The recent news that Mel B, so long synonymous with ‘girl power’, had to take out a restraining order in America against her estranged husband highlights the lengths she had to go to protect herself.
In the light of this, what are some of the measures available to protect people who are suffering from domestic abuse?
- The first measure is a court order called a non-molestation order – more usually known as an ‘Injunction.’ This type of court order offers protection to certain people from domestic abuse such as violence or threats of violence, harassment, intimidation, controlling or coercive behaviour, financial and emotional abuse. Mel B told the court that she had suffered physical abuse, including a punch to her face, as well as emotional abuse.
- A non-molestation order can extend to protect your children.
- If someone breaches a non-molestation order, it is now a criminal offence meaning that the person can be immediately arrested by the police.
- The second type of order is called an Occupation Order, which dictates who can and can’t live in the family home. This is usually applied for at the same time as a non-molestation order.
Protection from Harassment Act
- The Protection from Harassment Act makes it a criminal offence for someone to harass someone else – including where someone does something which alarms the victim or causes them distress.
- This unacceptable conduct must happen at least on two occasions to one person. A criminal court dealing with this criminal offence can impose a restraining order against the perpetrator. It is possible to also apply for an injunction in the civil (i.e. non-criminal) courts against someone who is responsible for the harassment. The civil courts can order financial compensation – known as damages – for any financial loss or anxiety that this harassment has caused.
Controlling or coercive behaviour
- Mel B also told the court that her estranged husband threatened to ruin her career. She said he threatened to release intimate videos of her and damaged her self-esteem.
- This is an example of ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’, a relatively new offence which the Government has introduced. It can include intimidation, humiliation and stopping someone from socialising with family or friends. Controlling or coercive behaviour stops short of actual physical violence.
- Domestic violence is a crime – and there are various ways that you can be helped. The police can help, for example, in giving you some breathing space by imposing bail conditions to keep someone away from you and your family. Support workers from domestic violence agencies will guide you through any police investigations.
What you can do
Despite all her fame and wealth, Mel B’s plight really does highlight that domestic abuse can happen to anyone and can take many forms over a long time.
If you feel that no one is listening or the police are not able to help, please do not suffer in silence. Domestic abuse is not clear cut and The Family Law Company is here to help. Our team of experts work closely with local domestic violence agencies. Together we can explore the possibility of injunctions to keep someone away from you and your family, and orders allowing you to stay in your home. In the case of an emergency, we can apply for a court order without the other person even being there.
If you need help or know someone who might need help, please call Imran Khodabocus on 01392 284851.