"it is very important for victims to report their situation to the police"
Changes in UK law are now highlighting a number of abusive things you can no longer do against your partner because they are illegal.
Domestic abuse laws have strengthened frequently regarding coercive control, especially related to physical abuse.
But not as much focus was given to the psychological torment which many have suffered and do encounter regularly in relationships such as marriage and between dating couples.
This kind of abuse is an issue which is especially prevalent in Desi communities in the UK, of a South Asian origin.
To tackle this specific area of abuse, changes in legislation from the UK government have been introduced to take decisive action.
As domestic violence can take a number of different forms, the coercive control law addresses the emotional abuse a partner receives.
No longer do women or men have to wait to be psychologically or emotionally abused before they can take action.
Any form of serious verbal abuse, aggressive accusations of cheating or application of coercive control can now be reported as a crime.
According to Humberside Police:
“Coercive control can happen over a long period of time and at first is usually fairly subtle. The abuser at this point will have usually used their powers of manipulation to control their partner, who is probably oblivious of the control they have over them.
“It is only when other people start to notice a change in you or you begin to question or panic if you are not home before a certain time that is when the alarm bells usually start to ring.”
“From our experience, it is not uncommon for coercive control to continue or escalate at the point of separation, as the abuser feels the victim is escaping his or her control.”
If found guilty, a person can face a maximum of five years in prison.
We take a look at examples of the kind of abuse which can land a partner in serious trouble with the law in the UK.
Controlling Access to Money
A person who controls the entirety of finances in a relationship has leverage.
Therefore, the changes to the law say that if a person denies their partner access to money, there could be grounds for prosecution.
Domestic violence charity Refuge has had cases where people were living on an allowance.
Allowances so small they could barely afford to buy food for themselves.
In the past, in-laws would even demand all the money earned by daughters-in-law. The allowance given to them would be reflective of the control imposed on them.
Nowadays, some women still do face this issue and therefore, access to their money is controlled, as it is seen as ‘part of the household’.
Also, spending which is not seen as ‘appropriate’ may be questioned by the husband.
Similarly, men who are controlled by wives also suffer from control imposed on their money.
Where the spending is monitored and they are constantly reminded that the household depends on the man’s earnings. Hence, indirectly controlling what he is allowed to spend money on.
Women who come from South Asia to the UK as spouses are especially at risk in such situations too because they have no recourse to public funds.
Most do not know how to get help and most live in fear of reporting their husbands and in-laws.
However, with the changes to the law support is now available.
Any partner abusing their relationship by controlling funds of the other on purpose or malicious intent can be subject to a criminal investigation.
Sharing Sexually Explicit Photos
With laws created to protect people from revenge porn introduced as a criminal offence in February 2015, related sharing sexually explicit images of a partner without consent, the law is now very strict and even clearer.
Nobody is allowed to share intimate photos of a person online or offline.
As more and more couples are happy and comfortable to film or take photos of each other or become sexually intimate on their phones, it is what happens when relationships go stale or break up is when it becomes a danger.
Sending ‘pics’ to each other whilst in the relationship can often happen at the desire to please the other partner. Many girls often do this to seek approval or attention for how they look physically.
But when the trust breaks and an ex-partner is in possession of such images, the sharing of these explicit images can be catastrophic.
For a Desi woman, the impact of such images or videos becoming public can be completely life-damaging.
Sometimes such images are shared ‘as a laugh’ a by an ex-boyfriend to his mates. But once out in the public domain, they can appear on porn websites and adult forums.
In some cases, where even family or parents come across them or they are purposely sent to them for blackmail.
News stories of women taking their life or being taken to South Asia are common, due to such sharing of their images.
The rise in uploads of amateur homemade porn videos from within South Asian communities is also startling.
This is a breeding ground for such videos to be shared rapidly without consent.
Many clips are uploaded without the knowledge of people or person featured in them and end up on adult video websites or forums.
