Women’s Aid puts survivors at the heart of its Domestic Abuse Bill consultation response
Thursday 31st May 2018
Women’s Aid surveyed survivors to find out what would make a real difference to their lives and what they think would help tackle domestic abuse.
The national domestic abuse charity put survivors’ voices at the heart of its response to the consultation on the government’s landmark Domestic Abuse Bill.
Women’s Aid sent the online Survivor Survey to the Women’s Aid network of Campaign Champions, members of the online Survivors’ Forum and members of the National Survivors’ Participation Panel, ‘Liberating Voices’. The survey received a total of 184 responses.
Women’s Aid’s Survivor Survey revealed that:
- 89% of responding survivors said that the government could improve the response to children experiencing domestic abuse by ending the assumption of contact with both parents in cases where children are at risk of domestic abuse [161 survivors answered this question]
- 84% of responding survivors said that the government could improve the response to children experiencing domestic abuse by banning unsupervised contact for a parent waiting for trial, on bail, or in criminal proceedings for domestic abuse-related offences [161 survivors answered this question]
- 82% of responding survivors said that the government could improve the response to children experiencing domestic abuse by ensuring that there are specialist support services for children experiencing domestic abuse [161 survivors answered this question]
- Based on their experience, survivors told us the statutory agencies that needed the most improvement in how they respond to domestic abuse are judges/magistrates (58% of responding survivors), followed by police (57%), children’s services (41%) and Cafcass (41%). [181 survivors answered this question]
- The majority of survivors thought that improved training for judges/magistrates (70% of responding survivors) and the police (62%) would have improved their experience of the justice system. [157 survivors answered this question]
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:
“Every survivor and her child deserves the right to be able to rebuild their lives free from abuse, and the Domestic Abuse Bill is a unique opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of survivors and their children. It is vital that the Domestic Abuse Bill encompasses and goes beyond changes to the criminal justice system. We know that many women do not feel able to report abuse to the police, therefore we need a Bill that makes domestic abuse everyone’s business if we are going to truly transform the response to domestic abuse for survivors and their children.
“We want this Bill to put survivors’ safety and needs at its heart. That’s why we asked survivors what would make a real difference for them and many said that the Bill must bring about much-need change in the family courts to help protect their children. From our work with survivors, we know that perpetrators of domestic abuse are using child contact applications to continue to control and abuse them, and that the family court is enabling that abuse by not effectively safeguarding survivors during the court process; this is resulting in unsafe contact decisions being made that is putting children’s wellbeing and safety at risk.
“It is a matter of urgency that the government bans the unacceptable practice of the cross-examination of victims by abusers in the family courts. Survivors have been waiting over a year since the government committed to bring this legislation forward; we need legislation to urgently address this. We also want to see the government guarantee that survivors can access special measures to protect them in all family courts and ensure that there is no presumption of contact for known perpetrators of domestic abuse. We want a family court system where survivors can access justice free from abuse and for children’s safety to be put at the heart of all decisions made by the family court.
“Survivors also told us that access to specialist support services for them and their children is essential to improve the response to domestic abuse. That’s why we’re also calling on the government to give survivors and their children a cast-iron guarantee that they will not go ahead with planned changes to how refuges will be funded, which threaten these life-saving services with closure. We want to work with the government to establish a sustainable funding model for all specialist domestic abuse services, including refuges, so that every survivor and her children can safely escape domestic abuse. Over half the residents in refuge are children who also need support to help them recover from their experience of domestic abuse. Yet since 2010, children and young people’s domestic abuse support provision has been in decline: as of May 2017, only 52% of domestic abuse services in England were able to provide dedicated support for children and young people. While on just one day last year, 94 women and 90 children were turned away from refuge; demand will only increase if the Domestic Abuse Bill is effective. Without sustainable funding for all domestic abuse support services to underpin the Domestic Abuse Bill, more women and children will be put at risk.
“We look forward to working with the government to ensure that the Domestic Abuse Bill is rooted in the reality of survivors’ experience and that it is a Bill with real impact and resources that will bring about a step change in our national response to domestic abuse. By making domestic abuse everyone’s business, together we can ensure that every survivor and child can live a life free from fear, free from abuse.”
For more information please contact the Women’s Aid press office on: 020 7566 2511 / [email protected]