- Home Secretary set to announce new powers against non violent abuse
- Those found guilty of ‘coercive control’ face 14 years behind bars
- Comes amid growing concern over scale of domestic abuse
- MPs have claimed criticising partner’s looks ‘indicator of physical abuse’
Bullying husbands who make their partners’ lives a misery through emotional insults face up to 14 years in prison under a new crackdown on domestic abuse, Theresa May is expected to announce.
The Home Secretary is considering new powers which will put psychological abuse on a par with physical violence in the home, it was reported today.
Partners who use controlling behaviour, as well as violence, to subject their partners to a life of misery could be convicted of ‘coercive control’.
Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to unveil new powers to target bullying husbands who make their partners’ lives a misery
Ministers hope the new law will encourage much earlier reporting by victims, according to Sky News.
Domestic abuse victims do not contact police until they have suffered 30 incidents of domestic abuse.
Despite the reluctance of victims to come forward police receive a domestic abuse call every 30 seconds, according to research by the Home Office and the charity Women’s Aid.
Research also shows 1.2 million women a year are victims of domestic abuse and two are week are killed by a partner or ex-partner.
Mrs May launched a consultation on how to reduce domestic violence and is still considering which new powers to implement, a Home Office source told MailOnline.
But according to Sky News a new law is expected to come into force before next year’s General Election.
DCI Trish Owen, from Greater Manchester Police’s domestic abuse unit, told Sky News that the law would be ‘another tool for us to be able to tackle domestic violence’.
Earlier this year a Labour frontbench MP suggested that husbands who constantly criticise their wives over their weight or appearance may be guilty of domestic abuse.
Nicky Morgan has responsibility for countering domestic violence in the Cabinet
Seema Malhotra, Labour’s new shadow anti domestic violence minister, said such abuse could be part of a wider pattern of ‘controlling behaviour’ which can be as bad as a physical attack.
She said: ‘It can be part of a pattern of controlling behaviour that leaves people feeling fearful and terrorised in their own homes.’
Ms Malhotra said repeatedly criticising a woman’s appearance could be seen as an ‘indicator of physical abuse in the future’.
She told MailOnline that one woman she spoke to had been forced to flee her home after her husband attempted to control her entire life. But she said it started with him criticising her appearance.
The Labour MP said: ‘She felt traumatised. For this woman her journey – her nightmare – started out with him making these comments about her appearance and progressed to wanting to control what she looked like and where she went until he had total control over her.’
Ms Malhotra said she was not talking about arguments between couples or snide remarks made in anger, but a wider pattern of behaviour which leads to abuse.
She told the Times that that domestic abuse ‘affects women and men of all backgrounds — rich and poor, white and black and ethnic minority’ and needed to be tackled. But she said it was often misunderstood.
Ms Malhotra, who entered the Commons in 2011 after winning a by-election in the London seat of Feltham and Heston, said that victims were often let down by police.
She said there are women ‘who spend their lives not just recovering from the trauma of having survived domestic violence but then are left on the run, picking up the pieces and trying to protect their children’.
She said figures showed there were 12 million women and 2.5 million men that had been the victims of domestic abuse – but the number of prosecutions was nowhere near that figure.
Ms Malhotra said her new position of anti-domestic abuse spokeswoman was created because ‘victims need a greater voice at the heart of the system’.
She will work on a variety of issues – including forced marriage, genital mutilation abusive porn.
She said: ‘Porn is now easily available on mobile phones. Young people are accessing it who are sometimes not even in their teens.’
Such images were often violent and offered unhealthy portrayals of sex and relationships, she said.
Ms Malhotra also revealed that Labour would introduce mandatory sex education in all state schools.