EVAW Coalition, Winter Bulletin, December 2018

News on Sexual Violence, Relationships and Sex Education, Universal Credit and Reproductive Justice

NEWS ABOUT OUR LATEST WORK ON:

Sexual violence, the justice system and public attitudes

Relationships & Sex Education in schools – preparing young people to understand consent and respect?

Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill

Universal Credit

Internet Safety

Abortion and Reproductive Justice

 

Sexual violence, the justice system and public attitudes

After months of attention earlier this year to problems in rape trials, EVAW supported and welcomed a major Guardian multi-part investigation into rape, the justice system and public attitudes which was front page across a whole week in September. We were disturbed to read the Freedom of Information investigation which showed that young adult men are significantly less likely than older men to be found guilty when tried for rape; and then we were appalled at the revelations that senior managers at the CPS have encouraged prosecutors to ditch “weaker” rape cases, and this when the CPS’ own figures show that their rape charging rate has dropped by a staggering 23% this year (as initial reports to police and cases coming into the system continue to increase). The Guardian said the findings were extremely concerning and contrary to the public interest, and reported that lawyers are preparing a case against the CPS on human rights grounds.

 

MPs across the House have been in touch with us about our concerns on rape and the justice system and there have been PQs and a backbench debate. EVAW spoke at a Bar Council and Law Society event that looked at ‘rape impunity’. We have written to the new DPP, and met with Ministers to talk about our concerns and the urgent need for an independent, end to end review of the way the criminal justice system responds to rape, and not least the need for specialist support and advocacy for everyone who reports rape. The Gillen Review on the justice system response to rape in Northern Ireland in November includes bold recommendations on tackling ‘rape myths’ and representation for victims, which all justice system leaders would do well to consider.

 

During the #16Days EVAW published new YouGov research on public attitudes to sexual consent. We asked 4,000 adults about their views and found that up to a third of people in Britain are unsure whether there can be rape if there is no additional physical violence, if a woman has been flirting, if a woman changes her mind once sex has started, and if it’s in the context of a long-term relationship. We interpret these findings as showing that a large proportion of British adults are still very unclear about what rape is – people who may become jurors, or who may also be frontline workers in caring professions, or friends and family of someone seeking help. We need urgent further public conversations and campaigns about this.

 

Relationships & Sex Education in schools – preparing young people to understand consent and respect?

EVAW and many of our members are extremely disappointed at the draft statutory guidance the Department for Education has produced which when made final is the key document all primary and secondary schools in England will work from. We made a comprehensive submission to the consultation on the draft guidance, and wrote to Education Secretary Damian Hinds to say we are appalled at the draft document’s repeated references to “self-control”, “managing peer pressure” and “resisting pressure to have sex”. There is also a real lack of clarity in the document on teaching about the law on different forms of violence against women and girls, and it even leaves FGM and forced marriage as optional areas of study which is a disgrace. It appears to permit faith schools to choose to teach marriage only as the preferred way, and has an overall “squeamish” tone which manages to mention periods and pornography only once each. It is totally inadequate for teaching in this area in today’s schools. We commented in a Guardian report on the subject and gave interviews to LBC, Woman’s Hour and 5 Live. We hope to see considerable scrutiny of and objection to these plans in the New Year.

 

Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill

Having responded earlier in the year to the government consultation on the proposed new ‘DV Bill’, EVAW and members gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry on the Bill in September, where we said the proposals do not go far enough, and that there needs to be specific commitment and measures to ensure that migrant women are able to access justice and support when facing abuse. We were pleased to see these concerns reflected in the Committee’s final report. We remain committed supporters of the #StepUpMigrantWomen campaign and the red line of ensuring any new legislation in this area, or other Brexit related law or policy for example, brings an end to the ‘hostile environment’ which harms migrant women and children.

 

Universal Credit

Since the early Autumn, EVAW and our members the Women’s Budget Group and Surviving Economic Abuse have continued to push our report on the impact of Universal Credit on women living in abusive relationships. We were pleased that the Home Affairs Select Cttee included a call to re-examine ‘UC’ in their DV Bill inquiry report, and as UC has risen up the political agenda our calls have frequently been included in the statement of key problems. Ministers have agreed to meet and we hope for progress in the New Year.

 

Internet Safety

EVAW has been appointed to sit on the Executive Board of the UK Council for Internet Safety and has attended its first meeting alongside Google, Twitter, Facebook, assorted VCS representatives and Ministers from the DfE and DCMS. We will try to bring our members’ expertise and knowledge about different women and girls’ experience of abuse in online spaces to this forum, and hope it will be a space for challenge and progress on tackling online abuse.

 

Abortion and Reproductive Justice

Following the momentous changes in Ireland, we worked with several of our members to pull together a briefing on reproductive rights and coercive and controlling relationships for Diana Johnson MP’s Decriminalization Bill which was voted in Parliament in November. This has also been submitted to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry, and we hope this neat summary of key concerns around abuse and access to reproductive health will enable policy makers around the UK to understand that women’s rights over their health and to live free from violence are inseparable.

 

Thanks for reading and please visit our website to read all our news in depth and check what we’re saying on Twitter for most up to date news.

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