11th February 2020, 10:36 am

BBC drama Silent Witness is the latest TV show to tackle the difficult topic of domestic violence with a recent double-episode focusing on the lives of four women who were all victims of domestic abuse.

The intertwined storyline covered physical and mental abuse, sexual abuse, coercive control and behaviours and parental alienation; all forms of domestic violence.

Stacey Collins, of the Family Team at national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP, said seeing such disturbing storylines on television is a great way to educate people on the warning signs to look out for.

She said: “I think it’s important that prime time shows are tackling these issues more frequently. Domestic abuse takes on many forms and is more prevalent than may be realised. To see it reflected in such a powerful way on our screens is really helpful.

“The police on average receive one call each minute in relation to domestic abuse. There are no class boundaries and anyone can be affected.

“It’s important to shine a light on domestic abuse and let sufferers know that they’re not alone and that there is a way out. A lot of domestic abuse begins very subtly so victims may not even be aware that they are victims until it is too late.”

Some of the warning signs to look out for –

  • Isolating a person from their family or friends.
  • Monitoring their time.
  • Monitoring a person via online communication tools.
  • Taking control of aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what they should wear and when they can sleep.
  • Financial abuse including control of finances e.g. only allowing a person limited financial allowance.
  • Threats to hurt or kill them or a loved one or pet.
  • Threats to reveal or publish private information.
  • Repeatedly putting them down, for example telling them they are worthless.

Stacey Collins said: “Domestic abuse sufferers should seek the assistance of the Police, particularly if violence is a feature, but this can be difficult step to take.

“There are many charities and organisations, such as Women’s Aid or Mankind, which can help in the first instance.

“Sufferers can also seek advice from a family law solicitor who can make applications for Non-Molestation and/or Occupation Orders.”

Non-Molestation orders afford protection from physical and emotional abuse including controlling and coercive behaviours. If granted this gives the police an automatic power of arrest in the event of a breach. Occupation Orders are rarer and, if certain criteria are met, mean that the perpetrator is removed and not permitted to return to the home you share.

If the allegations are serious and immediate protection is required then the Court can consider an emergency “ex-parte” application which would mean that the perpetrator would not be aware of the application until the order was served upon them.

Stacey Collins continued: “At Clarke Willmott we are seeing more and more evidence of coercive control cases. At one time this would not even have been considered domestic abuse, but it is just as damaging and debilitating for victims.

“I hope that TV, film and radio continue to cover this topic and people of power and persuasion continue to talk about it and bring it into the open so that suffers feel more able to come forward and seek help.

Clarke Willmott LLP is a national law firm with seven offices across the country in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.


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