This Wednesday, during Prime Minister’s Questions, MPs from all parties showed their commitment to ending domestic abuse and sexual violence by wearing the distinctive pin of the campaign UK Says No More, run by charity Hestia. 100 Parliamentarians in both Commons and Lords have pledged their commitment, with many attending a rally in Parliament.
It is a watershed moment on an issue that we rarely speak about, but which is rife in our communities: Last week alone 1 in 4 MPs dealt with an issue of domestic abuse in their constituencies.
The Domestic Abuse Bill gives us a chance to tackle this silent health epidemic that destroys lives. But we must ensure that the new Bill includes stronger measures to prevent domestic abuse and we must ensure that more support is given to children who have witnessed or experienced domestic abuse, who are too often the hidden victims of this crime.
Last week I visited a refuge run by charity Hestia where Erum lives. Her daughter has a speech impediment and had been referred to a speech therapist whilst she was living with her abusive husband. Erum desperately wanted her daughter to get the support she needed, so she stayed with her husband while the abuse escalated. After 5 months, she was told by social services that she had to go to a refuge or risk losing her daughter.
When Erum arrived at the refuge and registered with a GP, she found her daughter back at the bottom of the waiting list. 6 months later she is ready to move on and start rebuilding her life. But if she does that her daughter will go back to the bottom of the waiting list.
Soon her daughter will be 5 and the opportunity for intervention lost. The system has let this little girl down and she will feel the impact for the rest of her life.
Sadly Erum’s story is not uncommon. 950,000 children across the UK are affected by domestic abuse every year. We need children such as Erum’s daughter to get priority access to the health care – and critically mental health support – they urgently need. Otherwise we risk forcing their mothers to stay in abusive relationships or leaving these children permanently scarred, unable to recover from their trauma. The latest data shows that more than half of Brits who experience domestic abuse as a child will go on to be victims in their adult lives. We must break this cycle of abuse.
That is why I am urging the Government to take every step possible to prevent domestic abuse and sexual violence. It destroys people’s lives and children’s futures. I welcome the Domestic Abuse Bill but the Government can and must go further. I applaud the work of Hestia in taking forward UK SAYS NO MORE week to highlight the extent of domestic and sexual violence in this country. I stand with them and over 100 others in Parliament in calling on the Government to adopt this Charter for Prevention and collectively we are saying “NO MORE”.
Carolyn Harris is the Labour MP for Swansea East and Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour