Responding to the Home Sec’s comments in The Times today (26 February), Sarah Green, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
Covering other forms of violence against women and girls
“We welcome this discussion about domestic violence with the public and new legislation. These are really important issues which, as the Home Secretary highlights, have an extremely harmful impact on women and children across the country. In fact, we think it will be a missed opportunity if the new legislation doesn’t address other violence women and girls are experiencing including how we respond to rape and sexual violence, or how protection against FGM and so called ‘honour-based’ violence can be improved.
“We note Amber Rudd’s comments that ‘…survivors and children are at the heart of this consultation’, and that it will ‘…cover every element of the victim’s experience.’
Specialist advocacy for victims, and ensuring migrant women are protected
“We would like this new Bill to recognise that victims often need very specialist help, including emotional or practical support, and whether or not they report crimes to the police. The Bill should contain a commitment to provide specialist advocacy for everyone who seeks help – so that victims don’t fall through the gaps between public services. This support is particularly vital for women whose immigration status is insecure. Too often these women are put off reporting abuse because risk being treated as immigration offenders when they are trying to keep themselves and their children safe.
Big change needed in family courts
“It is important that victims of domestic violence are able to give evidence safely in criminal courts, but if the Bill is truly to change women’s and children’s experiences it needs to get to the heart of problems in the family courts. Too often these courts ignore the fact that abusers have already been sanctioned for domestic violence, including in criminal courts, and still insist the abusive parent should have contact with their children. The Bill is an opportunity to change this.”
The Home Secretary’s column in The Times today also promises explicitly to ‘…ensure there is a sustainable future for women’s refuges and that no victim is turned away from the support they need.’
EVAW Co-Director Sarah Green continued:
Support services for survivors of abuse
“This recognition of specialist services as vital comes when the services women and children rely on up and down the country are under extreme strain – many have closed, and local authorities are often not able to meet demand for them.
“If our society’s vision is that “no victim is ever turned away” we need to look again at the scale of need and how money can best find its way to the specialist women’s refuges and centres that are proven to be the best at this work. Cash strapped local authorities have really struggled to maintain partnerships with these life-saving services and have been unable to keep them open. We have to face the truth that women are being turned away every day, and it is crucial that this government takes urgent action on this.
“If we are really aiming for the “landmark” change the Home Secretary says she wants, she needs to listen to the knowledge and expertise of survivors of abuse and those who have pioneered the best support services, in order to make it the best it can be.”