What can you do if you are the victim of domestic abuse?

According to Scottish Government Statistics, in 2015-2016 there were over 58,000 incidents of domestic abuse recorded in Scotland, 36% of which occurred on a Saturday or Sunday and 87% of which occurred in a home or dwelling place. 20% of victims of domestic abuse were male and 80% were female. Here, we look at what constitutes domestic abuse and what support and options are available to victims of domestic abuse, including speaking to an experienced family lawyer.

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What is Domestic Abuse?

The term 'domestic abuse' is given to describe a form of inappropriate behaviour between two individuals who are or may have been in a relationship with one another. There is a misconception that domestic abuse always involves physical harm being inflicted from one person to another. Domestic abuse can in fact take several forms including physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse being inflicted on an individual. Abuse is legally defined as violence, harassment, threatening conduct and any other conduct giving rise to physical or mental injury, fear, alarm or distress. Conduct can include speech and mere presence in a specific location.

Domestic abuse is usually a persistent and controlling behaviour causing physical or emotional harm. Often and unfortunately, the longer domestic abuse persists, the more severe the behaviour may become over time. Irrespective of the form in which domestic abuse may present itself, it is entirely unacceptable.

Help available for victims of Domestic Abuse

In Scotland, the Police, the Government and the Courts have taken a proactive approach to tackling domestic abuse and have a no tolerance policy. In 2014, Police Scotland introduced a new scheme in known as 'Right to Ask' which is a Disclosure Scheme for domestic abuse. Individuals are able to submit a request to Police Scotland to find out if their partner has a history of domestic abuse.

Unfortunately, often the victims of domestic abuse will remain in abusive relationships or tolerate such behaviours as they are too scared to seek help or the abusive behaviour has simply become the norm. Contacting the police to report domestic abuse can be daunting as it may result in criminal proceedings being brought against a partner or spouse which may provoke further abusive behaviour. Speaking to your GP is a good method of obtaining support and recording any harm which may have been suffered, however, speaking to a solicitor in full confidentiality can allow a victim to explore their options before taking any steps to deal with the abusive behaviour.

Civil law in Scotland offers a number of remedies to victims of domestic abuse in order to protect them or their children from the future risk of abuse. In Scotland, it is possible to seek the following protective remedies:

Exclusion Orders – An Exclusion Order, once granted, suspends the occupancy rights of the abuser and thereafter prevents them from returning to live in the family home, despite having occupancy rights to live in the property, if they wish to do so. Spouses and Civil Partners automatically have occupancy rights regardless whether they are a title holder or not. An Exclusion Order, to be effective, must be combined with other orders including a Warrant for Summary Ejection and an Interdict preventing the abuser from entering or remaining in the property.

Common Law Interdicts – An Interdict is an order whereby the court stipulates that an individual is to refrain from carrying out a specified action or behaviour. For example a victim of domestic abuse could ask the Court to interdict their partner from approaching them or coming within a certain distance of the family home.

Powers of Arrest – A Power of Arrest is an order that is usually sought together with Interdicts and Exclusion Orders. The benefit in obtaining a Power of Arrest is that it will result in the police being able to automatically arrest an individual if they have breached the terms of the protective remedy which has been granted.

Matrimonial Interdicts – A Matrimonial Interdict is an interdict that restrains or prohibits any conduct of one spouse towards the other spouse or child of the family. This may include prohibiting a spouse from entering a family home or any other residence of the victim, the victim's work place or any school the child may attend.

Domestic Interdicts – A Domestic Interdict is effectively the same as a Matrimonial Interdict but applies to two people who may be living together as cohabitants and are therefore not married.

Non Harassment Orders – A Non-Harassment Order is designed to protect a victim from a course of conduct which amounts to harassment and causes the victim alarm and distress. Examples of such conduct may include frequent phone calls or repeated text or social media messages. A breach of a Non-Harassment Order is a criminal offence and can result in monetary fine or imprisonment.  

Get in touch

If you require advice on options available in circumstances involving domestic abuse, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our family law team by telephone or by submitting an online enquiry for a confidential and free chat.