Emotional and psychological abuse in the family

Emotional and psychological abuse is a type of domestic violence that can be defined as any abusive conduct (gesture, verbal abuse, behaviour, attitude) which degrades, by its repetition or its systematisation, one’s self-worth or mental or physical integrity. It leads to the isolation of the abused spouse and places them under the control of their husband or wife.

Emotional and psychological cruelty is characterised by a succession of behaviours which may appear inconsequential at first, but which, when repeated, lead to degraded living conditions.

Victim of emotional and psychological abuse, harcèlement moral, in France:

In France, emotional and psychological abuse within a couple is an offence that criminalises a series of occurrences.

It is defined in Article 222-33-2-1 of the Penal Code as follows:

“Emotionally abusing a cohabitee or a civil solidarity pact partner by repeated conduct which is designed to or which leads to a deterioration of their living conditions reflected by a degradation of their physical or mental health is punishable by three years’ imprisonment and a fine of €45,000 when these occurrences have caused a total incapacity for work of eight days or less or caused no incapacity for work, and five years’ imprisonment and a fine of €75,000 when they caused an incapacity for work of more than eight days.”

The same punishments are incurred when the criminal offence is committed by an ex-spouse or partner of the victim, or an ex-civil solidarity pact partner, pacte civil de solidarité – PACS.

As with emotional and psychological abuse within the workplace, it is necessary to prove the facts and their consequences. In criminal cases any type of evidence is accepted. It is paramount to be able to state precise facts with their date of occurrence in order to enable judges to establish the repeated nature of these facts over time and to establish that this isn’t a one-off event. The testimonies of family, neighbours, friends and children are admissible along with letters, emails, certificates, texts, voice mails.

It is also important to consult a doctor regularly and to go to the police or gendarmerie to report any abusive behaviour to the authorities. The officer you talk to will draw up a statement which will allow you to keep track of all the abuse you have endured.

Victim of emotional and psychological abuse in England or Wales:

Since March 2013, the Home Office defines domestic violence as follows.

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional”

Controlling behaviour is defined as follows:

“Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.”

Coercive behaviour is defined as follows:

“Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.”

Domestic violence will be prosecuted in court by a judge who may also issue a restraining order forbidding your spouse or partner to contact you or go to your home or workplace. If your spouse or partner doesn’t comply with this interdiction they may be prosecuted again and incur a five-year jail sentence.