Netflix series ‘Maid’ shines a light on Coercive Control & Emotional Abuse

Image: RICARDO HUBBS/NETFLIX

In October 2021, Netflix released fictional 10-part series ‘Maid’ which quickly became one of the streaming site’s most successful shows, with over 67 million people having watched it worldwide to date.

‘Maid’ has received critical acclaim and recognition for its portrayal of issues surrounding parenthood, relationship breakdown, poverty and domestic abuse

The show’s storyline centres around Alex, the young mother of 2-year-old daughter Maddy, and the struggles she faces when she tries to escape a toxic relationship with Maddy’s father, the abusive and alcoholic Sean.  When Alex flees in the middle of the night with Maddy with no money, housing or job, she falls further victim to a system that is broken and that provides her with little to no support.  Alex’s steely determination to succeed and to provide a better life for her daughter suffers one setback after another and with each episode, we become emotionally invested in the journey that this young woman takes in trying to regain control of her life and escape the deep-rooted shackles of an emotionally abusive relationship. 

Abuse does not have to be physical 

Since its premiere, ‘Maid’ has been applauded for not only shining a light and raising awareness on the existence of coercive control and emotional abuse within relationships, but it has also assisted in helping those struggling in emotionally abusive relationships to identify this non-physically violent behaviour and to empower them to seek support.   

In the first episode, Alex tells a Social Worker, “Maddy’s dad drinks and he blacks out and punches stuff.” When asked if he punches her or Maddy, she replies; No, I’m not abused.”  When asked whether she wishes to report Sean’s abusive behaviour to the police, Alex replies “and say what? That he didn’t hit me?”   

Until recent years it has been a common misconception, not just within society but among victims, that for there to be domestic abuse in a relationship, there needs to be a physically abusive element to that relationship.  In Northern Ireland, a landmark piece of legislation will come into force in March 2022 which it is hoped will dispel this myth.  The Domestic Abuse and Civil Proceedings Act Northern Ireland 2021 will criminalise a course of abusive behaviour including both physical and non-physical abusive behaviours such as controlling and coercive behaviours.   

Coercive control to be punishable by law in NI 

One of the most significant aspects of this Act will be the introduction of coercive control as a criminal offence in Northern Ireland.  As well as violent or threatening behaviour, the following behaviour will also be punishable by law: –  

  1. Making a victim feel dependent on, or subordinate to a perpetrator 
  2. Isolating a victim from friends, family members or other sources of social interaction or support 
  3. Controlling, regulating or monitoring a victim’s day to day activities 
  4. Depriving a victim of, or restricting their freedom of action 
  5. Making a victim feel frightened, humiliated, degraded, punished or intimidated. 

The legislation also includes provisions which recognise the detrimental effect that domestic abuse can have on children, with enhanced sentences possible in cases where a child is exposed to an incident of domestic abuse.  Convictions for the most serious domestic abuse offences will carry a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment.  

‘Maid’ is not an easy watch at times, though it has an important and compelling message. Domestic abuse is often far more complex that the standardized ‘man hits woman’ narrative.  The impact that emotional abuse and coercive control can have on a person’s mental health and emotional wellbeing cannot be underestimated.   It is hugely positive that the success of this series has allowed some focus to be given to this overlooked thread of abusive behaviour.   

The show’s success is timely in the backdrop of Northern Ireland’s own changes to the law in this area. Allowing for criminal prosecutions to arise from non-physical abusive behaviours will go some way to providing further protection to the Alex’s in our society who are trying to break free from abusive relationships.  

For further information, advice and support with domestic abuse, please feel free to contact us here.

  

Social Distancing not barrier to Protection from Domestic Abuse

isolation

The world is currently bowing under the pressure of a virus the like of which has never been seen in any of our lifetime – businesses are locking their doors, the elderly and vulnerable are hiding themselves away and it might feel like the whole world is going into lockdown, with help out of reach for many.

Amidst this, people suffering from domestic abuse might feel like they are more trapped than ever. We are all being asked to maintain social distance and self-isolate, but  for a victim of domestic abuse this can lead them to feel even more vulnerable and alone and the need to escape from a partner or loved one might come to a peak.

