East Ayrshire Council has marked the launch of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, which came into force on 1 April.
For the first time, the Bill makes domestic abuse a specific crime, and includes psychological abuse as well as physical. Psychological abuse can also be known as ‘coercive control’ which involves acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten someone.
This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence, access to money and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Since the Bill was passed in Parliament last year, Police Scotland has been training officers in how to recognise and effectively respond to the signs of coercive and controlling behaviours. Similarly, Scotland’s judges and sheriffs have been receiving training from Scottish Women’s Aid about the impact this kind of abuse can have on victims.
A study has found that 95 out of 100 domestic abuse survivors reported experiencing coercive control, while another reported that women are far more likely than men to be victims of abuse that involves ongoing degradation and frightening threats – two key elements of coercive control.
At the Council event, Depute Provost Claire Leitch welcomed guests while Judy Ferguson from Women’s Aid spoke about coercive control and domestic abuse.
Councillor McMahon, East Ayrshire’s White Ribbon Champion said: “Having this Bill shows that we have really moved on from thinking that domestic abuse can only involve physical violence. Psychological abuse can have a long-lasting and devastating effect on victims, so having this now recognised as a crime in addition to physical abuse, means we can better protect victims and help make sure perpetrators face the punishment they deserve.”
Depute Provost Leitch added: “Common examples of coercive behaviour include the perpetrator monitoring you through online communication tools; taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see and what you can wear, and repeatedly putting you down. We want to help end this type of behaviour and are pleased that this Bill is now in place to assist us in doing this.”
Hilary Scott, Lead Officer of the East Ayrshire Violence Against Women Partnership, added: “The Partnership is committed to eradicating all forms of violence against women. The strategic group works across East Ayrshire to provide support to those affected and raise awareness. We welcome the introduction of this new legislation and are dedicated to working in partnership to implement it at a local level. “