A law change for the better for women

The French criminalised psychological violence in 2010. 
Helpfully, we greeted the news over here with headlines along the lines of ‘French to criminalise shouting at your wife.’ The top line in most newspaper stories at the time suggested that married couples could be arrested and charged for insulting each other.

The French criminalised psychological violence in 2010. 
Helpfully, we greeted the news over here with headlines along the lines of ‘French to criminalise shouting at your wife.’ The top line in most newspaper stories at the time suggested that married couples could be arrested and charged for insulting each other.

Like most things associated with domestic abuse, we largely missed the point.

What the French law did, and rightly so, was to criminalise abuse which is for the most part invisible.

The French Prime Minister at the time, Francois Fillon, said the law was aimed at protecting women who are the main victims of abuse in the home.

This week, the UK caught up. A new domestic abuse offence for “coercive and controlling behaviour” within relationships has been announced by the Home Secretary. It gives great hope. Hope that policy makers are, at last, beginning to understand the concept of domestic abuse a bit better.

When you have been the victim of emotional abuse, it damages far beyond the sell by date of the toxic relationship it stemmed from. Few have described it better than BBC presenter Lauren Laverne, who was a victim of this kind of abuse herself.

In a piece for the ‘Observer’ last year, she wrote: “What I remember most about emotional abuse is that it’s like being put in a box. How you end up in there is the biggest trick – I never managed to work that one out. Maybe you think it’s a treasure box at first: you’re in there because you’re special. Soon the box starts to shrink. Every time you touch the edges there is an “argument”. So you try to make yourself fit. You curl up, become smaller, quieter, remove the excessive, offensive parts of your personality – you begin to notice lots of these. You eliminate people and interests, change your behaviour. But still the box gets smaller. You think it’s your fault.”

This type of abuse has been ignored by our law makers for too long.

Coercive and controlling behaviour can include the abuser preventing their victim from having friendships or hobbies, refusing them access to money and determining many aspects of their everyday life, such as when they are allowed to eat, sleep and go to the toilet.

It’s about time we tackled it, all too often it leads to physical abuse. Contact Foyle Women’s Aid on 028 7141 6800 if you’re affected.