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Ireland criminalises emotional and psychological abuse

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Ireland criminalises emotional and psychological abuse
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Victims of psychological and emotional abuse can now apply for emergency barring orders against their partners in Ireland, even if they are not living together.

The Domestic Violence Act 2018 was passed in Ireland on Tuesday and states domestic abuse in intimate relationships is now a criminal offence.

The new measures offer broader protections to individuals suffering from various forms of “coercive control” from abusive partners or spouses.

Ireland is one of the few European countries that have adopted such measures. Governments in France, England and Wales, as well as Scotland, have also listed emotional abuse and coercive control as a criminal offence.

“For too long, domestic violence has been seen primarily as physical abuse, said Ireland's Minister of Justice Charlie Flanagan.

"The new offence of coercive control recognises that the effect of non-violent control in an intimate relationship can be as harmful to victims as physical abuse because it is an abuse of the unique trust associated with an intimate relationship.”

Women’s Aid, a 24-hour hotline that provides support to abuse victims in Ireland, applauded the new measures but also stressed more resources are needed for the act to be fully realised.

“From January 1, 2019, women must feel change quickly,” said Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin.

Of the 15,833 reports of domestic abuse to Women’s Aid in 2017, 10,281 of these were disclosures of emotional abuse.

Martin said that all court personnel — from the police and prosecutors to judges — need more training on how to deal with domestic violence cases.

"All of them need to understand that domestic abuse is quite different to a lot of crimes because of the abuse, the knowledge and the intimacy that’s there.

"That betrayal of trust — most of the time, they don’t see that.

"So unless we get better resourcing, [and] there’s proper training put in place for all of those peers of the criminal justice system, it’s still going to be a paper exercise," Martin said.

Under the new act, victims of domestic violence would be able to apply for an emergency barring order, lasting eight working days.

These orders can be granted to victims even if the couple is dating. Martin said 16% of the women who call the group’s hotline are young women at the early stages of their relationships who don’t own property or share children with their partners.

“They’re not as tied in together. The more tied in you are, the more difficult it is to leave,” Martin told Euronews, adding that one in five women suffers from domestic abuse in Ireland.

Key changes in the act:

• Relationships: All partners in an intimate relationship are eligible for Safety and Protection orders, with no need for cohabitation. In practice, anybody in an intimate relationship can now apply for a Safety or a Protection order and there's no minimum period of cohabitation required for applicants. This would also include ex-spouses and partners.

• Marriage: The act brings in the new criminal offence of forced marriage, which includes the removal of a person from Ireland for this purpose. Current legislation that enables people under 18 to marry will be repealed.

• Abuse: Criminalises psychological abuse or controlling and coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship that causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress, which has a substantial adverse impact on a person’s day-to-day activities.