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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Thu 08-Mar-18 09:43:33

Guest post: “No one, young or old, should have to experience domestic abuse.”

Home Office minister, Victoria Atkins, outlines the Government’s proposals for a draft Domestic Abuse Bill

Lead photo

Together, we can end domestic abuse.

We all know the home we grow up in plays a huge part in making us the person we become. It’s where we take our first steps and learn to say our first words. For most of us, it’s the place where we feel the safest, where we first experience love, and where we learn right from wrong from those around us.

But for children in a home where domestic abuse is taking place, home can be a frightening and confusing place.

The NSPCC estimates that as many as one in five children are exposed to domestic abuse, which could involve physical, psychological or emotional harm. This is a truly horrifying statistic.

Listening to victims brings home just how much of an effect abuse can have on those who are forced to witness it. When I visited a Women’s Aid refuge in Grimsby I met survivors, victims of abuse and the people that work tirelessly to provide a safe space. What struck me most, and what gave me hope, was the resilience, resourcefulness and sense of community these women shared. It was in many ways a family – Christmas is celebrated with a meal shared by all and children playing together.

I was touched by many of the stories I was privileged to be told during my visit, but one in particular stays with me. That of Julia (not her real name), who told me how she and her young daughter had fled to the refuge to escape an abusive partner. The refuge was doing all it could, including placing Julia’s daughter in a local school, minimising the disruption to her education and social life and giving her emotional support.

Being exposed to domestic abuse can have devastating and long-lasting effects on children, which could result in behavioural problems, difficulties in forming relationships and issues at school. I know many people have, in later life, drawn on such childhood experiences to passionately campaign on domestic abuse and to support survivors, but children exposed to abuse can show signs of abusive behaviour themselves. And data unfortunately shows that those who witness domestic abuse at home are much more likely to be victims of abuse in adulthood. But perhaps worst of all, almost two thirds of children exposed to domestic abuse blame themselves for negative events.

The Government is clear that no one, young or old, should have to experience domestic abuse.

And while we have already put in place a series of measures to help families and end domestic abuse, we know that to truly eliminate it we must build a society with zero tolerance towards it. We must empower victims, communities and professionals to address domestic abuse in all its forms.

This is why the Government is committed to introducing a Domestic Abuse Bill. This will ensure greater protection and support for children who have been exposed to domestic abuse, enshrine an expanded definition of domestic abuse into law and require courts to consider tougher sentences in cases involving domestic abuse.

We want to hear from the public about ways we can improve support to victims and their families and make domestic abuse everyone's business.


We know that changes to the law alone will not end domestic abuse, which is why we are developing a programme of non-legislative action to support the Bill. We have already committed to introduce mandatory sex and relationships education into all schools. And I know a lot of local areas have rolled out innovative programmes to increase information sharing between police and schools. Today we have also announced that £8 million will be allocated specifically to support children who are affected by domestic abuse, part of our aim to intervene at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent it.

We want to hear from the public about ways we can improve support to victims and their families and make domestic abuse everyone’s business. To do this, we have just launched a 12-week consultation to ask for the views of domestic abuse survivors, their families and friends, and the professionals who work with them to help shape a plan of action that makes a real difference to people’s lives.

We want the law to reflect the terrible impact domestic abuse has on children. Part of the consultation will explore whether the new Bill could supplement existing guidelines by creating a statutory aggravating factor that would apply to all offences involving domestic abuse, including where children have been directly or indirectly exposed to abuse. This will require judges to consider tougher sentences for perpetrators of domestic abuse and help to make home a safe place once again.

We know what a devastating impact domestic abuse can have both on victims and children and we are determined to put an end to it. To do so we need the help and support of people from all backgrounds across the country. We need the views of all those who have experienced abuse, whether first-hand or otherwise, to make their voice heard and contribute to this consultation. And we need the views of charities and groups who work tirelessly in this area to help us inform the direction of the Bill.

Together, we can end domestic abuse.

Draft Domestic Abuse Bill Consultation

On Thursday 8 March 2018, International Women’s Day, the Home Secretary will unveil proposals for a landmark Domestic Abuse Bill – and invite the public to contribute views on how such a Bill should look.

