Domestic Violence and Abuse: Your Rights Explained

Last week, our firm obtained non-molestation and occupation orders through the English court to protect a British woman living overseas who had been subjected to physical and mental abuse by her husband.

Sadly, the current restrictions telling people to stay indoors are likely to exacerbate issues of domestic violence, as more people at risk from abuse are forced to stay indoors with their abusers.

An estimated 1.6 million women and 786,000 men experience domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2019 according to the office of national statistics. Domestic violence or abuse will also take place within British expatriate families living overseas.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence covers more than just physical violence and threats. It might also include sexual violence, emotional or other psychological abuse, harassment or controlling behaviour (including financial and indirect controlling behaviour). Some types of violence are physical and may include:

  • Assault
  • Rape
  • Damaging property

Some types of abuse are not physical, such as:

  • Threats
  • Criticism
  • Harassment
  • Controlling behaviour, such as:
    • isolating someone from sources of support
    • reducing their independence
    • trying to control their behaviour
    • exploiting them
  • Coercive behaviour, such as trying to harm, punish or frighten someone by use of:
    • Violence
    • Threats
    • Humiliation
    • Intimidation
How to Protect Yourself

Some forms of domestic violence are criminal offences and should be reported to the police. The police can issue a domestic violence protection notice or domestic violence protection order.

There are also remedies through the Courts, for example to obtain a non-molestation order or occupation order. These orders can be made to last for several months or longer. If the person subject to the non-molestation order breaches it, this is a criminal offence punishable with up to five years imprisonment. Most London courts remain open and urgent matters such as these will be dealt with by a judge through a remote hearing via telephone or video link. The application can be made very urgently, even on the same day as the abuse took place.

Who can apply?

You can seek a non-molestation or occupation order against an ‘associated person’. An associated person may not be a husband or wife. It could be a partner, relative, friend or someone who lives in your house.

What if I Live Overseas?

If you are a British expatriate living overseas, you may still be able to obtain non-molestation and occupation orders through the English court. This will be important if the courts in the country in which you live are no longer functioning.

If your safety or that of a child is at risk, you should call the police in the place in which you live. The British Consulate will be able to assist you with details of refuges or charities that will provide support.

What is a Non-Molestation Order?

A non-molestation order is used to stop someone ‘using or threatening violence against another person or child, or molesting a person in any way.

Molesting can include:

Behaviour that harms, troubles, vexes, annoys or inconveniences an associated person or any relevant children.

Molestation can be direct and includes a range of behaviour, such as:

  • Physical harm
  • Verbal abuse or threats
  • Pestering another person

Molestation can also be committed indirectly, including:

  • In writing or through social media
  • Through a third party
  • Intimidation
  • Pestering
  • Persistent abusive text message, phone calls or messages on social media
  • Threats
  • Harassment

Molesting can also include pushing, punching, slapping, hair pulling, throwing objects and spitting.

A non-molestation order can also be used to keep a person away from a particular place such as the area around a home or a workplace.

For an application to be successful there must be evidence:

  • Of the behaviour complained of
  • That the applicant or a child are in need of protection
  • That an order is needed to control the behaviour of the respondent
Types of Non-Molestation Order

Non-molestation orders can do the following:

  1. Forbid one person from using or threatening violence against the other person
  2. Forbid one person from instructing some one else to use or threaten violence against the other person
  3. Forbid one person from communicating with another person (via telephone, text message etc)
  4. Forbid one person from entering another person’s home. It can even prevent them from coming within a certain distance of that home
What is an Occupation Order?

An occupation order can give you the right to remain in a home, or can order another person to be excluded from the home. An occupation order can also order a person to meet certain obligations for a home such as pay the rent or mortgage. It is often used to exclude a husband or wife from their home, when there have been incidents of domestic violence against the other spouse. Non-molestation and occupation orders are often made together.

If the issues in this article affect you, please contact us for confidential advice via Whatsapp (00447711189439), email to or contact us via our website.

Question, comment or concern? Our contact form is the best way to get in touch with a member of our team.

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