10 ways your partner's unreasonable behaviour could actually be breaking the law

By Claire Schofield
Friday, 30th August 2019, 4:38 pm
Updated Friday, 30th August 2019, 5:38 pm
The domestic abuse bill now outlaws a number of things that were not previously covered by existing legislation (Photo: Shutterstock)
The domestic abuse bill now outlaws a number of things that were not previously covered by existing legislation (Photo: Shutterstock)

A new law came into force earlier this year that now makes emotional abuse within a relationship illegal.

In the eyes of the law, domestic abuse is no longer restricted to physical violence, with the offence of coercive control now recognising that abuse can take several forms.

Extended legislation

Changes to Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Act came into force on 1 April 2019, making psychological abusive behaviours a crime in Scotland.

The new legislation is aimed at tackling all aspects of domestic abuse, rather than being strictly limited to physical violence, with offenders now faced with up to 14 years in prison for coercive and controlling behaviour.

Harmful, emotionally abusive behaviours haven't historically been captured by the law, limiting the legal tools the justice system has had to deal with such cases.

The new legislation doesn't consider domestic abuse as being a one off incident, but rather a pattern of control, intimidation and humiliation by a partner or ex-partner.

Changes to the law were voted through by Scottish Parliament in January 2018, making psychological abuse and coercive control illegal.

The legislative changes now make the following 10 acts towards a partner illegal:

1. Sharing intimate or sexually explicit images of you - either online or not

So-called 'revenge porn' is about power, control and humiliation and was made illegal in Scotland in 2016 through the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act.

It is described by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as a form of 'online domestic abuse', which is "designed to cause fear, alarm or distress, and often used to humiliate, threaten and control the victim".

The new changes will make it illegal for someone to share intimate photographs of you with anyone, whether that is on or offline.

It is illegal for someone to share intimate photographs of you with anyone else (Photo: Shutterstock)

2. Restricting your access to money

Even if your partner earns more, the law says that one partner cannot stop the other from accessing money.

According to Women's Aid, this is a common tactic of abusers because if their partner is dependent on them, it helps them to gain more control.

3. Repeatedly putting you down

Constant insults from a partner might not be typically thought of as domestic abuse, but under the new law, persistent name-calling, mocking and other forms of insulting behaviour are now illegal.

This is behaviour designed to destroy a person's confidence and make them feel worthless.

4. Stopping you from seeing friends or family

If your partner continually isolates you from the people you love - either by monitoring or blocking your phone calls, emails, or social media, telling you where you can or cannot go, or stopping you from seeing your friends or relatives - this is recognised as controlling behaviour and is against the law.

Women's Aid note one of the most common ways abusers often do this is by acting jealous and accusing their partner of cheating on them, or loving others more than them.

Your partner isolating you from the people you love is against the law (Photo: Shutterstock)

5. Scaring you

Physical violence isn't the only way to scare someone.

Your partner might not physically assault you, but if they are doing enough to frighten you, they are committing an offence.

Women's Aid says this can include, but is not limited to:

- Blocking you by standing in the way, or using physical size to intimidate

- Making angry gestures

- Shouting at you or whispering things they know will scare you

- Ruining your possessions

- Breaking things

- Punching walls

- Wielding a knife or a gun

6. Threatening you

Making threats to control you is a form of abuse.

This can include, but is not limited to:

- Threatening to reveal your secrets or private things about you

- Threats of self-harm or suicide

- Threats to kill or harm you, your children (if any), or pets

- Threatening to spread lies about you to friends, family, employers or your community

7. Forcing you to obey their rules

A relationship should be a partnership, with neither partner having control over the other.

If you are forced to abide by rules set by your partner, it could mean they are committing a crime.

By having lots of strict rules and punishing, or threatening to punish you if you disobey, abusers get even more control over you and your behaviour, says Women's Aid.

A relationship should be a partnership, with neither partner having control over the other (Photo: Shutterstock)

8. Controlling how you look

This can include repeatedly telling you what to wear or not to wear, telling you how to wear your hair, wanting you to lose or gain weight, and giving you no choice in the matter.

How you look is not something your partner should, or should want to, control.

9. Using your child (if any) to control, threaten or intimidate you

This can include, but is not limited to:

- Putting you down in front of a child to humiliate you

- Threatening violence towards a child to control or frighten you

- Using a child to spy on your day-to-day activities

- Being abusive in the presence of a child

Harsher penalties could also be imposed if the abusive behaviour is likely to negatively impact on a child living in such an environment.

This could include a negative effect on their well-being or development.

10. Making you doubt your own sanity

This is sometimes called 'gaslighting' and is designed to make you doubt your own reality.

It can involve lying, manipulating situations or people, or denying that things have happened to stop you from being able to trust yourself and your judgement of a situation.

If you are scared of your partner, or worried about someone you know, contact Scotland's 24-hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234.