The consultation will include proposals to:
- Remove one of the barriers that victims encounter in court: coming face-to-face with their alleged abuser. We are proposing to give domestic abuse victims the same status in court as those who have suffered modern slavery or sex offences. This would give them the same rights to a range of special measures, such as giving evidence behind a screen or via video link;
- Appoint a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to stand up for victims, monitor provision of domestic abuse services, and hold Government (local and national) to account;
- Redefine and widen the definition of domestic abuse in law to recognise harmful patterns of behaviour beyond violence;
- Create a consolidated new domestic abuse prevention and protection order regime to create a clearer pathway of protection for victims and intervene earlier;
- Make sure that, if abusive behaviour involves a child, the court can hand down a sentence that reflects the devastating life-long impact that abuse has on the child;

The Government recognises that while legislation is necessary to end the harms caused by domestic abuse, it will take more than new laws to make a lasting difference. £20m in funding is being made available to increase support in specific areas.

The consultation has been specially designed to make it easily accessible digitally to encourage as many people as possible to respond and input – not just professionals in the sector

Background

- Domestic abuse is often recognised as physical, but it can take the form of psychological, sexual, emotional or financial abuse.
- Since 2010 there has been a 26% increase in domestic abuse prosecutions and a 33% increase in domestic abuse convictions.
- There has been a steep increase in police recorded instances of domestic abuse – a 16% increase between 2015/16 and 2016/17. However, the Office of National Statistics estimates only a fifth of victims speak to the police in the first place.
- Nearly two million people every year – the majority of them women – suffer from domestic abuse at the hands of those closest to them. Tragically, 82 women and 13 men were killed by a partner or former partner in 2016/17.
- Evidence shows that those who suffer domestic abuse are vulnerable to other crimes such as serious sexual assault and stalking.
- Office of National Statistics data shows that adults who witnessed domestic abuse as a child in their home were far more likely to experience abuse by a partner as an adult (34% compared with 11% who did not witness domestic abuse).

By Victoria Atkins, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability and Minister for Women

Twitter: @ukhomeoffice

Bombardier25966 Thu 08-Mar-18 15:21:52

No mention of the refuges and support services having to shut down because of funding cuts? Or the women having to prove abuse in order to claim full child tax credits?

This governments record on supporting vulnerable women is dreadful. Shame on you Ms Atkins.

hareagain Thu 08-Mar-18 20:45:53

Believe it when the refuge in my town is reopened.

Theresasmayshoes11 Thu 08-Mar-18 21:34:17

You will never end domestic abuse pet don’t be Silly.

First thing would be to remove the abuser and put him/her into prison on remand and keep the kids and the parent in the family home. Not let out if prison without a tag and a proper monitored exclusion zone around the family.

Proper jail sentences and proper concequences

I would vote labour but they don’t even bother to hide their contempt of women. Well those actually born women. They love men in frocks

We are fucked

UpstartCrow Thu 08-Mar-18 21:34:34

You have been letting shelters close for lack of funding, and plan to let self identifying transwomen in the remainder.
Unisex, gender inclusive shelters proposed by Maria Miller are not fit for purpose. Women need and want women only spaces and services.

Men and trans people need their own, dedicated services.

To add insult to injury, this Govt backed out of a pledge protect women in court;
www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/04/ministers-failing-protect-women-abuse-victims-promised-legal-bill

''Among the proposed measures were laws to stop rape victims from being cross-examined in court about their previous sexual history, and tougher action on domestic violence. Both have now been sidelined.''

“While the government dithers and makes excuses, women are being abused by repeat offenders who should be on a register, victims are being cross-examined in court by their own stalkers, and rape victims are facing the torment of their own sexual history being used as evidence against their credibility,”

squarecorners Fri 09-Mar-18 01:00:23

This seems like all mouth and no trousers to me.
Also a lot of arse covering for the govt/social and not a lot of support for families.

