The draft Domestic Abuse Bill was published on the 21st January 2019, and is aimed at supporting victims and their families as well as pursuing perpetrators. It comes as new data revealed domestic abuse costs the country £66billion a year.
As our Chief Executive, Donna Covey CBE stated at the time:
“It is a tribute to the power and strength of survivors’ voices that this Bill has finally been published. It is a vital step forward in tacking the lifelong harm domestic abuse causes to women and children. The focus of the Bill is on criminal justice solutions, and we will only see real change when this goes hand in hand with a commitment to provide long-term gender and trauma-informed services, so that all those affected by domestic abuse can rebuild their lives.”
The Joint Committee on the Bill published a call out for evidence submissions, and our organisation has provided both written and oral contributions.
AVA believes that we achieve more together than we do alone, and so we’re a signatory to the joint submission from several VAWG charities, submitted on our behalf by Women’s Aid. In addition, we wish to bring to the Committees attention a number of additional points relating to women experiencing multiple disadvantage, especially where children are concerned:
- Women experiencing domestic abuse, particularly where they also experience other forms of multiple disadvantage, need access to trauma and gender informed services that can meet their needs holistically. Without this support, the changes proposed in the Bill, which related primarily to the criminal justice system, will have limited impact for this significant group of women.
- Fear of having their children removed is one of the biggest barriers to disclosure for mothers experiencing domestic abuse. Systems need to recognize this. There needs to be better informal, non-judgmental community based support for mothers experiencing domestic abuse that enables them to seek help before crisis point is reached.
- There needs to be improved step-down support for women when children are returned to families or no longer deemed in need.
- Women survivors of domestic abuse whose children have been permanently removed into care need more support, including support to establish contact with children or around care proceedings.
- The Government should prioritise work to develop alternatives to permanent child removal that protect the child from short-term risks, whilst also recognising the long-term risks to both mother and child in the event of permanent removal into care.
At AVA the survivor is at the heart of everything we do, and this is why we have published reports such as Breaking Down the Barriers (findings of the national commission on domestic & sexual violence and multiple disadvantage) and Hand in Hand which is comprised of many different survivors’ voices recounting first-hand their experiences of violence and abuse. We would like to see this centering of the survivor emulated in the Bill and across UK services as we know that nobody can understand what survivors need better than those with lived experience.
Please find our full submission here.