Nicola Sturgeon said the measures contained in the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill recognise the “devastating effect” that non-physical abuse can have on victims.
The bill creates a specific offence of “abusive behaviour towards a partner or former partner”, including psychological abuse such as coercive and controlling behaviour.
Such behaviour could include subordination, humiliation, isolating a partner from friends, relatives and sources of support, and controlling or monitoring their day-to-day activities.
Speaking at the Glasgow Young Women’s Movement (YWCA) centre, where she met abuse survivors, the First Minister said: “I am proud that, as a society, we’ve come a long way from believing that domestic abuse is only a physical act.
“The truth is that the psychological scars left by emotional abuse can have devastating effects on victims, and this government will work hard to make sure perpetrators face the justice they deserve.
“This bill will help our police and prosecutors hold abusers to account – but importantly, it also shows those who have suffered abuse that we stand with them and will take the steps needed to help them.
“I know that legislation alone will not tackle the scourge of domestic abuse, which is why support services like the one I visited this morning are so important.
“The YWCA – alongside Assist, Scottish Women’s Aid and many other groups – provides a vital lifeline for survivors, and the brave women I met today are a testament to the strength their support can bring.”
Kara Brown, director of YWCA Scotland, said: “The Young Women’s Movement is proud to be part of a country breaking ground through new progressive legislation.
“It is only by addressing the full spectrum and cycle of coercive control and domestic abuse that change will take place.”
Sandy Brindley, national co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “We welcome the recognition of controlling and abusive behaviour within the criminal law.
“We hope this will provide much more protection for domestic abuse survivors in Scotland.
“Many women experience years of abusive and controlling behaviour but it can be very difficult to prosecute.”