Lloyd added: “Although a very common form of domestic abuse, coercion and controlling behaviour can be difficult to detect and challenge. Police and other public agencies must make sure they are familiar with the new legislation and are able to recognise the signs that such abuse is taking place.
“The message to perpetrators must be clear – domestic abuse in all its forms will not be tolerated.”
GMP detective chief superintendent, Vanessa Jardine, added: “This change in legislation means for the first time perpetrators who control their partners through threats or by restricting their personal or financial freedom could face prison in the same way as those who are violent towards them.
“Campaigners for a long time have called for a change in the law to put psychological exploitation on a par with physical violence. Coercive control has been described by many experts as the most damaging and risky form of abuse , whereby victims describe losing a sense of themselves and becoming trapped in a false sense of reality.
“This type of abuse is less likely to be reported to the police as victims often feel they won’t be believed and prefer to lean on friends and families. It is vital therefore that officers are aware of the new legislation and make great efforts to understand the underlying causes and triggers for abuse particularly in cases where physical violence may not be apparent.”
Contact the domestic abuse helpline on 0161 636 7525 or visit www.gmvictims.org.uk/domesticabuse