Coercive behaviour to be tackled with new @scotgov domestic abuse bill

Nathanael Williams

First Minister joins women’s charity to hail the introduction of a new domestic abuse bill addressing coercive behaviour

A NEW BILL that will address psychologically abuse and the use of coercive and controlling behaviour has been published today to the acclaim of women’s advocacy charities.

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met survivors of domestic abuse at Glasgow Young Women’s Movement (YWCA) centre on the same day that the Scottish Government brought forward its new Domestic Abuse Bill to Holyrood.

It recognises the damage caused by non-physical abuse and coercive treatment by abusive partners and creates a new statutory offence to deal with this.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am proud that, as a society, we’ve come a long way from believing that domestic abuse is only a physical act. The truth is that the psychological scars left by emotional abuse can have devastating effects on victims, and this government will work hard to make sure perpetrators face the justice they deserve.

“This bill will help our police and prosecutors hold abusers to account, but importantly, it also shows those who have suffered abuse that we stand with them and will take the steps needed to help them.

“I know that legislation alone will not tackle the scourge of domestic abuse, which is why support services like the one I visited this morning are so important. The YWCA, alongside ASSIST, Scottish Women’s Aid and many other groups provide a vital lifeline for survivors, and the brave women I met today are a testament to the strength their support can bring.”

According to Scottish Government figures there were 58,439 reports of domestic abuse recorded by the police from 2013 to 2015 and 59,882 reports of domestic abuse from 2014 to 2015, a 2.5 per cent increase.

Incidents where a woman was the victim and a man the perpetrator of domestic represented 79 per cent of all incidents of domestic abuse in 2014-15. Regarding age grouping 26 to 30 year-olds were the most likely to be affected by domestic violence. However, the law previously did not take in to account the damage of coercive behaviour within relationships and how it added to the scourge of physical violence.

“It is only by addressing the full spectrum and cycle of coercive control and domestic abuse that change will take place.” Kara Brown

Kara Brown, the director of YWCA Scotland, added: “The Young Women’s Movement is proud to be part of a country breaking ground through new progressive legislation.

“It is only by addressing the full spectrum and cycle of coercive control and domestic abuse that change will take place. Young women in all their diversity describe the difficulty in recognising and ending patterns of abuse within relationships. We welcome this legislation as a critical tool to reduce stigma, raise understanding and encourage survivors of mental, financial and physical abuse to come forward.”

There is a strong belief among advocates of the law, who gave extensive evidence during the consultation process, that it will result in greater support for women on the verge to leaving an abusive partner. It will also increase the likelyhood of being able to increase the chance of identifying a person at great risk of further abuse.

A spokesperson from Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) said: “The bill makes Scotland one of the first countries in the world to recognise and criminalise coercive control and psychological abuse. Importantly, this bill will help bridge the gap between victim-survivors experience of domestic abuse & the legislation we have to tackle it. Whilst we haven’t seen the full published bill yet, we’re proud to have played an important role in bringing about this critical legislation.”

Picture courtesy of SWA

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