Finally after months of waiting, the new enhanced domestic abuse bill is to receive its first hearing in Parliament this week. This was supposed to happen in 2019 but was put on hold as a result of the general election which took place at the end of 2019. It is said that this bill will be the most comprehensive package ever in tackling domestic abuse in the UK. But will it be enough? Ok, sure, anything the government do to support this cause is of course, very welcomed by those working in the field and by the women who experience the abuse. But on reading some of the proposed changes in the bill, I wonder if more could be done. For example, tier one local authorities e.g. county councils and unitary authorities, will be required to provide support and make sure that safe accommodation is available for women and their children. BUT, what about the women that don’t want to move to a refuge? For whatever their reasons, there will always be women that want support to stay safe in their current existing homes.
The bill will also offer longer term, more flexible protection when there is a Domestic Abuse Protection Order and Protection Notices in force. Such as, imposing requirements on perpetrators of domestic abuse which could force them to engage with alcohol or drug treatment programmes. BUT, what about Domestic Abuse Intervention programmes? Forcing abusers to engage with drug and alcohol programmes is all well and good but it also gives the impression that alcohol and drugs are a reason why perpetrators abuse their partners. Please let’s not forget that this is not the case and that the ’cause’ is a need for Power and Control.
I also, can not see much in the way of support for children who have witnessed/experienced domestic abuse. I may not have seen it because the bill in its entirety has not been fully published yet and if that is the case, then please accept my apologies! but just to get it out there anyway – we do need more laws and funding to support and protect children as they are the future and we can only break the cycle if children are educated and supported to understand and heal from their experiences.
Neither can I see any mention of funding and more support for services for men who have experienced domestic abuse. Because of more recent media attention to this dynamic of domestic abuse, more and more men feel able to come forward now, but there is hardly anything available to them. Yes, the number of women killed is at a 14 year high at the moment, but we know that domestic abuse cares not for gender! Just as women do, men will return to abusive, dangerous relationships when they ask for help and there is no help available.
The bill will also include a ban on perpetrators being able to cross examine survivors in the family court. This is fantastic. I have been in court with many women over the years who have had to go through this and it is a truly awful experience. The way in which this abusive practise has been allowed by the family courts has only served to convince the person that has been abused, that the justice system is very firmly on the side of the perpetrator!!
I believe the bill will also encompass new measures to recognise economic abuse and will be looking at ways in which migrant victims of domestic abuse can be supported. But if all these issues are dealt with in the new bill, we must make sure that the government provide the funding for these services as without it, none of the new initiatives will work!
So is enough being done? Nicole Jacobs, is the newly appointed Domestic Abuse Commissioner. I personally know Nicole and am confident that she will leave no stone unturned. However, whether it will ever be enough to stop violence against women and children – I am not sure?!