The Justin Lee Collins case, where the Bristol comedian was convicted of domestic abuse, follows a recent announcement from the Home Office which announced revised definitions of domestic violence, which for the first time specify a pattern of ‘coercive-controlling’ behaviour, a move which provoked wide spread discussion on how this should be defined.
The conviction of Lee Collins has highlighted the issue of controlling behaviour and the impact it can have on victims’ lives. Collins was charged and convicted with harassment intended to cause fear or alarm and not for any other physically violent offence.
Allegations of physical abuse were heard in court, but it was his controlling behaviour that made the headlines. These ranged from forcing his former partner Anna Larke to throw away DVDs starring actors she found attractive, to verbal abuse and intimidation.
And while recognising this type of controlling behaviour when it is summarised in court is relatively straightforward, when it takes place in the home it can be a lot harder to define precisely what constitutes a ‘normal’ marital dispute and what is coercive and controlling behaviour .
Chief executive of Refuge, Sandra Horley, sought to define domestic abuse where she responded to the Government’s revised definitions and the recent case of Lee Collins. Although she refers to women, the same definitions can be applied to male victims also.
“Let me be clear: domestic violence involves the repeated, habitual and random use of intimidation, whether by physical or verbal aggression, to force a woman to submit to her partner’s demands. Domestic violence is systematic, purposeful and patterned behaviour designed to gain control of a woman.
“The effects of emotional and psychological abuse can be just as damaging as physical violence. The scars left are deeper, and take longer to heal. And because this kind of abuse is largely invisible, victims are often disbelieved when they find the courage to disclose it. All too often, society turns a blind eye. People think that if it doesn’t result in a swollen eye or a broken arm, it’s not a ‘real’ crime. But we should never underestimate the impact of psychological and emotional abuse.”
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