Theresa May has used her first speech in the Commons since standing down as prime minister to speak passionately about tackling domestic abuse.
The former premier urged MPs to seize a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to help domestic abuse survivors by passing “landmark” new laws.
It came as MPs debated the Domestic Abuse Bill on Wednesday – legislation which could see councils legally bound to provide secure homes for women and children escaping domestic violence.
It would also introduce the first legal government definition of domestic abuse.
“Domestic abuse blights lives, it can destroy lives, and not just the life of the immediate victim, but of those children and other family members as well,” May told the Commons.
She continued later: “This is not something that simply takes place behind closed doors and that others can ignore. It is something that affects us all.
“It affects our economy. It affects our society. It affects our young people as they’re growing up.”
Children who grow up in a home where there is domestic abuse are 50% more likely to be in an abusive relationship later on in life, May went on to add.
May recalled launching a campaign of advertisements about “what a good relationship was” during her time as home secretary, noting: “The saddest thing was reading some of the comments that the young people, particularly young women, made when they had seen those adverts in cinemas and elsewhere.
“Comments like ‘I didn’t know it was wrong for him to hit me’.
“This is the sadness in our society, of so many people who don’t know what a good relationship is and who suffer from their bad relationship, and who suffer in silence for too many – as we’ve heard – for many years before any action is taken.”
MPs must not waste this opportunity to help domestic abuse survivors, the former PM told the House.
“Every day is emotionally exhausting, working in a job that you love but putting on a brave face and pretending all is good, fine, wonderful in fact,” she said.
“Then the pretence and the public face start to drop completely. Being yelled at in the car with the windows down, no attempt to hide behaviour during constituency engagements. Humiliation and embarrassment now added to permanent trepidation and constant hurt.”
Duffield added: “Abuse isn’t just about those noticeable physical signs, sometimes there are no bruises. Abuse is very often all about control and power, it’s about making themselves feel big or biggest but that’s not how abusers present themselves.”