Dan Fielding – 22 July 2020
If you are in immediate danger call 999 and press 55 if you are unable to speak. If you or someone you know is a victim of Domestic Abuse, call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
In the past month, the gut-wrenching issue of Domestic Abuse has been in the press once more. As has been the case previously, superstar names are involved, with Johnny Depp and Amber Heard having their allegedly violent and volatile relationship played out in Royal Courts of Justice; Tom Meighan of Kasabian having been given 200 hours of community service for assaulting his fiancé; and Mickey Madden of Maroon 5 having been arrested on Domestic Violence charges in Los Angeles.
A further three high profile cases in the space of a month comes as no surprise considering how widespread this crisis is. On average, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. Every year, more than 48,000 children require emergency accommodation, often having fled Domestic Abuse. In the 11 weeks from 23 March 2020, 45,000 Domestic Abuse related calls were made to the police in London alone. This final statistic is particularly grim given the nation was literally locked down at home, with victims unable to attend social care appointments, unable to flee and unable to seek rest-bite with family or friends. Whilst 45,000 victims in London found the courage to report their abuse and refuge numbers sharply increased during the first week of July, who knows how many others continue to live in fear, all across the country, having understandably not yet found that strength.
Clearly then, despite much of the mainstream coverage surrounding Domestic Abuse being reserved for celebrities, this crisis is pervasive in all aspects of society. We can take comfort that, much like hard-hitting Coronation Street storylines, media coverage of abusive behaviour results in victims recognising abuse; encourages victims to speak out; and ultimately increases the number of people who seek refuge. However, we really have to question how we are in a situation where this crisis seeps into all walks of life to the extent that approximately 2,400,000 adults experienced Domestic Abuse annually. A history of abuse; mental heath issues; and drug and alcohol misuse frequently go hand in hand with abuse in the home – often for both the perpetrator and the victim. It goes without saying that society has to change so that perpetrators stop before they start, but right now, in the midst of this crisis – we are fire fighting. Victims need to be saved before they are killed. It cannot be repeated enough: two women, every week, are killed in England and Wales by their partner or former partner.
Health and community services must be given the resources they need to (1) physically visit potential victims in their homes; (2) educate society on what domestic abuse looks like in all its guises; and (3) ultimately support victims into refuge when they are suffering. Education on this topic is absolutely vital – not only so that victims recognise the way they are being treated is wholly unacceptable, they deserve better and they can safely seek refuge, but also so that potential-perpetrators know such behaviour is vile. Increasing the amount of potential-perpetrators who recognise this before they become abusers it so important in preventing the crime. Many will argue that individuals should already know that abuse of this nature is unacceptable, but as I outline above, often both the victim and the perpetrator have gone through life with abuse and mental illness ever present – the cycle has to be stopped in its tracks.
The mission to end this abuse must be indiscriminate. Women. Men. Children. Black. White. Asian. British. Immigrants. Refugees. Every victim needs support, and whilst particular pockets of society are undoubtedly worse affected by this crime, the issue has to be tackled in its absolute entirety. Legislation must be enacted to reflect this. The passing of the Domestic Abuse Bill in July 2020 goes someway to achieve this, but unfortunately still leaves gaping holes for victims to slip through the net, simply because of their immigration status. Victims who have not been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK have no recourse to public funds and are therefore, under legislation designed to protect people in 2020, unable to access safe accommodation or support in this country. The concept that having the right to indefinitely remain in the UK is prerequisite to being kept safe in this country feels at odds with the very foundations of British values.
Fantastic charities such as Women’s Aid, Refuge & National Domestic Abuse Helpline and The Buddy Bag Foundation all do fantastic work to support victims – society must pull together to support victims and the government must implement a longterm funding plan to ensure these crimes are stopped.