Ignorance about abuse in the home is ‘intolerable’ and women need education on their rights, warns a Fenland family law expert.
Akhil Choudhury, an associate solicitor at law firm Bowser, Ollard and Bentley said a lack of knowledge about the subject, added to recent law changes has heightened the plight of abused women across the region.
“It is a situation which is intolerable,” said Mr Choudhury, whose firm has branches in both Wisbech and March.
“It appears the majority of the public think domestic abuse is purely physical or sexual assaults, but it’s much wider than that,” he said.
“Abuse can be psychological where an individual is oppressed by a controlling partner. It could also be financial control or intimidating behaviour without resorting to actual physical attacks,” he added. “There are other definitions too.”
“This has to be put across in the media and it is the responsibility of us family law professionals to do this. We believe you should speak to the police, a solicitor or a charity specialising in this if you feel you are being abused in any way, before it gets worse.”
Mr Choudhury’s views come shortly after changes in public funded legal aid, which he said has added to the plight of some in the region.
Under the new changes many individuals involved in marriage breakdowns or needing assistance with child disputes as well as other areas of family law are no longer allowed to qualify for legal aid, where they were before.
“It is a change which financially affects many people, but unfortunately this has not made widespread news.”
Mr Choudhury said that since the changes in April, recognised legal firms, such as his had formed procedures to help those in need.
“It is a time of great change and progressive legal firms like ours have taken this into account, with packages to help spread the cost and advice how people can do part of the procedure themselves,” he said.
Polly Neate, Chief Executive at national domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid, said domestic abuse is a subject which needs highlighting.
“Our national network of services has reported women being denied money for food and housing, being emotionally manipulated into distancing themselves from friends and family, being coerced into unwanted sexual activity by their partners, and being verbally abused and humiliated,” she said.
She called on those close to victims to address the matter.
“It is absolutely vital that emotional abuse is taken seriously, as it can destroy self-esteem, isolate the woman from her family and friends and make her feel dependant on her abuser and feel unable to leave,” she said.