THE BLOG

Progress on Tackling Domestic Abuse Is Heartening, But There Is Still More to Do

05/12/2015 10:21 GMT | Updated 04/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Everyone has the right to live free from intimidation, to know those closest to them will not try to control their every move, and to be sure they will be protected if they do suffer abuse. The effects of domestic violence, coercive or controlling behaviour and stalking are devastating for victims and it is vital we do all we can to prevent these crimes happening and support those in need of our help.

Today I am pleased to say the Government has announced a range of new measures and funding to build on the strides we have already made and offer more protection to victims and survivors of different forms of abuse.

We have launched a consultation on new stalking protection orders that can be brought into force quickly, helping victims feel safe and allowing police to gather the vital evidence they need for a prosecution to be brought. These powers will be about intervening early by addressing a perpetrator's disturbing behaviour before it becomes entrenched. While they will offer better protection to all victims, the orders will be particularly helpful for those targeted by 'stranger stalking'. Under stalking laws we introduced three years ago, 1,103 prosecutions were brought in 2014/15 - an almost 50% rise on the previous year. Through these new orders we want to move further with this important work.

I can also announce that the new domestic abuse offence is to come into force, meaning that repeated or continuous coercive control will be captured by the law for the first time. The offence will criminalise behaviour in ongoing intimate relationships that may stop short of serious physical violence but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse. Police will start using it from 29 December, and it will carry a maximum of five years' imprisonment and a fine.

Sadly we know that unhealthy patterns in relationships can start to form from a young age. That is why it is so important to intervene early and send out a clear message that it is wrong to violate the trust of those closest to you. I am delighted to announce today that a new £3.85million campaign to tackle abuse within teenage relationships will be launched in the New Year. Jointly funded and led by the Home Office and Government Equalities Office, it will follow on from the acclaimed 'This Is Abuse' campaign, which since 2010 has been helping to change attitudes among young people by getting them to think about consent, healthy relationships and what constitutes abuse.

Raising awareness of violence against women and girls in all its forms has been a key priority for this government and I am proud of the advancements made. To continue our work as a world leader in this field, international development minister Baroness Verma will take up a new post of Ministerial Champion for Tackling Violence against Women and Girls Overseas and will help drive our country's efforts to end all forms of violence, wherever they occur.

It is encouraging that in the UK more victims are coming forward to report abuse and violence; prosecutions are now at their highest ever levels. At the same time, estimates of the levels of domestic abuse are at the lowest levels since the data was first collected by the Crime Survey for England and Wales a decade ago.

This progress is heartening, but there is still more to do.

In feedback on our previous This Is Abuse website, a teenage girl explained how she would go along with what her boyfriend said, doing what he asked, or, in her words, "he would get mad and shout... threaten to leave me because he could do so much better if he wanted to". She told of how one of our adverts made her realise how wrong his behaviour was and she ended up leaving him.

I want us to help more young people like her, so we can halt unhealthy behaviour before it takes root, in turn tackling the blight of abuse that tears apart homes and families, and leaves such a devastating legacy on those it afflicts.

Karen Bradley is the Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands and minister for preventing abuse and exploitation