Emotional Abuse to be made illegal under new domestic violence law

A new UK law banning emotional abuse and controlling behaviour will help protect those in unhealthy relationships. Home Secretary, Theresa May says “domestic abuse is a hideous crime that shatters the lives of its victims, trapping them in cycles of abuse.”

The new law will come into force in late 2015. It will mean that people who use emotional abuse to control their partners – for example by threatening them, stopping them seeing their friends or denying them access to their own money - could face prison.

In an interview with the BBC, a young woman who has experienced emotional abuse said that she believes that it is common amongst teenagers. ‘Alison’ (not her real name) said that her boyfriend’s name calling – things like “You’re fat” and “You’re lucky that I love you because no one else would” - quickly led to her being isolated from her friends and family. Alison managed to leave her boyfriend, but wishes the new law had been in place so that he could have been prosecuted.

It’s not just girls and women who suffer domestic abuse: it can happen to boys and men too. Mark Kirkpatrick told the BBC how he was abused by his former girlfriend, who was jailed after he reported her violent and controlling behaviour to the police.

Leanne Lyons and Keziah Harrison are detectives who work in Lancashire Constabulary’s domestic violence unit. They say they work with many teenagers, and take an supportive and understanding approach. 

“We know relationships are starting from a younger age where they’re all loved up but there are warning signs they should be aware of such as feeling intimidated or bullied.” 

They believe that it’s important that teenagers know where to get help if they don’t feel comfortable talking to the police.

Remember that relationship abuse is never ok. If you are worried about abuse or feel unsafe in a relationship you should seek support from an adult you trust, or call Childline confidentially on 0800 1111, and report abuse to CEOP (www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre).

You can find out more about how to recognise signs of abuse in relationships at www.thinkuknow.co.uk/14_plus/Need-advice/Sexual-exploitation

Lots more information can be found on thisisabuse.direct.gov.uk.