Scotland To Pass Law Against Psychological Domestic Abuse

It is the first bill to pave the way for a 'victimless prosecution'...

Scotland To Pass Law Against Psychological Domestic Abuse

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

Domestic abuse is often painted purely as violent physical attacks against a partner. However, we now know that it goes beyond that, with emotional and psychological abuse being at the center of a violent relationship. The law is finally catching up with this in Scotland, with a bill to be passed this afternoon creating a specific offence of ‘abusive behavior in relation to a partner or ex-partner’.

The widely-backed bill includes psychological abuse, and as been dubbed the first bill in the world to allow a ‘victimless prosecution’. Essentially, it doesn’t put the burden of proof on the victim and simply allows a court to rule whether the behavior of the perpetrator is harmful to a reasonable person.

Psychological abuse is defined in the new legislation as making a partner dependent or subordinate, isolating them from sources of support such as friends and family, controlling or monitoring their day-to-day activities, depriving them of freedom of action and frightening, humiliating, degrading or punishing them. This is aggravated if a child is witness or subject to the behavior.

Dr. Masha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, told the BBC:

‘Women have been telling us for 40 years that it is psychological and emotional abuse that is the most traumatic for them and the hardest to recover from, yet for such a long time we had absolutely no tools in legislation to take their stories seriously and hold abusers accountable for the untold harm that they wreak.’

There are concerns that evidence will be difficult to obtain in these cases, with some arguing there will be a reliance on the opinions of other people than just the victim. However, Dr. Scott rebuffs this. She said:

‘There are a lot of myths out there that somehow it will be hard to get evidence to support prosecutions.

‘This law will take an incident and look at it as a course of conduct.

‘That will then mean there are lots of opportunities to gather evidence - there are texts, receipts and financial abuse, there are friends' stories, there are all kinds of things that will help to provide evidence of what was going on.’

The main challenge for her is ensuring victims are confident enough to come forward, with police notoriously mishandling cases of women who are stalked and abused by partners. It is imperative that training on psychological and emotional abuse is given to police and prosecutors, to ensure this law will be of use to the near 60,000 women in Scotland who reported domestic abuse last year (up from 2015-16)- with many more incidents going unreported.

Watch the debate on Holyrood Live from 2.30pm.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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