Legal Changes for Domestic Abuse Worldwide
Countries taking a stance on domestic abuse
The world has started turning towards changing age old laws of domestic abuse in the past few years.
Such changes are sure to create a ripple effect throughout society as a whole. Domestic abuse survivors can rejoice in some hope that the change is coming. Let’s talk about some other countries that are trying to make changes.
Laws against domestic abuse are making sweeping changes worldwide. Psychological abuse recently became a crime when Scotland introduced its groundbreaking “Domestic Abuse Act.” The United Kingdom also recently implemented Clare’s Law. Clare's Law protects victims against domestic abuse by allowing people with concerns to ask the police if their partner has an abusive or violent past. Politicians in Idaho are campaigning to make it illegal for residents to ignore domestic abuse that may be happening in their community.
The Scottish government passed a law in 2018. It makes coercive and controlling behavior a criminal offense. Independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs) are hard at work training hospital staff. They want mental health units to increase their understanding. This makes it easier to identify and empathize with domestic abuse victims.
Over in Ethiopia, lawmakers are strengthening their domestic abuse laws. The country has a long way to go. Domestic abuse reports are increasing amongst survivors and witnesses. Domestic abuse was once hush-hush in the country, and now activists are making changes. They are slow with the changes, but certainly better than before. "My generation, however, is fighting for women's rights and I have seen domestic abuse victims increasingly standing against their abusers and against a society that wants to coax them into silence," said Maraki Tesfaye, founder of Jegnit in a report done by Al Jazeera. It brings hope to victims across the world. Especially in countries that are slow to recognize domestic abuse.
United States of America
Another controversial method in the United States, is restorative justice. The California Health Report says. “Restorative justice is a practice of addressing wrongdoing by engaging both the victim and perpetrator of a crime in a structured dialogue, usually with members of their social circle and community in the same room. The goal is to allow victims and others affected by the crime to speak candidly about the harm they suffered, and for the offender to speak about why they committed the crime and to take responsibility for the harm they caused. Then, both sides agree upon a way to repair the damage and hold the perpetrator accountable. This could include the perpetrator paying compensation to the victim, agreeing to attend counseling, apologizing to the family, or doing community service.” Restorative justice is often applied to non-violent crimes. Yet, the state of California is trying to incorporate this method.
Australia is in a similar place, currently. Women’s accommodation services in Australia are often too full. The Australian government is looking for a new alternative. Its new program is to provide accommodation, interventions, and behavioral help for perpetrators. This new tactic is going to allow women and children to remain in their home.
“A $4 million has been allocated for shelter accommodation in South Australia for women and children, with a small proportion to be set aside for perpetrators. It is not clear yet how men will enter these shelters (mandated or voluntarily), but once there, the plan is to connect them with the support needed to properly address their abusive behaviour,” The Conversation states.
Most organizations encourage domestic violence survivors to engage with the legal system. Yet, advocates for restorative justice claim there’s a need for alternative strategies. These strategies are to address domestic violence. Often times, survivors don’t want the police around. This offers a consolation for justice in some ways.
Implementing new laws and changes
The effectiveness of these laws and propositions remain in question. It is a step in the right direction. Making changes to laws is crucial. Giving victims more protections against their abusers remains key.
According to The Crime Report, “81 percent of women who experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short or long-term impacts that include post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSD).” When the victim goes through the court process, they start to feel the pain once again. What also provides help is ensuring victims get psychological treatment.
What can we do about this? Encouraging legal practitioners to practice cross-cultural communication skills is vital. Lawyers who are unaware of cultural differences in domestic matters could use this. Ensuring they have the proper resources to send the client/victim to counseling. They should include support services throughout their litigation process. Another proactive change the judicial system can make is to have independent social workers, housing and welfare benefits advisers available and where size permits, childcare provisions enabling victims to discuss the full impact of their abuse out of earshot of their children. A combination of these services is crucial to living a happy future, and will likely make the whole legal process less daunting for victims.
Leaving is the first step to taking action. Sometimes, taking legal action is not a possibility. That’s okay. As long as you can get the help that you need for yourself and family, if there are children involved.
Victims triumphing over abuse
Take this woman’s story of survival as a glimmer of hope that there are better days ahead. Jamie was on Break the Silence’s Facebook page when she saw what others were posting. It gave her hope that she too could leave her physically abusive situation at home. She became strong enough, by reading the posts, to call her friend to come pick her up. She received threatening texts from her husband, but ended up in safe hands by being with her friend. Because of the support of the Facebook group and friend, she is strong and out of her destructive situation. “I really wouldn’t have changed anything. I still would have gone through all the same stuff that I did just to be able to be the person that I am today,” Jamie said. She’s now freed of the situation itself. Whether she pressed charges or not, that is all that matters.
There are times when a conviction of an abuser will happen. Consider, Roia Atmar, from Western Australia, and her story. She was in the hospital after her former husband set her on fire. It wasn’t until she was in the hospital with devastating injuries she realized she had the freedom to leave. Her husband tried telling the appointed social worker a lie. No one, including the victim’s family, could believe the charming man she was married to. “He would speak for me if anyone asked me questions. He lied, telling them he had to be in the room according to our religion,”she told The Guardian. The social worker eventually stepped in and helped her through the process. The law was also on her side with this incident. “A police officer came and explained what a restraining order was and how police could help me go through the family courts, and arrange for my mother to take care of the children while I was in hospital. I didn’t believe her. I didn't know there was such a thing as a family court to help people like me,” she said. He was convicted. “He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, though he was eligible for parole after five.”
Though stories like Roia’s are one of triumphs, many don’t get that far. Many victims often go back to their abuser or fear pressing charges at all. It is truly okay to do that. Do know that there is hope if you do end up pressing charges. 20 years later Roia ended up with a fulfilling career. She works at a center for emergency accommodation and support to women and children. Roia's story is unique, but not different than most victims. Seeking out help is the answer to every survival story. Don't wait until it is too late. Reach out and get help. You can be strong too.