AN organisation that provides support for the victims of domestic abuse has welcomed the introduction of the Government’s Domestic Violence Act.

The Bill received royal assent last week, after a three-year delay caused by two general elections, the pandemic and the pre-Brexit prorogation of parliament.

Safety Net, which supports the recovery of those affected by rape, exploitation, sexual and domestic abuse across Cumbria, have explained what the new Act will mean for victims of domestic abuse.

New laws mean that controlling and coercive behaviour is now a criminal offence or the first time in history. The legal definition of domestic abuse now includes emotional and economic abuse.

Furthermore, abusers will no longer be allowed to directly cross-examine their victims in the family and civil courts and victims will be given better access to special measures in the courtroom to help prevent intimidation.

Jo Birch, Safety Net’s head of operations, said: “The new Domestic Abuse Act will give extra protection to our clients and their families.”

The charity has also provided a case study to show what it is like living with abuse. Names have been changed to protect those involved.

Melanie met Ben in 2009 and quickly fell pregnant. However, she soon noticed he had issues, including bankruptcy and cocaine addiction.

After he attempted to blame Melanie when he was caught out behaving in a sexual manner with a young woman, she realised Ben was controlling her.

She said: “Things escalated as he realised his facade was crumbling and he did everything possible to preserve his reputation. He told our families that I didn’t like them, and this culminated in a family member assaulting me.

"One day he attacked me, and in self defence I pushed him away with my hands. He took photos of his scratched face to use as evidence against me to bad mouth me to his friends. I started being seriously worried for my safety, so I moved in with my sister for a few months.

"The following months were really difficult as I tried to navigate child contact visits with him. He was incredibly aggressive and angry and accused me of poisoning my son against him.

"I could have refused contact but I knew if he did that he would go to the family courts and he was such a sophisticated con man that I knew he’d wrap CAFCASS around his little finger and they’d believe him, not me.

"I got some support from a local domestic violence service, who made sure that I wasn’t at immediate risk. But emotionally I was a complete wreck. My head felt like a volcano exploding, I was getting three or four hours sleep per night. I was hyper vigilent the whole time, and my son was really clingy.

"Someone from Barnardo’s put me in touch with Safety Net, and it was at that point that everything began to make sense.

"I had therapy and support work over several months and I began to realise that I had spent 7 years of my life with a real sociopath.

"The reason I was stuck and hadn’t been able to leave despite all the problems – the bankruptcy, the drugs, the endless rumours of other girls – was because of something called cognitive dissonance.

"I wasn’t able to tell what was real and what was not, what part of him was real and what was not. He had gaslighted me over many years.

"My mind was trying to find more and more distorted pieces of evidence for the less painful belief, which was that he was a good person and I was not being psychologically, emotionally and financially abused.

"I received support from Safety Net for several months, and they helped me realise that the reason I had been attracted to Ben was probably because of my narcissistic father. I started to heal and reduce my anxiety.

"I started researching how to manage someone with this sort of personality, by using a method called the Grey Rock technique.

"This helped me to manage the contact visits. I feel safe now and I have peace, and partly this is a result of the support I’ve received from Safety Net. I couldn’t have done it without them."