Bill outlawing psychological abuse in relationships passed in the Dáil

The Justice Minister says new laws will send a clear message that non-violent domestic abuse will be just as much of a crime as physical violence.

The Domestic Violence Bill passed the final stages of the Dail last night - and will recognise the emotional and psychological aspects of the crime.

Improving access to the courts for victims and criminalising controlling behaviour are some of the main measures.

The legislation will go back to the Seanad before being signed into law by the President.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said psychological abuse can be just as harmful as physical violence.

He said: "The new offence of coercive control sends a clear consistent message that non-violent control in an intimate relationship is criminal.

"The effect of such behaviour may be as harmful to victims as physical abuse because it's an abuse of the unique trust associated with intimate relationships."

There are calls to further educate young men that violence against women is never acceptable.

Minister Flanagan thinks it's one of the most important pieces of legislation the Oireachtas has passed this year.

Fianna Fail's Jim O'Callaghan agrees - but says more work needs to be done.

He said: "The only way we are going to be able to resolve the problem and ensure that domestic violence is reduced is through a legislative response - we have that here, but also we need further responses.

"We need in particular to be able to educate and inform young men of the unacceptability of using violence against women."

Women's Aid Director Margaret Martin says the new legislation will change lives.

She said: "It's really imprtant that there is move away to understand that domestic violence actually includes so many different forms - whether it's physical, emotional, sexual or financial.

"An awful lot of people, they may never be physically abused but they may live with the high level of fear and threat and control and I think it's great to see that that's now going to be an offence."

- Digital Desk

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