Home Secretary Theresa May has published details of new domestic abuse legislation, which will make “coercive and controlling” behaviour a specific offence.
Ms May said that she hoped that the new laws would help protect those who suffer serious psychological and emotional abuse.
“Coercive control can be tantamount to torture,” she said. “In many cases, dominance over the victim develops and escalates over the years until the perpetrator has complete control.
“Putting a foot wrong can result in violent outbursts, with victims living in fear for their lives.”
The new offence was unveiled following a government consultation, in which 85 per cent said they felt that existing laws did not do enough to protect victims.
In particular there are concerns that not enough is done to help those who may not suffer physical violence, but are bullied and intimidated on a daily basis.
Examples of coercive behaviour can include controlling access to money, preventing a victim from making friends or having hobbies and even telling them when they can eat, sleep and go to the toilet.
Those found guilty of the new offence face a five year prison sentence and a fine.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “We hope this new law will lead to a real culture change, so that every woman experiencing control can get the support she needs to break free safely.”
However, another domestic violence charity Shelter is less convinced that the proposals will make a genuine difference and encouraged ministers to adopt a “back to basics” approach to help victims.