POST-SEPARATION TO BECOME AN OFFENCE

On the 1st March, the government announced the controlling or coercive behaviour offence will be extended to include abuse where perpetrators and victims no longer live together. This is a vital step forward recognising the full breadth of domestic abuse and that abuse does not stop when a victim leaves an abusive partner.

 

This law will now give victims a voice and the vital protection they have long needed in criminalising these acts.

It is a huge achievement for the campaign to include post-separation abuse as an amendment in the Domestic Abuse Bill, lead by Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA) and supported by MPs, Lords and the brave survivors speaking out who are a part of this success.

 

We'd like to share a personal thank you to Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO of SEA and Baroness Bertin who helped share our voices to help support this amendment.

Sally and David Challen

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A raft of new amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill will be presented this week, providing greater protections for victims and further clamping down on perpetrators.

 

The proposals include making non-fatal strangulation a specific criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison. The act typically involves an abuser strangling or intentionally affecting their victim’s breathing in an attempt to control or intimidate them. Today’s announcement follows concerns that perpetrators were avoiding punishment as the practice can often leave no visible injury, making it harder to prosecute under existing offences such as Actual Bodily Harm (ABH).

 

The Government will also strengthen legislation around controlling or coercive behaviour (CCB) – no longer making it a requirement for abusers and victims to live together. The change follows a government review which highlighted that those who leave abusive ex-partners can often be subjected to sustained or increased controlling or coercive behaviour post-separation.

 

Meanwhile, so-called ‘revenge porn’ laws – introduced by the government in 2015 – will be widened to include threats to disclose intimate images with the intention to cause distress. More than 900 abusers have been convicted since revenge porn was outlawed but Ministers are determined to further protect victims, with those who threaten to share such images facing up to two years behind bars.

 

The measures confirmed today have been developed closely with peers, advocates and victims who campaigned on these important issues. They form a series of amendments being tabled to the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill which enters Report Stage next week, with Royal Assent expected in the Spring.

Ministry of Justice, Home Office, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP and Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins

1st March, 2021

THE CAMPAIGN

One in four women report that their former partner continues to economically abuse and control them after the relationship has ended, yet the current legislation offered them no recourse.

Alongside the charity Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA), and many others, my mother and I called for an amendment to the proposals of the Domestic Abuse Bill to extend the existing legislation on coercive control to post-separation abuse. We felt it was vital that all victims and their experiences are included in this bill.

Government must extend legislation to protect victims of post-separation abuse.

 Tuesday, 6th June 2020

'The current offence of controlling or coercive behaviour only covers situations where people are either a) in an intimate relationship with each other or b) living together and are either family members or have previously been in an intimate relationship with each other.

Crucially, this means in cases where two individuals are no longer in an intimate relationship and don’t live together, behaviour by one of them towards the other cannot fall within the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour. This is the situation that women who have left abusive partners find themselves in.'

- Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO of Surviving Economic Abuse, 

The abuse my mother experienced carried on after she moved home and separated from my father, as is so often the case. For example, my mother was struggling immensely to survive post-separation from my father. Seeing her weakness in wishing to reconcile, my father drew up a post-nuptial agreement that forced her to complete a divorce with him and accept a fraction of the settlement. This not only ensured she was financially unstable but gave her no rights to their home. Further terms of the agreement sought to coercively control my mother further demanding that they only go out together, that she stopped talking to strangers, stop interrupting and stop smoking. 

 

I believe the control my father sought to exert in this period compounded the psychological impact on my mother. It’s vital to specifically recognise the bespoke nature of post-separation abuse by ensuring the Domestic Abuse Bill provides a complete acknowledgement of survivors experiences and protection in the future. If left unchecked, the impact of economic and emotional abuse can be total on survivors.

SEA is the only UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of economic abuse and transforming responses to it.

“He has ongoing, indefinite power to destroy our lives.”
 
Why the Domestic Abuse Bill must not forget victims of post-separation control
 Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO Surviving Economic Abuse
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