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Scottish police on domestic abuse

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Police Scotland, training, coercive behaviours, new law, Domestic Abuse, coercive control, launch, festive season‘We do not tolerate domestic abuse. Any criminal behaviour will be actively investigated by police.’

Police Scotland officers and staff have begun training ahead of the new Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 which will come into force next year.

The training programme, Domestic Abuse Matters (Scotland), has been co-developed by Police Scotland and SafeLives, a UK charity committed to ending domestic abuse, to help police recognise and effectively respond to the signs of coercive and controlling behaviours.

Coercive or controlling behaviour, behaviour that amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse, is being covered by the new Act.

It does not relate to a single incident, rather an ongoing pattern of behaviour that occurs over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion, over another.

And it makes the victim feel isolated, intimidated, and in fear.

Types of coercive or controlling behaviour include:

Making unreasonable demands – often followed up by threats, pressure or physical violence if you don’t agree to them;

Taking control over aspects of someone’s everyday life, including where they go, what they wear, or not letting them leave the house;

Monitoring their whereabouts using GPS locator services on their mobile phone or using spyware;

Isolating someone from their friends or family;

Depriving them of access to support services such as a doctor, or withholding medication;

Repeatedly putting them down, such as telling them they are worthless;

Threatening to hurt or kill them or someone close to them;

Physical violence;

Disclosing or threatening to disclose private information about someone;

Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity;

Online or digital abuse; and

Financial abuse, such as taking their wages or benefits, or controlling how they spend their money.

Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald, lead for Crime and Protection, Police Scotland, said: “Coercive and controlling behaviours are a significant factor in most, if not all cases, of domestic abuse.

“Offenders will isolate their victim from family and friends, and will deliberately undermine their confidence and self-esteem in order to establish power and control.

“Domestic abuse victims have told us that this type of psychological abuse can be as bad as, if not worse, than the physical abuse.

“The training will tackle the many myths and misconceptions around domestic abuse that remain common in our communities across Scotland.

“It will ensure they have a fuller understanding of the dynamics of power and control in abusive relationships and they have the necessary skills to identify, evidence and take action against the people responsible for abusive behaviours – the perpetrators themselves.

“This programme has been designed to deliver a sustainable change, and will be supported by a team of around 1000 domestic abuse ‘champions’ working on the frontline to support officers and staff with the practical application of the legislation,” MacDonald continued.

“It will also support the continuing improvement in our response and ensure officers and staff are sensitive to the needs of those experiencing domestic abuse.”

And Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, said: “The introduction of the Domestic Abuse Act is an important step towards increasing awareness of the full extent of domestic abuse for victims and those around them.

“However, legislation is only the first step, and it is vital that we ensure that the justice system is prepared and equipped to deal with cases involving coercive and controlling behaviour.

“That is why we have supported Police Scotland to develop this training.

“Police officers deal with the damage caused by domestic abuse day in day out, and this training will help to identify some of the more insidious and damaging ways that perpetrators use to control their partner or ex-partner which are covered within the new offence.”

The training began on the same day Police Scotland launched its seasonal domestic abuse campaign, at a time of year which traditionally sees an increase in reports of domestic abuse.

A nationally agreed definition of domestic abuse has been adopted by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

This is:
“Any form of physical, verbal, sexual, psychological or financial abuse which might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse may be committed in the home or elsewhere including online”.

There is a common misconception that domestic abuse is just physical abuse. This is not the case. Domestic abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or mental abuse.

Physical abuse includes all types of assault and physical attacks like hitting (including with objects), punching, kicking and burning.

Sexual abuse includes forcing you to have sexual intercourse or forcing you to engage in sexual acts.

Mental/emotional abuse includes: threats (including threats of violence); criticism and name calling; coercive control, controlling what you do, where you go and who you speak to; threatening your children, isolating you from friends and family; accusing you of being unfaithful; threatening to ‘out’ your sexual orientation to family, friends or work colleagues; and sharing or threatening to share intimate images of you with family, friends or work colleagues – commonly known as ‘Revenge Porn’.

The campaign includes TV advertisements targeting offenders as well as Police Scotland’s social media channels, and will run until 7 January.

Assistant Chief Constable MacDonald said: “On average, our officers respond to a call about domestic abuse every nine minutes, but these call-outs increase over the festive period, which should be a time of peace for people, safe in their homes with their loved ones.

“Our new campaign is a warning to offenders.

“We do not tolerate domestic abuse. Any criminal behaviour will be actively investigated by police, including the coercive and controlling behaviours used to exert control over victims.

“We also want to encourage victims to come forward and report all forms of domestic abuse. We will thoroughly investigate and provide the necessary support to those who report to us.”

If you are in Scotland and experiencing domestic abuse, are worried about a friend/family member, or would like more information about spotting the signs of abuse you can call 0800 027 1234.

For help elsewhere in the UK click here.

If you are in immediate danger, or feel threatened, please call 999 and ask for the police.

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