As the domestic homicide review into the murders of Claire and Charlotte Hart is published, Refuge calls for greater awareness amongst professionals of the dangers of coercive control.
In July 2016, Claire Hart was killed at the hands of her husband, Lance, before he killed their daughter Charlotte and then himself. Brothers – and Refuge champions – Luke and Ryan Hart were working overseas at the time, but have talked since about the controlling behaviour to which Lance had subjected the family for decades.
While the review released today does not identify specific failings of the system, it does highlight the need for greater awareness of the risks of coercive control and the opportunities professionals and members of the public had to ask questions about possible domestic abuse.
Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge said:
“It is critical that all professionals who potentially come into contact with survivors of domestic abuse are able to recognise and understand fully the many forms of domestic abuse, especially non-physical violence like coercive control. Professionals have a duty to ask the right questions and offer appropriate support, as they are likely to be the first person to whom a victim might suggest they are experiencing abuse.
“While the domestic homicide review that looked into the killings of Clare and Charlotte Hart did not identify any specific failings, a number of family members had been to see health professionals and alluded to problems at home. This case reflects the real need for health professionals and others to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and probe overtly.”
Ms. Horley also stressed that everyone has a role to play in ending domestic violence and supporting women: “Domestic abuse – physical and non-physical – is not a private matter, something to leave behind closed doors, or something to be ignored for fear of being seen as interfering. It is a crime, which affects 1 in 4 women in their lifetime. Two women are killed at the hands of their current or former partners, each week in England and Wales. Domestic abuse is a matter of life and death. We all have a duty to speak out and challenge violence against women and girls.”
Coercive control was criminalised in December 2015, but many people still do not recognise the signs nor realise it is a crime.
“For many women, the bruises and wounds of abuse are not visible on the surface. A large proportion of victims never suffer physical abuse,” said Ms. Horley. “Eight out of 10 of the women Refuge supported last year had suffered psychological abuse, on average for a period of six years. But, still, many people do not know that coercive control is a crime. Coercive control and non-physical abuse need to be talked about far more widely in the media and in society at large.”
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