Read the full letter here: FINAL letter to Home Secretary IWD 2020
In advance of International Women’s Day, over 33 women’s organisation groups have today (6 March 2020) written to Home Secretary Priti Patel asking her to make a commitment to a consultation on and renewal of the cross-government Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy, in light of the current strategy coming to an end in March 2020.
The Home Office-led VAWG Strategy, instituted by the government in 2010 has helped to transform some responses to abuse, however there is still much to do to ensure that women and girls can live their lives free from the threat of violence.
This includes ensuring an effective response when local commissioners fail to live up to the standards set out in the National Statement of Expectations to avoid a postcode lottery that puts women at risk; a Domestic Abuse Bill that offers equal protection and support through sustainable and specialist community-based services for all women; and specialist sexual violence support for all survivors.
The letter draws attention to a petition by rape survivor Fern Champion launched exactly a year ago, calling on the Prime Minister to ensure counselling services would be available to all rape victims. Fern’s petition has been signed by over 160,000 people and has been widely publicised, indicating how strongly the public feel about the provision of therapeutic support for rape survivors.
In the letter, women’s organisations state that they hope the next phase of the VAWG Strategy will go further in recognising the public’s increased awareness of and rejection of gender based violence, and the expectation that all survivors’ needs will be met. A new report by Imkaan on minoritized women and sexual violence published just this week, shows how BME women who have been raped and sexually abused as children face higher levels of disbelief and commonly cannot access the specialist therapeutic support they need. BME, asylum seeking and refuge women experience higher rates of homelessness, destitution and repeat victimisation. It is critical that as well as specialist support services run by women who understand different women’s needs, the public sector workers across housing, health settings, schools, and the criminal justice system are appropriately trained and resourced to also provide an effective response to survivors.
A renewed VAWG Strategy would also be vital in underpinning the recommendations of the Rape Review, announced in last year’s VAWG Strategy refresh so that all women can seek justice, including those who receive poorer justice outcomes such as BME women, women living in poverty or those with insecure immigration status.
We hope to receive a reply to our letter soon, and will publish any replies here.