Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, has responded to recent news that three-quarters of all domestic abuse cases – including sexual assaults – are closed early without the suspect being charged
“The big increase in cases of dropped domestic abuse cases is shocking, but sadly, not surprising. The six-month time limit is extremely restrictive and demonstrates yet again the lack of understanding of the complexities of domestic abuse within the criminal justice system.
There are all sorts of reasons why a woman may not report within the six-month window – domestic abuse is complex, not a one-off incident, and after months and often years of control, it can take considerable time for a woman to process what has happened to her and accept that the abuse was not her fault. This does not happen overnight, and often involves the support of specialist services and spaces to connect with other survivors. These experiences have also been compounded by the pandemic.
Women often fear they will not be believed, are likely to be fearful of the consequences from their abuser, and may have had to leave her home and support network in order to find safety.
It takes immense courage to report domestic abuse but too often, women are dismissed and disbelieved when they do. We also know that women’s confidence in the police has waned considerably in recent months.
Mandatory police training, delivered by organisations like Women’s Aid, is vital to ensure that a woman who reports domestic abuse receives the right response the first time, and they receive the support they need and that each report will be treated with gravity and respect. The upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review must be utilised to ensure the necessary investment in police training to achieve this.
Thanks to the courage of survivor-led campaigns such as Victims Too and other campaigners, as well as Yvette Cooper MP and Baroness Newlove, decision-makers have the opportunity to address this unreasonable and unfair rule. To show that they are serious about doing all that they can to support women who have experienced abuse, the government must act now.
They must remove this cruel and restrictive six-month limit to show that they actually understand the complexities of domestic abuse, they must invest in police training and they must allocate proper funding to specialist services – £409 million is needed in England alone in the next year to adequately support survivors and their children.”