New analysis shows that the social and economic cost of domestic abuse in England and Wales was £66 billion in the year 2016-2017. The vast majority of this cost the result of physical and emotional harm caused to the victims.
It is estimated that around two million adults experience domestic abuse each year, affecting 6% of all adults in England and Wales, with the vast majority being women. In London alone domestic incidents now accounts for one in ten of all offences in the capital, with a significant increase in domestic homicides in the past year. The scale of the issue is staggering. It is on every street, in every community, affecting individuals from every conceivable background. It tears families apart and dramatically alters lives. Something has to change.
Today we welcome the Government’s launch of the first draft of the Domestic Abuse Bill, an effort to address this issue head on and take action to support those whose lives are blighted by domestic violence and abuse.
The Bill covers a myriad of positive steps forward, most notably:
- Highlighting economic abuse as a distinct type of abuse
- The automatic eligibility for special measures for victims in court, reducing the stress of giving evidence
- Banning perpetrators from cross-examining victims in court
- Investment in funding for specialist BAME organisations, disabled victims, children affected by abuse and crisis support systems for those with no recourse to public funds.
- We are pleased to see there is a fund for men, allowing specialist services to provide separate support for the male victims of abuse.
Mary Mason CEO says ‘We are optimistic regarding the changes that have been put forward but it is critical that the detail behind these proposals supports the sector long term. Funding streams must be set up to be sustainable rather than short-term focused. We welcome the inclusivity of the new bill, however to tackle domestic abuse we must recognise the link between domestic abuse and other forms of abuse against women and girls. Domestic abuse is part of society’s deeply ingrained discrimination against women and therefore must be positioned within the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.’
There are key elements that are still to be addressed. Of utmost importance is the housing situation. Local authorities have cut their spending on refuges from £31.2m in 2010 to £23.9m in 2017 – leaving 60 per cent of victims unable to be housed because of lack of space. We know that the primary reason for women experiencing homelessness is cited as domestic abuse. Given the scale of the issue, many women are having to make the impossible choice between facing violence or losing their home. We look forward to further proposals that will ensure women have access to secure housing after being forced into homelessness because of DV.
A reactive plan in place is crucial, however to really make progress we must look at abuse as a systemic problem that must be addressed at its root. We propose that the Bill ensures there is significant funding allocated to early-intervention and prevention work which would save both lives and money. Education on healthy relationships and sex education needs a complete overhaul that tackles issues of abuse head on. Together we can end domestic abuse but only if the approach is long term and sustainable. We cannot afford not to.