Herts Police are using Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to raise awareness of domestic abuse and coercive control.
The County Community Safety Unit are raising awareness of domestic abuse and coercive control to coincide with February 14.
Coercive control is defined as a continuing act or pattern of acts which are used to harm, punish or frighten a victim and can take many forms including:
* Stopping a victim from socialising;
* Limiting access to family, friends and finances;
* Monitoring a person via online communication tools, for example using tracking apps on mobile phones;
* Threats to reveal or publish private information.
New legislation which, took effect on December 29, now makes it possible for charges to be brought in domestic abuse cases where there is evidence of a pattern of repeated “controlling or coercive behaviour”.
The powers will help authorities intervene in cases where offenders subject spouses, partners or other family members to a range of emotional and psychological abuse.
It was introduced after a government consultation found that 85 per cent of domestic abuse victims did not believe the law offered them adequate protection from offences including harassment and stalking – either face to face or using social media ‐ threats of revenge porn, controlling their finances trying to isolate them from family and friends and preventing them from socialising.
Police Neighbourhood teams will also be raising awareness of domestic abuse throughout the week at planned engagement events across the county where information on how to report such incidents and where to get help will be distributed.
Detective Chief Inspector Ruth Dodsworth, from the domestic abuse investigation and safeguarding unit (DAISU), said: “Sadly, as we know domestic abuse takes many forms.
“Coercive control is sinister as it is exerted over a period of time, often for a long period before the victim realises it is happening to them as the perpetrator will play ‘mind games’ with them – Valentine’s Day provides opportunity to highlight the situations where this can happen. A perpetrator may treat their victim to a nice meal or buy a gift – only to chip away at the victim’s confidence or undermine them.
“The victim may think they are being over – sensitive and make excuses for the abusers’ behaviour.
“But the Psychological damage caused by a partner or family member exerting coercive control is traumatic and can have a long term impact on victims as the mind games perpetrators play with their victim cause fear by gradually isolating them and chipping away at their self ‐confidence making them doubt themselves.”
She added: “Valentine’s day is a good time to reflect on such behaviours. Has your partner taken you out for a nice meal or bought you a gift? Have they then passed comment which chips at your confidence or tried to do something to humiliate or undermine you?
“Don’t think you are being over–sensitive and make excuses for the abusers’ behaviour, and think; ‘Oh well they bought me a nice gift or took me out for a meal’. Our message not only on Valentine’s Day but on every day of the year is: ‘This is not a healthy relationship – this is ABUSE’.
“The new legislation will allow us to prosecute perpetrators for their behaviour – but we can only use it if victims come forward and tell us about what is happening to them – you will be believed and there is help available – please come forward – don’t be treated badly on Valentine’s Day – or any other day of the year.”
If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please call Hertfordshire Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08 088 088 088 it is free to call and is open from 10am–10pm Monday to Friday. Alternatively visit www.hertssunflower.org or call police on 101 or visit www.herts.police.uk/domesticabuse