When the Labour MP Rosie Duffield stood up in Parliament last week to speak in support of the Domestic Abuse Bill, I thought she was recounting the disturbing experience of one of her constituents. It was only when she began to talk about the abusive partner meeting her party leader and criticising what she wore in the chamber that it I realised this was her own harrowing account of what she had been through. As she described being screamed at in the car “with humiliation and embarrassment now added to permanent trepidation and constant hurt”, her voice and hands shaking, the hurt and upset caused by the experience of abuse was clearly visible.

Duffield is my local MP, winning a long-held Tory seat in Canterbury in what was one of the biggest upsets of the 2017 general election. I have watched her speak on various occasions and see her as intelligent, motivated and outwardly confident. Admittedly, I never once imagined she was a domestic abuse survivor. Society would have us believe that she is an unlikely victim – she’s successful, financially independent and without any problems such as drug or alcohol addiction. How mistaken I was.

In making her personal trauma public in the manner she did, she showed how domestic violence can affect anyone. And it can take hold without warning. Duffield testified that the early days of her relationship were filled with gifts, compliments and promises of lasting love but eventually the mask slipped and her life turned into a cycle of “reward, punishment, promises of happy ever after, alternating with abject rage, menace, silent treatment and coercive control”. Domestic abuse does not have to show itself as bruises and black marks, although too often this is also a feature. The types of abuse women (and some men – figures show women are four times more likely to experience domestic abuse than men) suffer, are much more complex than many realise. It can be extremely subtle and, as such, can be much harder to notice if a friend or colleague is suffering. Of course, it can also be much harder to ‘prove’, too.

Conservative estimates show 1.3 million women experience domestic violence a year. In Northern Ireland police officers respond to an incident, on average, every 17 minutes.

We often talk about the damaging effects of domestic abuse on the victim or survivor. But the trauma also extends to children living in a home where there’s abuse. The abuse does not have to be directed towards a child for them to feel hurt and scared. They only have to see it, hear it, or feel it when it comes in the form of coercive control - such as a partner giving the silent treatment and using manipulation. In fact, figures suggest that children witness an estimated three quarters of the abuse that takes place in the home, despite many parents believing they are shielding them from it. We already know this has extremely damaging consequences; children who’ve grown up witnessing abuse in the home or suffering abuse themselves are more likely to use drugs, become involved in crime and often go on to form abusive relationships themselves. And so the cycle continues. Which is why the Domestic Abuse Bill, which had its second reading in Parliament last week, will be an important piece of legislation when it goes on the statue books next year.

The bill will prevent abusers from personally cross-examining victims in the family courts during custody hearings. It will define domestic abuse as not just violence but economic control and non-physical manipulative behaviour, the subtle type that Duffield bravely recounted.

It will also raise awareness of domestic violence through the establishment of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Contrary to what former PM Theresa May described as ‘a once in a generation opportunity’, however, the bill is more a case of making good on the legislation passed in 2015, when coercive control actually became a crime. As this proves, much of the legislation is already there but is not being implemented properly and women are being failed over and over again. Laws are important but effecting real change on the ground – in health, education, social services and in our police force – and providing resources to support the laws, is where the real work lies.