Reports of violent crime against women have hit a record high this year.
As reported in The Guardian the number of such offences against women rose by almost 10% in 2015- 2016. These offences include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and stalking.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has commented that the use of social media to “threaten, control and humiliate” victims is becoming more and more common. The government has taken steps to deal with this new form of abuse in our modern age by introducing a specific offence of “revenge porn” in April 2015. This makes it a criminal offence to share private sexual photographs or films without the subject’s consent, with a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment. There have been over 200 convictions for this offence since it was introduced. A second, new offence of coercive and controlling behaviour was introduced in December 2015, for which perpetrators can be imprisoned for up to five years.
It remains to be seen as to whether the increase in statistics is down to government action to ensure perpetrators are convicted, or whether, sadly, abusive behaviour has simply increased.
It is hoped that the former is true and that the government will build on the steps already taken to protect victims of domestic violence, whether victims are women or men, teenagers or pensioners.
However, removal of legal aid for domestic abuse victims other than where there is “evidence” of such abuse within the last two years has sadly made it more and more difficult for survivors of abuse to get the crucial legal advice and support they need.