Domestic abuse is not limited to physical harm – it can cover a whole range of controlling or coercive behaviours, from financial control to emotional abuse.  Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of their relationship to the perpetrator, their gender, age, race or sexual orientation. The elderly might feel particularly vulnerable to controlling behaviours due to the current lockdown, however women, men and children who are self-isolating with family or partners may also be at risk.

If someone is behaving abusively towards you but you are afraid that the current lockdown means you cannot seek help and support, please be assured that the Courts are still hearing emergency applications for Non Molestation Orders if there has been an incident of abusive behaviour within the 7 days prior to an application being made.  These Orders can be granted by the Court without your partner/family member being notified if you are at imminent risk of harm.

A Non-Molestation Order if granted would prohibit your partner/family member from harassing, intimidating or pestering you or threatening you in any way. It is a criminal offence to breach a Non-Molestation Order and the police take breaches very seriously and have dedicated Domestic Abuse Teams to deal with these matters.

A specialist solicitor can provide you with the assistance you need to protect yourself.  Legal Aid is available to anyone seeking a Non-Molestation Order and can be applied for quickly.

For further information, feel free to contact us here.

Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid Older Women Project

Many may view Domestic Violence as something that primarily affects younger women or women with children.

The Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid Older Women’s Project highlights that just as many older women are affected by domestic violence, have suffered long-term abuse in the home and often face more barriers in their help- seeking process.

We are very grateful to Olga Attwood from Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid who works with the Older Women’s Project for providing us with an article to share with our followers, entitled ‘Domestic Violence is Ageless’

olderwomen

DVhelplineIF YOU REQUIRE ASSISTANCE IN RELATION TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OR ABUSE YOU CAN CALL THE 24 HOUR DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE HELPLINE, A COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL SERVICE, ON 0808 802 1414
IF YOU REQUIRE ANY FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE LAW REGARDING DOMESTIC ABUSE IN NI, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT US DIRECTLY ON INFO@FHANNA.CO.UK 

 

Domestic Abuse App launched by Belfast Area Domestic & Sexual Violence Partnership

 

havenbelfastThe Belfast Area Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse Partnership have launched a domestic & sexual violence App, in conjunction with the PCSPS and Belfast Health & Social Care Trust.

 

The Belfast Area Domestic & Sexual Violence and Abuse Partnership is made up of agencies, organisations, groups and individuals, to include members of the legal profession, who share a common interest and purpose in improving services and support for victims of domestic violence.

On 27th November 2017, the Partnership launched their new domestic & sexual violence App, named ‘Haven: Belfast’ at an event at Belfast’s City Hall.

The App is free to download and is for anyone experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence within an intimate partner relationship and further provides information to various professionals who may come into contact with domestic abuse in the course of their work.

Life Law NI’s very own Karen Connolly  was involved in the Partnership’s Working Group for developing ‘Haven: Belfast’:-

“It has been a pleasure working with the Partnership on the development of ‘Haven: Belfast’.  The App provides an array of material on domestic violence, to include useful information on how to recognise the warning signs of an abusive relationship and where to go for support. 

There is information contained within the App of the various legal remedies a person has for gaining protection from an abusive relationship.   It will hopefully act as a useful tool for clients and legal professionals alike in tackling domestic abuse within our society”.

‘Haven: Belfast’ can be downloaded at the App store or on Google Play from today.

Anti-Slavery Day 2017 – Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking in NI

Today is Anti-Slavery Day 2017.   

Anti-Slavery Day,  provides an opportunity to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, and encourage government, local authorities, companies, charities and individuals to do what they can to address the problem.

We are very grateful to Rebecca Grounds and Sarah Bruce of Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid for allowing us to share this piece on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland with our followers.

antislavery

IF YOU REQUIRE ASSISTANCE IN RELATION TO SEXUAL EXPLOITATION YOU CAN CALL THE 24 HOUR DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE HELPLINE, A COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL SERVICE, ON 0808 802 1414
IF YOU REQUIRE ANY FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE LAW REGARDING HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN NI, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT US DIRECTLY ON INFO@FHANNA.CO.UK