Husbands who constantly criticise their wives over their weight or appearance may be guilty of domestic abuse, a Labour frontbencher has suggested. Seema Malhotra, Labour’s new shadow anti domestic violence minister, told MailOnline that such abuse could be part of a wider pattern of ‘controlling behaviour’ which can be as bad as a physical attack.
She said: ‘It can be part of a pattern of controlling behaviour that leaves people feeling fearful and terrorised in their own homes.’
Seema Malhotra, the MP for Feltham and Heston, said criticising a partner’s appearance could be part of a wider pattern of abuse
Ms Malhotra said repeatedly criticising a woman’s appearance could be seen as an ‘indicator of physical abuse in the future’.
She told MailOnline that one woman she spoke to had been forced to flee her home after her husband attempted to control her entire life. But she said it started with him criticising her appearance.
The Labour MP said: ‘She felt traumatised. For this woman her journey – her nightmare – started out with him making these comments about her appearance and progressed to wanting to control what she looked like and where she went until he had total control over her.’Ms Malhotra said she was not talking about arguments between couples or snide remarks made in anger, but a wider pattern of behaviour which leads to abuse.
She told the Times that that domestic abuse ‘affects women and men of all backgrounds — rich and poor, white and black and ethnic minority’ and needed to be tackled. But she said it was often misunderstood.
She said there are women ‘who spend their lives not just recovering from the trauma of having survived domestic violence but then are left on the run, picking up the pieces and trying to protect their children’.
She said figures showed there were 12 million women and 2.5 million men that had been the victims of domestic abuse – but the number of prosecutions was nowhere near that figure.
Ms Malhotra said her new position of anti-domestic abuse spokeswoman was created because ‘victims need a greater voice at the heart of the system’.
She will work on a variety of issues – including forced marriage, genital mutilation abusive porn.
She said: ‘Porn is now easily available on mobile phones. Young people are accessing it who are sometimes not even in their teens.’
Such images were often violent and offered unhealthy portrayals of sex and relationships, she said.