FAQs: Domestic Violence

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FAQs: Domestic Violence

Why do we need a separate offence for domestic violence in the Penal Code even though the Select Committee did not address it?

Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) provides for the DVA to be read together with the Penal Code, but does not introduce domestic violence as a separate, individual offence in the Penal Code. This means that the charges under the Penal Code are treated like average offences, rather than reflecting the serious and persistent nature of domestic violence. Because domestic violence is a unique type of crime, typified by repeated and habitual violence and intimidation used in an intimate setting, it cannot be adequately addressed by existing Penal Code measures, which are drafted to address individual acts of violence or intimidation rather than repetitive acts. Simply charging an offender with one, two, or even five individual counts of "voluntarily causing hurt" does not do justice to months or years of repetitive acts of physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse a victim may have experienced. By including a separate offence called "Domestic Violence", the seriousness of repetitive and intimate violence can be addressed. The offence should also be made seizable, where the offender is arrested at the event of the crime.

If my husband is following me around, phones to threaten me or sends me SMS to scare me, is this domestic violence?

A central aspect of the dynamics of domestic violence is psychological and emotional abuse, alone or accompanying cycles of violence and intimidation. Even when there is no physical abuse, victims can be subject to stalking, repeated phone calls, threats of withdrawing financial support, threats of harming or taking children away, ridicule or social isolationism. By broadening the definition of domestic violence, these forms of abuse can be addressed. The Select Committee did not include, in its proposed amendments, an extension of the definition of hurt to allow for this provision.

If my boyfriend hits me, is he guilty of domestic violence?

Domestic violence happens in intimate relationships, not just marital ones. As such, JAG had proposed to the Select Committee to extend laws regarding domestic violence to protect those in close personal relationships to be determined with regard to the nature and intensity of the relationship, in particular the amount of time the persons spend together, the duration of the relationship, the place or places where the time is ordinarily spent, and the manner in which the time is ordinarily spent. Unfortunately, the Select Committee did not include this in their proposed amendments to the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code.

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