A NEW law on domestic violence which has been introduced means those inflicting emotional abuse could face prison in the same way as those who are physically violent.
The law has given the police new power to take action against those who emotionally abuse their partners and or family members.
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 and sleep.
The offence is subject to a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine, or both.
Alison – a former victim – said she wishes the law had been introduced when she was emotionally abused by her partner.
“In the beginning I was lavished with attention from a perfectly-caring partner.
“It started subtly, with comments about my appearance, then slowly visits to the supermarket and gym were timed – he monitored everything I did, I was constantly tracked and controlled.
“I finally left when the abuse became physical. If this law had been in place when I was being coerced and controlled it may never have become physical.”
According to the Office of National Statistics, two women a week are killed in England and Wales by an abusive partner.
It can also take up to 35 seperate incidents of abuse before a woman makes her first phone call to the police.
Det Ch Insp Vikki Reay from Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police said: “We want to encourage anyone affected by domestic violence and abuse to seek help from the police or other partner agencies.
“Domestic abuse takes many forms and ultimately is about control, so this new law addressing coercive control should increase confidence in reporting abuse.
“Please do not keep it to yourself as this isolates you, which is what your partner wants as this increases their control over you – tell someone – your closest friend or someone you trust who can help you decide what to do next.”
Martin Lakeman is the strategic coordinator for the Worcestershire Forum against Domestic Abuse and Sexual violence.
He said: “The new legislation will give more victims of domestic abuse the confidence to reach for help.”
Mr Lakeman said there has been an 80 per cent increase in callers to the free 24-hour domestic abuse helpline in the last six months.
He said: “We see this as a really positive sign because there are 80 per cent more people who have the trust, confidence and tremendous courage to pick up the phone.
“So this new law will only encourage even more people – and that includes men as well as women – to pick up the phone because it shows domestic violence doesn’t have to be just physical, it’s also psychological and emotional, which can be the most destructive.”
Visit www.westmercia.police.uk for further details or in an emergency, call 999 or the Worcestershire Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 980 3331.