Shimshiminysheroo Fri 09-Mar-18 08:46:59

£8 million that will directly support children affected by domestic abuse... How? By what mechanism? Through local authorities, education or health? Which agency will carry out direct interventions to support these children? Sounds like utter cobblers to me. The fact that camhs has barely any resources to offer therapeutic work with children, school cuts mean there is skeletal practical support and most outside agencies have been stripped by cuts, I really don't understand how this will be operationalised.

Austerity has significantly impacted on the mental health of vulnerable children.

ArcheryAnnie Fri 09-Mar-18 15:31:31

You have been letting shelters close for lack of funding, and plan to let self identifying transwomen in the remainder.

Unisex, gender inclusive shelters proposed by Maria Miller are not fit for purpose. Women need and want women only spaces and services.

This. As my late mum (constantly terrorised by my dad, sitting in her chair with broken glasses, bruises where it wouldn't show, cigarette burns, food she'd cooked thrown against the wall, and cigarette ash tapped into her hair) often said "fine words butter no parsnips".

RosaRosaRose Fri 09-Mar-18 18:01:25

I can't believe there are so few comments! Withdrawn housing benefit for refuge residents is appalling. That would have left me in a life threatening situation. Thank god I managed to escape and be supported. Is Victoria Atkins and are her team following this? What was the point of it? Nothing has been addressed. Vanity blog much?

hairycoo Fri 09-Mar-18 18:50:43

what about children of dv victims who refuse to leave the abuser? How long should children stay in these homes for?

Bearfrills Sat 10-Mar-18 00:11:09

What about restrictions and cuts to legal aid for victims of domestic violence meaning that many women have to face their abuser in court without representation?

FredaNerkk Sat 10-Mar-18 00:36:07

What about domestic abuse in the form of smacking? What does the proposal say about that? Currently no-one protects young children when domestic abuse is dressed up as 'reasonable discipline'. Yet, repeated hard smacks can be very harmful esp for a child's self esteem and feeling safe in their own home. But how can a child explain that? No-one takes any notice of what a smacked child goes through (the pain, humiliation, fright, lack of control) unless the smacking/abuse leaves a physical mark on a child. What about the emotional effects? Women are protected from emotional abuse such as being berated, put down and intimidated - and of course women are protected from being smacked. It sounds like this Bill will extend that protection. That's great but I'd like to see the government make it a priority to set out decent protection for children who suffer repeated angry smacking.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 10-Mar-18 00:50:21

Being exposed to domestic abuse can have devastating and long-lasting effects on children, which could result in behavioural problems, difficulties in forming relationships and issues at school.

Yet a convicted domestic abuser can use the Family Courts to continue to inflict abuse on his Ex and children. Additional help in the Criminal Courts is OK, but you cannot allow abusers to use Family Courts as a loophole.

And it's all a hill of beans if you cut funding to refuges and make it difficult for families fleeing abuse to find sanctuary and a new, safe home.

Notallthat Sat 10-Mar-18 07:53:34

No point throwing money at it when you then throw women and children under a bus at family court by leaving them unrepresented. Many women stay under threat of harm to the children then the 'justice' system forces them to co-parent and hand over the most precious people in their life because the abusers has access to quality legal advice whilst the abused gets nothing (and thats not even going into the fact that if you say the wrong thing they'll accuse you if failing to protect the children and you may lose them anyway).
Sadly you will never stop domestic abuse, the victims of the worst abuse never report it anyway as the repercussions of doing so are far more frightening than what is happening at the time and if they do finally flee terrified with the children, social services and the police ask you to go back home for the weekend as there's no accommodation to put you in but if you try again monday they may be able to help.

WellThisIsShit Sat 10-Mar-18 08:07:33

I have no idea why you are asking this. The answer is bloody obvious and if you can’t see it I’m unsure what you are doing with your time, energies or efforts.

STOP CLOSING DV REFUGES.

Cutting funding to already stretched refuges leaves women trapped in violent situations.

Anything else is posturing and all this talk of freeing up so much money blah blah blah is simply a slap in the face to the women and children who have been turned away from services closing or full.

I dislike this presence at caring and it feels more like egotistical showmanship than actual action and commitment to women who are trapped in absolutely horrendous situations.

