A landmark moment for Scotland: SafeLives charity welcomes the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act – but highlights the importance of high quality training to grow understanding.

SafeLives is delighted to see the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act – which makes coercive control illegal in Scotland for the first time – and to be supporting Police Scotland in helping police understand the dynamics of domestic abuse.

Our Whole Lives research found that over 130,000 people in Scotland experience domestic abuse each year. Almost one in five women in Scotland will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

And of those victims who access specialist domestic abuse support, 68% disclose they have experienced controlling behaviour.

We welcome the new Act so the true extent of the fear and control endured by victims of abuse in Scotland can now be addressed in law. However, legislation is only part of the answer. It must be backed up by quality, effective training to help police and other professionals understand the dynamics of abuse and the tactics used by perpetrators. This is a landmark moment for Scotland. It can save the lives of thousands of people, but it will only be a success if we work together.’

Coercive control involves deliberate tactics used to isolate, undermine, threaten and degrade. These tactics can be subtle and hard to spot, but slowly build up over time leaving a devastating impact on adult victims and their children well into the future, long after any physical injury may have healed.

Despite expert knowledge on the ground by specialist staff, until now these behaviours have had very limited visibility in the criminal justice system, with most offences centred on physical violence. We want more people to understand how these psychological tactics work.

We’re pleased to be working closely with Police Scotland and our partners ASSIST, the Caledonian System, Sacro (Fearless) and Scottish Borders Safer Communities team to deliver DA Matters Scotland – a change programme for police across the country. This is more than just training; the collaborative approach makes it unique, and its ambition is nothing less than long term cultural change.

Lucy McDonald, SafeLives Programme Lead for Scotland

Read the report

A three-year programme that aimed to review and improve the support available for domestic abuse victims in Scotland

Whole Lives Scotland

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