Unfortunately domestic violence is still a prominent part of many people’s lives. Shocking statistics have been released by Women’s Aid illustrating the scale of the problem:
- 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives
- 2 women per week are murdered by a partner or ex partner
- Women who are living with domestic abuse are 5 times more likely to suffer from depression
- In 90% of incidents of domestic abuse , where children are present in the home, the children will be in the same or the next room
- On average a woman will be assaulted 35 times before reporting it to the police
- 30% of domestic abuse either starts or escalates during pregnancy
- Domestic abuse accounts for between 16% and 25% of all recorded crime.
The problem has received a lot of media coverage recently following MSP Bill Walker’s convictions for assaulting his ex wives and step daughter. Yet despite years of heightened awareness of this national shame and calls for zero tolerance, the prevalence of domestic abuse has not fallen.
In 2012 the Citizen’s Advice Bureau indicated that 13,500 people reported domestic violence to them. Scotland’s Police recorded 10,159 incidents occurring between 1 December 2012 and 31 January 2013 alone.
So what does the law do to protect victims of domestic abuse?
Of course any one experiencing domestic abuse should report it to the police. Stephen House at the helm of the new national police force is said to have domestic abuse at the top of his agenda. When he was Chief Constable at Strathclyde he confirmed that very few police officers today would dismiss an assault by a partner as “just a domestic”.
There are of course other protections that can be granted by the court in addition to raising criminal proceedings:
- You can apply for a matrimonial interdict which is an order that prevents your spouse from carrying out a specific action like coming near your home or contacting you or generally behaving in a way that would put you into a state of fear and alarm. If the matter is urgent, then the court can grant an interim interdict to protect you until the matter is fully heard.
- You can ask for a power of arrest to be attached to the interdict. The court will only grant a power of arrest after your spouse has had the opportunity to speak to the Sheriff. If a power of arrest has been attached to the interdict and the interdict is subsequently breached, your spouse can be arrested by the police.
- You can apply to the court for an exclusion order. Such an order suspends your spouse’s occupancy rights in the matrimonial home. The court will only grant such a restrictive order if it is satisfied that it is necessary for the protection of you or any child of the family from conduct that would be injurious to the physical or mental health of you or the child. Such orders are not readily granted.
But these measures are evidently not enough. Until it is recognised that domestic abuse is everyone’s problem and that we must re- evaluate our attitudes towards relationships and what we see as acceptable, little is going to change. We have to sit up and take notice and try to change our country’s culture if we want to make domestic abuse a thing of the past.