A new law that makes psychological harm a form of domestic abuse is set to lead to a rise in convictions, according to a local women’s charity.
Support workers at Dundee Women’s Aid have been trained on the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act ahead of its introduction on April 1.
It enshrines in law an offence of a “course of abusive behaviour” – making a sustained campaign of physical, emotional and psychological harm officially illegal.
The act also aggravates any offence which involves a child – meaning partners who carry out abuse where a child is present face harsher sentences.
Mary Miller, manager at Dundee Women’s Aid, believes the tougher legal stance on what constitutes abuse will give survivors confidence to come forward.
She said: “Historically, domestic abuse has been treated as a series of incidents. There is legislation out there but it’s often meant incidents are taken forward as a breach of the peace rather than domestic abuse.
“But these incidents are all linked and the new legislation recognises that.
“And in the past children have been looked at as bystanders or witnesses – but they experience the domestic abuse as well and the new law recognises them as survivors.
“I think we’ll see an increase in cases going to court and an increase in convictions.”
The act officially recognises behaviour such as enforcing dependency, depriving survivors of sources of support and restricting day-to-day activities as abuse.
Despite this, Mary believes an awareness drive will need to be undertaken by the government to make survivors of abuse aware of the new law.
She added: “There are women who don’t recognise they are on the end of domestic abuse because their confidence has been eroded.
“We’ll still be offering the same sort of services but we will be able to advise on the new legislation and help women recognise how they can link their experiences to strengthen their case.”
n If you’ve been affected by domestic abuse, visit dundeewomensaid.co.uk.