Therefore, if you are taking explicit photos or videos of yourself and sharing them with a partner, it is always important to be clear on the boundaries of why they are being personally shared and the repercussions of them being used in the future.
Remember deleting such explicit photos or videos on a smartphone does not mean they are permanently deleted, they can be recovered.
Permanent deleting can only be done with special software or if the phone is physically smashed.
But the law is now fully on the side of victims who fall prey to revenge porn perpetrators.
Always Putting Your Partner Down
Communication in personal relationships can be complex but still respectful between the two parties.
However, abusive communication is a relationship is when it introduces a lack of respect. Introducing fear, worthlessness and psychologically drawing on the weakness of the victim.
Anything from constant name-calling, mocking and subjecting a person to any other kind of insulting behaviour is illegal.
In Desi culture, where relationships are often of a patriarchial nature or have a misogynistic outlook, the male dominance can introduce a severe imbalance and suffering.
Leading to the husband or partner making constant disparaging comments or remarks towards the woman in the relationship.
Especially, if she is illiterate or has very little life experience due to a restricted upbringing or her coming from a South Asian country.
It could be anything from insulting her accent, to the way she cooks food to the way she dresses. Making the woman feel small and belittled constantly.
The same can happen vice-versa too, where a woman verbally abuses and constantly brings her partner down for inadequacies in the relationship or marriage.
Telling him he is “not good enough”, “is not earning enough money” and “cannot fulfil her expected needs”.
Demonstrating an upper hand and control of the relationship.
The new coercive control law provides support for victims of oppressed by this kind of behaviour towards them.
The director of Public Prosecutions Allison Saunders says:
“Being subjected to repeated humiliation, intimidation or subordination can be as harmful as physical abuse, with many victims stating that trauma from psychological abuse had a more lasting impact than physical abuse.”
Therefore, by putting down a partner in this way which impacts their mental wellbeing and psychological state means it can be grounds for prosecution against the perpetrator.
Stop You Seeing Friends and Family
If a partner either immediately or progressively inhibits the other from seeing family members or friends. This is against the law.
This can be in the form of monitoring a partner’s emails, messages or call log to check for communication with family or friends, and definitely, prohibiting the partner from seeing family and friends in person.
Behaviour towards isolating someone from their loved ones is now seen as an offence according to coercive control law.
This kind of behaviour is common in Desi marriages.
Traditionally, a woman of South Asian origin marrying into her husband’s household meant she adopted them as her ‘new family’ and ‘parents’.
Therefore, accepting she would have very little contact with her own family and parents.
This would also be policed by in-laws, especially, by mothers-in-law.
With the changes in society, this restrictive lifestyle is practised much less. Giving daughters-in-law more freedom than the past being support by their husbands.
However, due to the complexity of Desi family relationships, control is still being imposed by partners. Especially, if the controlling partner does not get on with the spouse’s family.
Many controlling Desi men will want to exercise their authority in a Desi marriage by restricting his wife’s access to her family.
Newlyweds in Desi society are more often living on their own now than with the extended family and in-laws.
This means that the women often in such a marriage will coerce the husband away from his own family and encourage him to be supportive of her family.
Eventually, isolating the man from his family and friends that he once socialised with and expecting his attention to be only on her.
Doing any of this whether a man or woman with the intent to control a partner can be now viewed as a clear sign of breaking the law.
You cannot control who your partner sees, visits or communicates with if it is not doing any harm.
Anyone suffering from this kind of abusive control can now get help from the law.
Frighten or Intimidate You
If a partner is being controlled by the use of instilling fear or intimidation then the person doing this is committing an offence.
Women’s Aid explains that this can include any of the following:
- using physical control
- using angry gestures
- smashing things
- breaking possessions
- wielding weapons or household items
- shouting loudly with aggression
- using body size to intimidate you
- punching doors or walls
- blaming you for wrongs
- hiding things purposely
- threatening to kill
- threatening to hurt the children
- harming pets
- suicidal threats
Often in British Asian homes, where women or men have come from abroad and married a UK citizen, due to their vulnerability, they can be threatened. Making them powerless in the marriage.
