The media has been abuzz with the fictional trial of Helen Titchener on the popular radio programme “The Archers”. For those who have not followed it, she has been on trial for stabbing her husband Rob, and was found not guilty of both attempted murder or wounding with intent. The jury finally concluded that, after years of undergoing coercion, control, rape and assault at the hands of her husband, she believed her actions were justified in preventing further harm to herself and her young son, Henry.
The storyline has highlighted the very real problems that many people face in their relationships, where often they face not only actual violence but also threatening and controlling behaviour resulting in psychological and emotional abuse that stops short of physical violence.
Too many victims suffer in silence, because of the degree of control that is exerted over them. Last year new legislation created an offence where there is evidence of repeated ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’ in domestic abuse cases. The penalty is up to five years in prison. Controlling or coercive behaviour can include a pattern of threats, humiliation and intimidation. It can also include stopping the victim wearing what they like, socialising with who they wish to, tracking them through their phone or internet use and controlling what they do or say on Facebook and other social media accounts.
The first step for any victim is recognising that they are a victim of domestic abuse and the next is to seek help. Victims often struggle with this because they believe they are to blame for the things they are suffering which is part of the control.
No-one should have to live in a household where they feel threatened or are being hurt. Many victims cannot safely look for this information online. However, there are a number of places to turn for help, information and support: a GP or Health Visitor, the police, and organisations such as Refuge and Women’s Aid and other such fantastic organisations who do so much. Expert legal advice is also critical and victims should consider speaking to a solicitor who specialises in domestic violence cases (see www.resolution.org.uk for details of such solicitors near you).