If you want to help real women’s lives and real children’s lives... then stop dismantling the existing infrastructure that helped them get out and stay out.

Put the money back in instead of squandering it on studies and consultants and layer upon layer of needless bureaucracy.

Use the money to help people. On the ground. In the refuges. For support services, legal aid and help rebuilding lives so women aren’t forced to return to the abuser because the government gives them no other option.

Use the money in ways that directly help women. At the coal face. When it’s happening. Not wasted so far up the chain that in reality you’ve done nothing to create more spaces in refuges and more skilled personnel to directly engage with women and children.

This needs to be your primary objective. Anything else is just window dressing. Anything else is failing women who need help to escape dv. Women who are DYING. Women who are trapped. Women who cannot protect their children.

Things have got so much harder for women. It’s harder to leave and it’s harder to stay gone.

You have the power to change this. You have the power to really save women and children’s lives.

Don’t fuck it up.

WellThisIsShit Sat 10-Mar-18 08:18:50

I do hesitate to introduce a secondary objective, after directing funding to refuges that are so desperately needed, as the government do like to find a way to squirm out of helping anyone vulnerable and in need directly.

But, if you manage a secondary objective, here is my suggestion:

Recognize that abusers use the family courts to continue their abuse. And act to make that more difficult. Currently, it’s a system that doesn’t just enable abusers to manipulate it, it positives empowers them to abuse.

MrsBertBibby Sat 10-Mar-18 08:59:52

Your party could have helped by not eviscerating legal aid for family law. You can say all you like that it is available for DV victims but

A. it is only non means tested for getting injunctions, and that is a fraction of the legal help victims
B. Means testing excludes virtually all victims for legal aid in relation to children and divorce/finance who have jobs
C. You try actually getting a legal aid lawyer to do the injunction work. It is so low paid and so high risk for them that they just won't take it. I know, I'm a family solicitor and I have client after client coming back and paying privately for injunction work because legal aid providers won't or can't help.

When women can't get funding to keep their children and themselves protected by law, when they can't get into refuges, and when 2 a week are still being murdered by their partners, tinkering around the edges with special measures (still not available in family court) and destroying refuges by removing housing benefit shows your party up for the bunch of savages you are.

Hypocritical nonsense of the highest order.

Oblomov18 Sat 10-Mar-18 11:14:27

Oh please. I've heard all this bullshit before. I can't believe you are getting behind such a campaign. You are focusing on all the wrong areas.
The real problem is that there is no support afterwards.

There is no help for the children, not enough SW'ers, no Camhs/family counselling etc facilities for children who need MH support.

All MH sections have had funding reduced.

How is this going to help?

Trailedanderror Sat 10-Mar-18 14:24:36

I work In DV and as others have said, it's difficult to have much faith in a government which has cutting funding for all, women and DV survivors particularly. I'd like to see the Freedom programme delivered in schools and to Health Visitors, but it has to be hand in with well funded practical support, not as window dressing.

Amyerda Wed 14-Mar-18 20:38:22

The tory government welfare reforms which are ongoing disproportionately affect women as one parent families who are often forced to return to abusive partners due to sanctions and poverty, in addition to being forced to disclose rape in order to claim tax credits for a third child. This along with cuts to refuge funding and legal aid......How is this supporting women and children experiencing abuse?

peachdribble Wed 14-Mar-18 21:37:52

There’s such a massive MH problem in this country - so many different addictions leading to all sorts of domestic problems. Spend the money on NHS & social care to enable adults to get easier access to help/ rehab so that they can function properly as partners and parents!

Spinflight Fri 16-Mar-18 04:02:36

This is truly scary, a Duluthian monster on steroids.

Unless relational aggression, and it's role in relationship conflict, is criminalised to the same extent this makes no sense whatsoever.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=umZEqHF7GF4

That however would mean going against the feminist sisterhood and their dogma which most sane women utterly reject.

You might as well teach MGTOW and Red Pill philosophy in schools, as that will be the effect. Justifiably so too.

Writing third party abuse into law is the government's priority? Don't the tories have more pressing concerns than destroying the already slim prospect of stable families?

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