Our current law is failing victims of domestic violence. However, as a result of the consultation launched today, we are much closer to that not being the case. This crucial consultation into the criminalisation of domestic violence is an important step, but its success depends on you.
2 women a week are killed by their partners or ex partners and this figure, that has remained static for over a decade, needs to change. The first step in doing so is ensuring our legislation is fit for purpose. Alarmingly it currently does not recognise the true nature of domestic violence nor can it prosecute those perpetrators who psychologically abuse or control their victims. It is time for a legislative framework that can effectively protect a victim and appropriately penalise their perpetrator.
The Domestic Violence Law Reform Campaign, comprised of Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation (run by Antonia Packard and myself), Women's Aid and Paladin, have been calling for an urgent improvement in the laws regarding domestic violence. In short, the current laws are only able prosecute for isolated incidents of physical violence and as a result cannot effectively deal with the destructive pattern of abuse that includes psychological abuse and coercive control. Domestic violence isn't a single incident of violence, it is repeated behaviour that is designed to intimidate, control and coerce a victim: our laws need to adequately reflect that. This omission leaves victims unprotected until the abuse escalates, forcing them to only seek help from the law when there is evidence of physical assault and they are at risk of serious harm or death. If legislation was to recognise this pattern of controlling behaviour (that may only turn physical when that need for control demands it) it will save lives and money, as not only will agencies will be able to intervene earlier but they also will be able to tackle the abuse rather than its symptoms.
But we cannot squander this opportunity; this is a consultation not a law. For the consultation to be successful, it needs to be supported. The government is examining the necessity of this potential change and they need to see that the reform has public support. In our surveys,98% of victims and 97% of domestic violence front line professionals agreed that there is a need for a domestic violence law reform, please join them. Your voice must be heard in order for this consultation to be a success.
Psychological abuse and coercive control are just as damaging as physical abuse and even though our laws don't yet reflect this, they now have a chance to catch up to the common morality. Moreover, our government is now aware of the fact that our laws are leaving victims of a domestic violence vulnerable at the hands of their abusers. Home Secretary Theresa May (who announced the consultation), Brooks Newmark MP, Robert Buckland MP, opposition Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and many others are committed to this issue, and this vital consultation is a result of that unwavering commitment. The public commitment must follow.
Today we are one step closer to filling a gap that leaves numerous victims unprotected, to allowing our legal system to reflect the terrorizing pattern of domestic violence and to finally give the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and other government agencies the tools to be able to intervene before it is too late. Please support this change and let perpetrators know that their abusive actions will no longer slip through the cracks in the law. Now is our chance to make a tangible difference to the lives victims of domestic violence and their children.
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