An article on the BBC news website posted on the 20th February 2020 had the headline that Women are most likely to be killed by their partner or ex. This striking and disturbing article is well worth a read. The staggering statistics are that in 2018 alone, over half (61%) of women in the UK killed by men, were killed by a current or ex-partner.
Femicide can be defined as the killing of a female, by a man. In 2018 alone, it was found that 173 people were killed in domestic violence incidents. This is an increase of 32 deaths from 2017. By March 2019, the UK saw an increase of 27% from the previous year, with 80 women killed by a partner or an ex.
Domestic violence takes many shapes and forms between couples – such as (but not limited to) physical, emotional, financial and psychological. Domestic violence also extends into culturally specific abuse, including forced marriage, so called “honour” based murder and dowry related abuse. What women involved in all these situations share in common is often one thing: suffering in silence until they build up the courage to seek help.
As family lawyers, we often see clients who are fearful of their partners and through effective brainwashing, are led to believe that they are so dependant on their partners that there is no way out of the suffering. Women often find themselves trapped in a relationship, cohabiting relationship or marriage with an abusive partner. It is sometimes the case that their partners have told them that they are dependent on them as the “stronger” partner with a better financial situation leading to the implied threat that if the relationship ended then the other person will be left with nothing and that they would be effectively worthless.
Such constant belittlement can leave clients very vulnerable, timid and scared. This is particularly important for partners who may not have been the higher income earner or who are led to believe by their partner that because they were the homemaker of the marriage they will be left with nothing if they were to divorce or separate. All too often, victims of domestic abuse will feel obliged to remain suffering in silence for the sake of maintaining the status quo to ensure children of the marriage (if any) can have a life with both parents as opposed to one.
Domestic violence can negatively affect children if they are witnesses to it at home, and such experiences can leave children vulnerable and anxious. Such experiences can cause mental issues that follow children into their adult lives. It is therefore important to implement safeguarding measures to protect children from witnessing further incidents. A child should not have to witness domestic abuse in their own home or family.
In the House of Commons’ Briefing paper on Children matters and safeguards when domestic violence arises, published on the 10th February 2020, the Home Affairs Select Committee considered how the court system currently deals with domestic abuse during family proceedings, offering a number of recommendations. Domestic violence should not be considered in isolation from other factors and behaviours and often appears in many forms in the full range of family proceedings. When one partner makes the other feel small and inferior, it can leave one party lacking self – confidence and indeed make them doubt the ability of the legal system in assisting them to achieve their goals – be it a non – molestation order; protection from an abusive partner for themselves and their children (if any); or perhaps assisting them achieve a reasonable and fair financial settlement in divorce proceedings. We often see clients, panicking and retreating from wanting what would otherwise be their entitlement out of sheer fear.
At rhw, we strive to ensure that clients are made to feel at ease and are reminded that any information shared with us remains confidential. We are here to help you through difficult times and the first step is seeking help and finding the strength to speak out. We can refer you to many local support groups to assist you emotionally, whilst we do the groundwork of safeguarding you, legally. The legal system may seem daunting, but a good lawyer can help you overcome hurdles that once were threatening to bring you down or act as an obstacle.
Domestic violence is a terrible and horrible experience but do not let it get the better of you. We are here to help you restore your faith and get your life back on track. The first step of finding the strength to speak out can be the hardest, but through your legal journey and with the support and help of rhw’s Family Law Team, you can overcome the obstacles.
Clare McNeill, Family Law Solicitor – rhw solicitors LLP