Justice Minister Naomi Long told Belfast Live that domestic violence can often start in “complex” ways after a new mandate was announced to criminalize non-violent physical behaviour.
The new Domestic Violence Civil Procedure Act 2021 (Northern Ireland) has already entered into force, which means that protections are no longer limited to physical violence: coercive control is now a crime.
Speaking on Belfast Live, Minister Long warned the public to watch out for ominous signals such as expressions of unhealthy interest in a partner’s activities and movements.
I spoke to victims who were hated by their partners [and] It can be hidden.
“It could be something that people in a relationship might seem like at first: a partner who always wants to know everything you do and wherever you go may be interested in you at first.
“But when so much happens, and they start telling you where to go, who to see, how long you can stay there and constantly insulting you while you try to limit your access to the family, that becomes controlling and disguising.”
Although anyone can be affected by domestic violence, women are more likely to be victims. 69% of domestic violence victims are women and 31% are men.
While the scars caused by non-physical violence may be psychological rather than visible, the minister points out that they can be equally harmful and often lead to physical violence later.
“As Minister of Justice and as an elected representative, [I] Constantly encounters victims of coercive control [and] “It’s incredibly devastating,” he said.
“I’ve seen people [for whom] It’s not just “Oh, no, I missed the bus” or “I’m a little late”, but [who] They are actually physically afraid; “They are afraid to come home late, which could happen when they arrive.”
The minister added that even under previous legislation, which only concerned bodily harm, there was an incident of domestic violence in Northern Ireland once every 17 minutes.
It is hoped that the new authorities will give victims and the public the right to report violations when they encounter them and in any form that occurs.
“This is an important issue, but I think we are still only touching the tip of the iceberg because we know that this kind of abuse is often hidden,” he said.
Let’s say just because something happens behind closed doors doesn’t mean it’s not everyone’s business. “If someone is being mistreated, we want to gain the public’s trust so we can report it to the police.”
There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of domestic violence:
- Although anyone can be affected by domestic violence, women are more likely to be victims of it, with women making up 69% of domestic violence victims and 31% of men.
- Pregnancy is a specific risk factor that can make a victim more vulnerable. Violence can escalate when a woman is pregnant or after childbirth.
- Evidence also indicates that victims are more vulnerable to domestic violence and, ultimately, domestic homicide when they leave an intimate relationship.
- People with disabilities or mental health issues are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, and individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community may also be at risk of domestic violence.
- Rural victims may also face additional obstacles when accessing help or reporting violence. They are likely to be more isolated due to a lack of vehicles or access. Rural victims may also be reluctant to report violence because they (or the abuser) are well known in the community.
- Domestic violence can also be higher at certain times of the year or after certain events, such as during holidays or after major sporting events. Locally, domestic violence cases are highest in the months leading up to summer, summer, and December.