A WOMEN’S Aid trainer wants sentencing to match victim impact as statistics show almost 100 domestic abuse offences have been recorded in Ayrshire since a new law was passed.

After the introduction last year of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 on April 1, 99 offences were recorded across the region with 92 involving female victims and seven males.

The act created a single offence covering the full range of abusive behaviours including physical, psychological, financial and sexual abuse.

Judy Ferguson, training and prevention worker at East Ayrshire Women’s Aid, said: “There’s been a sea-change with the devastating impact on non-physical abuse being recognised. Previously, it’s been swept under the carpet. Coupled with police training on the new law and inter-agency working we’re seeing a real change.”

However, Ms Ferguson said that despite training for the judiciary, victims and advocates feel there is a disproportionate lack of sentencing.

She said: “A victim has told their story, distilled it down and that results in a low sentence. Why would they come forward if that’s the response?”

Part of the problem is the way in which perpetrators tailor the psychological abuse to the victim. In one case the abuser took the victim’s make-up bag so she couldn’t go to work.

Although this may not appear serious, the abuser was able to control and isolate the victim having a major impact of their life.

Ms Ferguson said another woman’s fear of spiders was used to play of her mental health. Her abuser left a note at her door saying he had put spiders in her house.

Ms Ferguson said: “That’s the nuanced nature of domestic abuse – perpetrators tailor it to their victim’s fears.”

“We’ve had partners using the lockdown as a way of keeping the children with them and claiming the universal credit the woman gets so her payments get stopped.

“Or returning the kids, saying ‘I hope you don’t get COVID as I’ve been with my mate all weekend."

Cumnock Chronicle: Councillor Jim McMahon, member for Cumnock and New Cumnock and White Riboon ambassadorCouncillor Jim McMahon, member for Cumnock and New Cumnock and White Riboon ambassador

Councillor Jim McMahon, member for Cumnock and New Cumnock and White Riboon ambassador, said: "I personally do not think the issue has enough coverage nationally throughout the year, with the 16 days of action in November and December being the only nationally recognised event.

"Although the statistics surrounding violence against women and girls (VAWG) do not make good reading, I would like to think that more people are confident reporting the issue, knowing the support they seek is in place to protect them.  

"I would also like to encourage the victims of VAWG in any form, whether that be coercive control  or psychological to find a way of leaving that relationship and to have the courage and confidence to call the police if it becomes physically violent.

"May I take this opportunity to remind people of Clares Law, whereby, if you suspect your partner may have had a violent past, you can contact Police Scotland for a disclosure by calling 101 or direct contact at your local station and if you suspect your friend is in a violent relationship you can also request the information and let them know if it is confirmed."

If you need help, you can call East Ayrshire Women’s Aid on 01290 423 434 or SWA's Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 027 1234.


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