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On 17th July 2018, the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee began examining the Domestic Abuse Bill.
As part of the inquiry, the Committee intend to explore not only what should be included in the legislation but also what other non-legislative policies should be included, for the legislation to be the most effective.
On 17th July, the Committee heard from experts on what measures they believe should be included in the Bill, such as Women’s Aid, CAFCASS and Barnardos, amongst many others.
Women’s Aid submitted written evidence which identified what measures they believe need to be taken by the Government to help prevent domestic abuse.
Women’s Aid submitted that the Government need to take a gendered approach, as quantitatively women suffer domestic abuse by men in greater numbers. This means that because women are more likely to experience fear and be subject to coercive control, gender-specific legislation is required and a statutory definition must recognise the gendered nature of the crime.
Women’s Aid also believe that higher quality relationship and sex education (RSE) is essential for long-term prevention. RSE should focus specifically on tackling gender myths and stereotypes, consent, healthy relationships and sexual harassment.
In addition to the proposed legislation, Women’s Aid are clear that much more is needed in order to tackle domestic abuse, particularly the funding allocated to domestic abuse services, which Women’s Aid refer to as the ‘funding crisis’. They recommend that when considering the budget, the scale of domestic abuse should be taken into consideration, to ensure the legislation is property resourced.
Women’s Aid look in particular at the key difficulties that victims of domestic abuse face in Family Courts. It is identified that survivors can find the Court process intimidating and often re-victimising. The cuts to Legal Aid in 2012 have caused a rise in litigants in person, which has caused a rise in victims being cross-examined by the perpetrator. The Government has recognised this, as in their consultation they propose to prohibit cross-examination in the Criminal Courts however, it is a concern that this will not extend to the Family Courts, despite the Governments commitment to do so in January 2017. It is recommended by Women’s Aid that cross-examination of a victim by a perpetrator in the family court is banned and survivors are guaranteed access to special protection measures.
At Ramsdens, we welcome Women’s Aid’s recommendations, in order to protect survivors, increase their ability to access justice and ultimately, prevent domestic abuse.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or you know someone who is, we can help. We can obtain an emergency, ex-parte (without-notice) Non-Molestation Order, preventing the perpetrator from contacting the victim, breach of which is a criminal offence.In an emergency, always call 999 and remember you can contact Women’s Aid for 24 hour support on 0808 2000247.