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Date Published
February 19, 2024
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As the country gears up for an almost-certain general election this year, a new YouGov poll has found that nearly seven in ten (68%) of the public believe the government should be doing more to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG).

The End Violence Against Women Coalition’s latest annual snapshot report highlights a concerning lack of public trust in politicians and public institutions to tackle VAWG with the YouGov poll finding:

  • 50% of the public do not trust the police (very much or at all) to tackle VAWG
  • 46% do not trust schools (very much or at all) to tackle sexual offences that occur on the premises
  • 68% of the public believe the government should be doing more to tackle VAWG

EVAW’s annual snapshot report looks in detail at the current contexts and developments impacting violence against women and girls in the UK; analysing the government’s response through legislation, policy-making and practice.

Crumbling foundations

As the cost-of-living crisis continues to worsen an already bleak situation for survivors and the services that support them, the past year has seen further deterioration of the foundations of what is needed to tackle VAWG.

Public services eroded by austerity policies and ongoing budget cuts have directly impacted the resourcing of specialist support services, who face increasing demand for support at a time when their business costs are rising, while also picking up the pieces when local authorities turn survivors away.

In addition, a broken criminal justice system and attacks on our human rights block pathways to justice for survivors of rape and other forms of VAWG.

Survivors experiencing multiple forms of marginalisation are bearing the brunt of this, with migrant women impacted by a slew of legislative reforms that deny them rights, safety and protection, including the ‘Illegal’ Migration and Rwanda Bill. Meanwhile vital relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) for young people is still not prioritised, and is subject to a backlash seemingly driven by anti-LGBT rhetoric and contested claims about inappropriate content.

At a time when young people’s views about equality and VAWG are being negatively shaped by an unchecked tidal wave of online misogyny, the government’s flagship Online Safety Act risks having limited impact. Proposals are fixated on taking down illegal content rather than making tech companies prevent the abuse they profit from.

Attempts to rollback our human rights protections form part of a divisive and increasingly hostile political landscape that is causing direct harm to survivors and undermining government commitments to tackle VAWG.

A different world is possible

With politicians narrowly focused on criminal offences as a solution to VAWG, there has been little consideration of how they can be effectively enforced by a collapsing justice system that is failing to prosecute rape and domestic abuse, and re-traumatising survivors who seek justice.

In addition, this approach lacks ambition; failing to deliver a clear vision of how to prevent VAWG from happening. While there have been some green shoots of progress, including public attitude campaigns from central and regional government, RSHE remains sidelined in the curriculum and currently under attack.

But by focusing attention on stopping women and girls from becoming victims in the first place, we will not only reduce avoidable harm but take crucial steps towards a more gender equal society.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition has set out key recommendations to government, including:

  • Put prevention front and centre in work to tackle VAWG
  • Protect our human rights frameworks – the bedrock of tackling VAWG
  • Create a safe online world free from VAWG through legislation and other mechanisms
  • Ensure access to support for all survivors by sustainably funding the specialist VAWG sector – particularly services run ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women, Deaf and disabled women, and LGBT+ people
  • Dismantle ‘hostile environment’ policies, including scrapping the No Recourse to Public Funds condition, introducing a ‘firewall’ to block data-sharing between statutory agencies and Immigration Enforcement, widening access to protection and removing reservations on the Istanbul Convention
  • Take a whole-society approach to VAWG by resourcing and reforming public institutions so they are better able to respond to this abuse
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:

“Survivors and the services that support them are continuing to feel the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and budgetary cuts which have seen life-saving specialist support services struggle to meet demand, while plugging the gaps from under-investment in vital public services. This is felt most sharply by those supporting minoritised women, particularly migrant survivors who face ongoing legislative assaults on their rights to safety.

Despite small gains in the justice system’s response to rape, many survivors remain locked out of the system due to victim-blaming, misogyny and racism. Survivors who do report to the police are often forced to choose between having therapy to support their healing or pursuing a conviction in the courts. What’s more, the latest data lays bare how rape myths remain deeply embedded throughout the justice system, blocking access to justice.

We can create a society in which women and girls are free from the threat of male violence, but this will require a step change. If we are to end violence against women and girls, the government must take a whole-society approach centred on prevention and defending our rights to protection and support. This means adequate funding for vital specialist support services, education in schools and campaigns to shift public attitudes. The next General Election is a key vehicle for change and we call on all political leaders to take up the calls of our joint VAWG sector manifesto.”

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  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,075 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th – 19th January 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
Date Published
February 19, 2024
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