25th April 2018

Woman imprisoned for 7½ years for torturing and starving her boyfriend

This case involves a 22 year old man was isolated from his family and friends and subject to frequent, horrendous physical and mental abuse. Fortunately the neighbours eventually called the authorities and the ambulance and A&E staff realised what was happening. Otherwise apparently he was 10 days away from being dead. He did not truly realise what was happening was wrong, let alone that it was abuse.

It sounds terrible but what is truly shocking is that this is not that unusual – an average of 2 women are killed by a partner every week in England and Wales and as many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are known to have experienced domestic abuse in their lives. However, that is only the cases that ever come to light – the true total is likely to be much higher, especially for men, who are even less likely to report it. Domestic abuse is extremely widespread in our supposedly developed society. You can see more statistics here.

This case is certainly very serious, and unfortunately our department has experience in dealing cases where the abuse is just as horrific. Domestic abuse respects no boundaries at all – not of gender, age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious belief or apparent wealth. Nobody is immune to it: police officers, judges, and certainly lawyers have all been known to suffer domestic abuse from partners or family.

Domestic abuse can often be more subtle than in this case, and yet be no less damaging – controlling behaviour, financial abuse, isolation from family and friends, emotional and verbal abuse can all cause as much damage as physical abuse in the end. The law recognises many different forms of abuse and it certainly does not have to be physical. Indeed, some of the worst cases do not feature physical abuse at all.

What makes this case unusual is that the brave young man was prepared to speak out. Logically there is no reason why that should be unusual, but often the first instinct is to keep this quiet. Sometimes those who suffer abuse are deliberately led to believe that it is something to be ashamed of, perhaps that they will not be believed: nothing could be further from the truth.

It is only because people are afraid to speak out that it is such a problem.There are very substantial laws to protect anyone enduring this kind of abuse, and extensive systems to support them. Nor does that necessarily mean the Police have to be involved – whilst you should always dial 999 and summon the Police if someone is in danger, the civil law has ample provisions to allow someone to escape the situation and protect them, without the Police ever being involved. Sometimes going through the Police is the best option, but it is only one of several options.

So, great respect to the young man for speaking out about this, but do not trust the suggestion in the press that it is unusual. If this is happening to you or someone you know, talk to someone about it – there is help there. For more information see here.

For help and support visit http://southerndas.org/, or call 0330 016 5112, or the National Domestic Violence helpline on 0808 2000 247.

If you or someone else is in danger, always dial 999 and summon the Police.