On International Women’s Day 2018, the government has launched a consultation on domestic abuse, looking into new laws and stronger powers to protect and support survivors at an early stage.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “It is appalling that in 21st-Century Britain, nearly two million people every year – the majority of them women – suffer abuse at the hands of those closest to them.” The government has repeated what many will already know, and that is that “Domestic abuse comes in many forms, shattering the lives of victims and their families…”
One of the measures the government is seeking views upon in shielding victims from further abuse at an early stage is upon the creation of a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Order regime. It is proposed that with this new regime wide ranging conditions can be imposed upon abusers. These could include:
a. compulsory alcohol treatment;
b. attending a programme to address their underlying attitudes or addictions;
c. a requirement not to contact the victim including online;
d. a geographical ban; and
e. the use of electronic tagging to monitor the movements of the abusers.
Under the proposals, a breach of an order would become a criminal offence. The shield that is being proposed is to protect victims from further abuse being perpetrated by unconvicted suspects by early intervention.
It is proposed that the new DVPO will be linked to the new statutory definition of domestic abuse which is wider and covers more than just violence or the threat of violence. The DVPO could also be made in the family, criminal and civil courts to improve how the different jurisdictions can respond to domestic abuse.
In a time when funding is being cut across the board, for example the devastating cutbacks to legal aid and grants for refuge provision and other support services which survivors desperately depend upon in the voluntary sector, and the likely loss of funding from the EU post Brexit, any gaps in protection being filled by the state must be a welcomed move.
Hopefully this will further encourage and instil confidence in women who suffer in silence for many years to come forward and seek the help that they need to break away from a violent, abusive and threatening relationship.
However, what happens when the DVPO comes to an end? Currently such orders are in place for a maximum period of 28 days. This will need to be changed and be properly increased so that the protection offered will have a meaningful role whilst the survivor continues the daunting process of rebuilding her life. It could take for example 6 – 12 months before she is able to at the very least, obtain any form of permanent housing if not longer to be resettled.
Frontline organisations including those in the voluntary sector are urged to provide responses to the consultation so that the government can be made further aware of the consequences that their drastic cutbacks to public funding has had on victims and what would be required to fully support survivors long term (male and female) and to bring a permanent end to this abhorrent crime. The consultation can be found by clicking here. The consultation closes on 31 May 2018.