Today, on International Women’s Day, the government launched its consultation on the Domestic Abuse Bill.
Yesterday, we held a seminar to help organisations supporting people affected by domestic and sexual violence in London prepare to respond to the Domestic Abuse Bill consultation. It was attended by delegates from over 30 organisations. The seminar was delivered as part of Ascent, which is funded by London Councils.
Speakers at the seminar were:
- Rachel Krys from the End Violence Against Women Coalition
- Pip Williams, Expert by experience
- Sian Hawkins from Women’s Aid
- Claire Waxman, Victims Commissioner for London
- Jean King from the Department of Health and Social Care
The presentations were followed by group discussion and a Q&A with the panel.
The seminar identified key opportunities and challenges around the Domestic Abuse Bill. While the Bill was welcomed as a positive step and a key platform for important conversations, the seminar highlighted a number of limitations and challenges.
Rachel Krys, Co-director of End Violence Against Women Coalition provided an ‘Overview of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill’.
Rachel summarised the government proposals for a Domestic Abuse Bill with a legislative and non-legislative package. She then shared EVAW member responses to these proposals. These included:
- A legal definition centered around coercive control is welcomed, but how well will it acknowledge the gendered nature of abuse and women’s intersecting inequalities?
- The Bill could provide the opportunity to review all protective measures, such as image based abuse, sexual violence and rape justice.
- The non-legislative package could form the basis of a new Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) action plan.
- It would be great to see a larger review of what is happening for women and children as they go through different parts of the system.
Pip Williams, Expert by experience and Trainer spoke on ‘An expert by experience perspective of the Bill’.
Pip’s key points included:
- Women rarely present with just one thing. The Bill must therefore be able to recognise and respond to women’s intersecting needs.
- Attitudes need to change in order for the Bill to be effective. Police and the Criminal Justice System must have a full understanding of VAWG, coercive control and trauma.
- The provision and availability of services for women is essential. Women must be at the heart of services.
- The Bill should recognise the lifelong affect that domestic violence can have on children and ensure support is also in place for them.
Sian Hawkins, Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager for Women’s Aid presented on the ‘The challenges and opportunities for the VAWG sector’.
Sian’s key points included:
- There is opportunity for collaboration in the VAWG sector, as well as an important platform for conversations and awareness raising.
- The proposed Bill is limited in that it does not take a gendered approach, and has a narrow focus on Domestic Violence rather than VAWG.
- Most survivors do not access the Criminal Justice System, therefore the Bill does not necessarily speak to the ways in which women disclose.
- Any protective orders introduced must come with a robust sanction attached to it.
- Perpetrators of domestic abuse must be banned from cross examining victims in Family Courts.
Claire Waxman, Victims Commissioner for London presented on ‘How a Domestic Abuse commissioner could benefit survivors’.
Claire’s key points included:
- A Domestic Abuse Commissioner must be independent, appropriately appointed with clearly defined powers and resources.
- They must take a gendered approach, and must look critically at how services are commissioned.
- A Commissioner will have key oversight and they will be able to help partners identify links and gaps.
Jean King, Tackling Violence Policy Team lead for Department of Health and Social Care spoke on ‘The role of the health and care system’.
Jean spoke about important role of the Department of Health and Social Care for developing responses to VAWG. She flagged key areas of work that they have been working on, in line with the main themes of the Bill. The Department of Health are keen to be part of the conversations, and encourage responses to the government consultation launched today.
We will be producing a briefing on the Domestic Abuse Bill in the next few weeks and responding to the government’s consultation by the deadline of 31 May 2018. Sign up to our newsletter to keep in touch with our work.