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Domestic violence - don’t suffer in silence!

Author: Rochelle Royal
Published: Jan 27 2014

In the last quarter of 2013 there was a sharp leap domestic violence cases being reported - Metropolitan Police revealed that an increase of 15.5 per cent of victims suffering abuse at home and violence with injury had risen by 5.4 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2012.

What constitutes domestic abuse?

Domestic violence is a pattern of controlling and aggressive behaviour by one (former) partner or spouse against another. However, many parents also become victim to domestic violence when they become overpowered and scared of their children. The occurrence and impact on the victim and any children of the family should not be underestimated.

The abuse is not always physical; it can also be emotional, psychological, financial and/or sexual. A symptom of domestic abuse could be a change in behaviours by one family member, in an effort to avoid negative reactions from a partner or child. This could signal that they are a victim of abuse, and scared of what might happen to them if they don’t conform to the wishes of the abuser –

What can be done?

It is a hard decision to make to leave an abuser as they can often make you feel trapped and incapable of living without them. However, once you make the decision to leave there are ways in which the courts can protect you and prevent any further abuse by excluding the perpetrator from your home. It can also help with giving you the space and time you need to recover and make plans for the future.

There are two types of injunction order which can be gained for protection:

Non-Molestation Order: this order can prohibit specific behaviour and forbids the threat or use of violence, intimidation, harassment and/or pestering. To acquire this type of order the court will need to take into account all of the circumstances including the need to secure your health, safety and wellbeing of both you and any children.

Occupation Order: this order is obtained in the likelihood of significant harm to you or your children. If you have left the family home or do not feel safe continuing to live with your abuser but want to return or exclude them from premises, you want to apply for an occupation order. Initially these are made or a period of six months but they can be extended. This order may include:

- A requirement for the abuser to leave the home;
- Suspension of their right to occupy the home;
- Exclusion of them from a defined area around the home (similar to a restraining order).

What if I’m in immediate danger?

Should this be the case then you can apply to the court for a non-molestation or occupation order on an emergency basis, without prior notice to your abuser.

Non-molestation orders, and in exceptional circumstances, occupation orders can be granted by the court on the same day as application. Otherwise, prior notice of the application to your abuser must be given, allowing them time to make representations to the court before any order is finalised.

What is my abuser breaches the order?

A Power of Arrest can be attached to all or part of the occupation order. Then should your abuser breach the order the police are able to arrest them and hold them in contempt of court. This can result in them being sent to prison by the civil court which made the order. Breach of a non-molestation order is also a criminal offence.

Can I file for divorce at the same time?

The application for non-molestation and an occupation order can be made at the same time as other family proceedings, such as divorce. However, most applications are ‘freestanding’, which means that they are issued without the need for any other court proceedings to be underway.

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