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Regulating relationships: an abuse of power?

Tue, 19th Feb 2013 06:45pm – 08:30pm

Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks Arcade, 35 – 39 Oldham Street, Manchester
M1 1JG

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Regulating relationships: an abuse of power?

Tuesday 19 February 2013, 6:45pm start

Helen Reece and Marc Ramsbottom will help introduce a discussion on the impact more regulation is having on relationships

Helen ReeceValentine's Day may be a little naff, but could the box of chocolates, some flowers or the meal out be hiding some domestic abuse or hidden 'coercive control'? You may think that question trivialises the serious problem of domestic abuse, but won't that be the consequence of extending the category of abuse into areas of psychology and emotions, being introduced by Nick Clegg in March 2013?

The new definition will include 'any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members'. Extending abuse beyond physical or sexual abuse to include financial, psychological and emotional abuse is a big step, and although it brings the law into line with a growing trend elsewhere, changing the law like this is a big deal.

Many groups involved in working with the victims of domestic abuse, including the police, may welcome these changes but there hasn't been much wider social and political debate on the issue. And with respect for the autonomy of family life being eroded, and institutions taking on more of a paternal and welfare role, will such extension see programmes like Big Brother being caught up in claims of abuse - after all Mark Kennedy, the undercover policeman who fell in love with the animal rights activist he was spying on, is claiming against the Police for not protecting him from the emotional hurt he experienced when he 'outed' himself.

The Home Office explanation of controlling behaviour as including acts 'designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent' by, among other things, 'exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain' or 'regulating their everyday behaviour' should set alarm bells ringing in its carte blanche approach to blurring historic boundaries between the public and private spheres. Is the category of abuse being used to allow state intrusion into areas of daily life it should not be involved in, or are the risks to us from each other so great we need nanny to help protect us from each other?







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