The UK based spouses will often put fear in the partners that if they do not do as told or obey everything asked of them by the spouse or the family, they will be divorced and left to fend for themselves.
They also can be threatened with deportation or have their visa cancelled if they do not comply.
To someone who has no idea of survival in a new country and fear of being returned would most likely be living in a marriage of control in this way.
Desi men in a marriage or relationship, are typically guilty of such behaviours. To demonstrate their authority and leadership in the relationship.
Desi women who are illiterate and especially wives from abroad who do not know anyone or have family in the UK are often vulnerable to such behaviour.
The same can applies to British born South Asian couples where one person in the relationship may be suffering. With this fear being used to control them.
Many married Desi women will not speak up or report such issues because of the fear. Especially, if there are children in the family home. They will endure the hardship for their sake.
Another kind of intimidation is keeping British Asian women, in a relationship and scaring them that if they break-up or do not do as told, their families will be told about the relationship.
Therefore, if a partner uses threatening or intimidating behaviour of this nature, it can now lead to imprisonment for breaking the law.
How many times have partners been seen with attractive friends from the opposite sex, causing the red mist to descend?
Jealousy is a common issue when it comes to Desi relationships.
Suspicion can reach extreme levels with jealousy raising its ugly head and leading to major repercussions.
With Desi married couples and those in relationships both working and socialising nowadays, it is inevitable that jealousy can become a problem.
If a wife who works with male colleagues comes late from work constantly, it should not be a cause for suspicion and paranoia.
Just as a husband is working away more often than usual, should not lead to suspicion of affairs or a worry that there is a preference for the company of other people.
However, these issues have been known to crop up within Desi households which have caused breakdowns in trust and closeness between couples.
It can be very tiring for the “innocent” partner to have a jealous partner.
There is only so much questioning, protesting and possessiveness the other can take.
The constant bickering, interrogation and questioning can then result in an emotional outburst or even physical backlash.
Desi partners will now have to control their jealousy where relationships are concerned because the introduction of new laws will now protect the other party.
Accusing your partner of cheating, being possessive and acting in an extremely jealous manner are all grounds for prosecution.
Threaten to Reveal Private Things about You
We all have secrets. Especially in Desi communities, having a secretive life is a major aspect of living for many. More so when it comes to personal relationships.
From secret boyfriend/girlfriend relationships to addictions to mental health issues. All of these are personal and private to the individuals.
But when a harmless conversation turns into a threat to reveal personal things about you, that is a form of abuse.
Delicate information such as one’s sexual orientation is used to blackmail a person. This is particularly prevalent in South Asian society due to its narrow views on sexual orientation.
If an individual is of the LGBTQ community and their partner is aware they have not made this a known fact to their family and society, this information can be used as a means of extortion.
The fear of disapproval and stigma within the South Asian community towards sexual orientation is extremely high as well as being volatile.
With this being common knowledge many LGBTQ South Asians may experience duress from their partners, namely that if they don’t come out to their family the partner will out them.
In addition to sexual orientation, sexual promiscuity has been known as a point of blackmail. This has been the case more so for South Asian women than men.
The idea of South Asian women being virtuous and untouched before marriage has been a gendered practice for centuries.
While the attitudes towards South Asian men’s sexual activity prior and post-marriage are more relaxed, this is not the case for South Asian women.
Being intimate and exploring your sexuality with your partner be they a boyfriend/girlfriend or a husband/wife.
What is wrong and illegal is for your partner to reveal intimate and potentially culturally explicit details about your sexual activity. A jealous ex-partner may disclose such details as an act of spite or revenge.
As it is known how reactive South Asians can be towards the idea of women and pre-marital sex, however with these new laws in place people are now more protected.
