Govt to add psychological abuse as form of domestic violence

To stem a growing tide of domestic violence, the government plans to add psychological and sexual abuse to the basis for court-imposed protection orders that prohibit perpetrators from approaching the victim’s home or place of work, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The government has drafted a proposal to revise the law on prevention of spousal violence and protection of victims, which it plans to submit at the ordinary Diet session next year.

The government’s aim is to respond to actual circumstances concerning domestic violence, in which serious cases of psychological abuse — pressure exerted on victims verbally, through attitude or by other means — are on the rise.

The current law limits the scope of protection orders to cases in which the victim is subjected to “physical violence” or “threats against their life or body.”

However, according to the Cabinet Office, physical abuse accounted for only about 30% of the calls to the government’s domestic violence hotline in fiscal 2020, while psychological abuse accounted for nearly 60%.

Because of the serious damage that psychological abuse can inflict, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the government determined it necessary to expand the scope of cases calling for protection orders.

In the draft proposal, psychological abuse will be defined as continuously shouting at the victim or criticizing them for shortcomings. Sexual abuse is planned to include such acts as forced abortion, refusal to use contraception and forced filming of sexual encounters.

There are currently three categories of protection orders: the first to prohibit stalking someone or approaching their home or place of work; the second to prohibit phone calls and other forms of contact, such as to request an in-person meeting or other reason; and the last to evict the perpetrator from a residence shared with the victim.

Under the revision, stalking the victim through social media and identifying their location using GPS will be added to the list of prohibited acts in the second category.

Penalties for violating a protection order will be raised from imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to ¥1 million to two years imprisonment or a fine up to ¥2 million.

The period for prohibiting physical approach will be doubled from six months to one year. This is based on the fact that divorce cases often take more than a year to be settled in court.

According to the Cabinet Office, the number of calls received at spousal violence counseling and support hotlines nationwide had ranged between 100,000 and 110,000 annually until fiscal 2019, but the number jumped to 190,000 in fiscal 2020 during the height of the pandemic. This is believed to be due to the increased time people spent at home.