What is Domestic Violence?
Despite what many people think, abuse from a partner is not limited to physical harm – a whole range of controlling and abusive behaviour can constitute domestic violence including the following:-
- Threatening behaviour
- Verbal abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial control
- Emotional abuse
I am in an abusive relationship – what can I do?
If you are suffering domestic abuse in your relationship, you are not alone. The good news is that there is protection and help available which can go some way to help you break free from your abusive relationship:-
The police treat domestic violence very seriously and have dedicated domestic abuse teams. It is important that you contact the police immediately if you have suffered abuse from a partner – they are liable to be arrested for any offences committed against you and face a criminal sentence if convicted.
You can also apply to the Court for legal protection against your abuser under legislation called the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Order (NI) 1998.
The Court can make two types of Order against your abuser:-
This is an Order that your abuser cannot molest, harass, pester, use or threaten violence against you. It means that they cannot harass you directly (in person, by text, phone, email or social media) and they also cannot get someone else to harass you on their behalf.
This is an Order that the Court can make if you live with your abuser or if they have some right to reside in your home (for example, if they are on the tenancy agreement or a joint owner). If the Court grants you an Occupation Order against your abuser, this means that they can be removed from your home and barred from returning to it.
The Courts can also make an exclusion zone, excluding your abuser from a particular place, for example from the street you live in or your place of work.
These Orders can be made on an emergency basis if there has been an incident of abuse within the past 7 days.
If the Court makes Orders in your favour, these are served on your abuser by the police and take effect once served. It is a criminal offence to breach any of these Orders and the police have powers to arrest a person for breaching a Non-Molestation Order.
If you are suffering from domestic violence, you may need ongoing emotional and practical support and help to break free from the relationship. There are a number of organisations available to provide such assistance, such as the Domestic and Sexual Violence helpline (0808 8021414) Women’s Aid, the Men’s Advisory Project and The Rainbow Project.
With the help of the police, legal system and support services, you do not have to suffer in silence. With the right advice and support, you can escape an abusive relationship and move forward to a happier and healthier life.