Therefore, if someone wants to reveal private things about you and use them against you, laws are now in effect to tackle this.
Forcing You What to Wear
One of the most common themes in Desi culture is emotional abuse.
As mentioned earlier, women in South Asian households are often subject to pressures, judgement and indirect force.
Verbal abuse in addition to a controlling demeanour often causes a restriction of freedoms for women in South Asian marriages.
One such way of exerting indirect force and control is by commanding what is appropriate and inappropriate for women to wear after marriage.
This is done either by a husband or a mother-in-law, who shame the woman for wearing ‘western clothes’. Cases of women dressing for work after marriage and then being berated for wearing a knee-length skirt as per their uniform have been common tales.
The emotional torture and distress become so severe that these women give in to the demand to wear only South Asian clothes such as a shalwar kameez.
Far too often south Asian women are told to wear longer shalwar kameez or a burqa to cover revealing body parts. Or to cover their heads in the presence of guests, particularly male guests.
Commanding what a woman can and cannot wear infringes on her civil liberties to live her authentic and free life.
Women being told what to wear by their partner now makes the accused liable for charges.
This also does apply the other way round too. If a female partner forces her man to wear things against his will.
Any examples of this kind of behaviour on display will provide the law with a reason to prosecute.
In the age of smartphones, laws are having to evolve and adapt.
The use of technology and phones is becoming a complicated area to police.
To address this the Crown Prosecution Service states under new legislation, it’s illegal for anyone to spy on you using online communication tools.
Therefore, any partner who spies on the other can be charged under the new law.
With control as a means of keeping a relationship under a firm grip, there will be those Desi husbands or wives and partners who will insist on ‘checking up’ on their partners.
While curiosity is prevalent in most relationships, this should not grow into an invasion of privacy or stalking.
With hacker software such as keyloggers and tracker apps such as mSpy, mCouple and mobiStealth available, Desi partners now have tools to intrude on your phone and social media usage.
Accounts that can be hacked include Facebook, this all could occur without the account holder’s knowledge, which is deeply disturbing.
In addition to hacking; the checking of emails or WhatsApp and text messages secretly also count as offences with the new law.
If your partner is insisting that you having a tracker put on your phone so he or she can know where you are at all times, this is illegal.
It is not lawful for any individual to be expected to report their every step to their partner.
All of these acts and any other forms of spying if done without the consent of the partner can be seen as a violation of the new law.
If your partner makes you conceal the fact he or she is coercing you to do things you don’t want to, that’s abuse.
If you are forced to have sex against your will, coerced into sexual acts or watching porn when you don’t want to, or chooses to violate you in any way, then he or she would face prison.
While such heinous actions are more known to occur in marriages within the South Asian community this could happen in dating relationships as well.
So we would warn anyone who has been subjected to this type of violation that it is illegal and they can and should press charges.
Marital rape has been and is still, a large issue for the South Asian community.
A lot of South Asian societies considered the marital bed and the sex that accompanies it, they’re right not a privilege.
This would lead to marital rape, abuse and violence subjected to women who were only expressing their right to say no.
Consent is incredibly important if you are coerced by your partner to perform sexual acts or are being forced to watch pornography these actions are all now seen as criminal.
Police and Prosecutors being trained for this
The good news is any of the aforementioned forms of abuse taking place against a person, they can be reported.
Humberside Police say:
“This is why it is very important for victims to report their situation to the police or a support network, so we can help you with safety plans, protection orders. If we are told about it, you will not have to deal with your partner’s domestic abuse all by yourself.”
If there is sufficient evidence, then there can be grounds for a coercion charge that can lead to a person’s imprisonment.
The introduction of these laws will provide UK police and prosecutors with the help from the government to deal with this issue head-on.
No longer will victims need to suffer the emotional and psychological abuse that the law could not protect them from. There’s help on hand.