Hidden body cameras on police officers answering a 999 call from a victim captured the brutal reality of domestic abuse on Panorama this week.
The programme highlighted just how extensive and horrific injuries can be, but also why we must have more effective laws in this country. It echoed our report, Beyond Violence, in laying out why the Government urgently needs to criminalise coercive control. Partners whose individual actions may seem eccentric or a little obsessive but which together form part of a pattern of controlling behaviour have to be clearly exposed and convicted as ‘intimate terrorists’.
They hold the more vulnerable partner – usually a woman but sometimes a man – captive by insisting they conform to a set of highly restrictive rules. Panorama suggested that the humiliating and controlling tactics many are subject to bear all the hallmarks of an oppressive regime’s efforts to stamp out opposition – the aim is complete domination of their time, money, relationships and even their thoughts.
The brutal mind games the victim is subjected to also poison the atmosphere for any children involved. Our report found that one in four children see domestic abuse around them while they are growing up but few get the help they need to deal with it.
The Government has been consulting on plans to change the law so they can tackle this psychological abuse. Police often have to wait until there is evidence of broken bones, bruises or, most tragically, a dead body, before they act. Implementing our recommendation to give prosecutors the means to put an end to coercive control has to become an urgent priority.