What's Going on with Domestic Violence?


No one can deny that the government are not doing enough to support women that suffer from domestic violence. They have put up a strong façade so far, but more changes could be implemented to get women the right support they need.

Person sat alone on a bench

That pretence may have slipped recently after the Conservative party's David Ruffley accepted a caution for domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend leaving us all to ask the question, are the government serious about tackling domestic violence against women?

More Could Still Be Done

Domestic violence and violence against women in general seems to be steaming up the political agenda with groups, such as Women's Aid, even calling for domestic violence to become a specific offence.

More support could be on the way for women after a European convention was signed by the UK to take measures against domestic and sexual violence, forced marriage and stalking. This support is dependent on the UK ratifying the convention, making them obliged to act upon it. Campaigners are pushing for this endorsement by the UK and citing its delay as evidence that the UK is only paying lip service to the plight of women who experience violence. This comes after William Hague's urgent display of support at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict recently held in London.

Restraining the Perpetrator

Speaking recently on BBC Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour' program, Hilary Fisher, Director of Policy, Voice and Membership at Women's Aid, said we should be calling for a law prohibiting coercive and controlling behaviour in particular. Without such a law, it seems clear that we are not able to protect women properly. Coercive and controlling behaviour often is not a one off occurrence, but a sustained pattern of behaviour over time.

Currently, coercive and controlling behaviour can be prosecuted under laws but the process is not as effective as it could be. It is often difficult to find in favour of the abused woman where there has been no physical violence. These existing laws could be utilised and strengthened to become the laws we need to protect women who suffer domestic violence.

Whether it is a new law or a bolstering of the old, awareness and training needs to be provided to those on the ground who deal with domestic violence every day, such as the police. A change in attitude is also needed. With the police receiving a call about domestic violence every 30 seconds, often it is put down as 'just a domestic'. In some cases, the police may not even be aware that they have the tools to implement change. This is integral to the implementation of any law including those concerned with non-molestation or occupation orders that can be used to protect victims of domestic violence.

Both of these orders can be granted by the court to victims who fear for their safety and their children's – this is not exclusively for those who have suffered physical violence. Women are often more at risk when they leave their abusers, making it all the more important that they are protected.

Refuges at Risk

Protection under law is vital, but along with this should come the support of services geared towards the wellbeing and recovery of women who have been affected by their experiences. Specialist domestic violence refuges are being forced to close up and down the country due to funding cuts, and because they do not take in male victims. Alternative accommodation is not available and time limits are being implemented, which are putting women in danger. Despite this being a recognised problem by Home Secretary Theresa May, she has repeatedly refused to 'ring fence' funding for women's refuges nationally.

You can take the situation into your own hands and get help. As mentioned before orders made by the court can help to keep you and your child safe whilst in your own home. This can be ideal when funded places in temporary domestic violence accommodation are so scarce.

At Simpson Millar LLP we work closely with many organisations up and down the country to try and tackle these issues. Those who are afforded places in refuges or more importantly those who are suffering domestic abuse by way of coercive and controlling behaviour may still qualify for Legal Aid.

Within our Family Team we have specialists in the area who can give you advice and representation in relation to a range of orders to protect you and your children.

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