10th September 2015
Reading this article brought back some of my less fond memories from my work in Delhi last year. You’d be right to read it and think that the whole approach sounds chaotic. In India the response to domestic abuse is desperately inadequate, including in a number of ways highlighted by this specific story. Charities like Breakthrough, who I worked for, campaign relentlessly for all of these gaps to be filled:
- No national strategy
- A police service which takes no interest or counterproductive interest in the issue
- No sense of respective accountabilities between different agencies
- No common agreement about what an effective response to domestic abuse looks like
- No effective national scrutiny mechanisms to audit the response victims are getting
I’ve written before about the danger of us being complacent when we make comparisons with a country like India. It’s true that the prevalence of domestic abuse in the UK is undoubtedly lower. Domestic abuse is also viewed as unacceptable by the vast majority of the British population, whereas in India over 70% of both men and women consider issues like “not doing chores properly” to be reasonable grounds for a man to hit his wife. But despite those differences, we still have hard miles to do in the UK too.
Lost at sea
We had two calls to the office in quick succession this morning, almost identical, from women seeking help and desperately frustrated and anxious that they couldn’t access it. One had been asked to leave the refuge she was in and couldn’t get the council to help her move on. Another had just arrived in London with her six children and had managed to stay one night with a friend but now needed something more substantial, fast.
Both women had been told by a number of organisations that there was no help that could be offered, both were struggling to find the facts and contact details they needed from the veritable sea of unco-ordinated information that exists online.
A digital ‘front door’?
As the Home Office works on its new violence against women and girls strategy, all organisations in our sector should be thinking radical thoughts (and communicating them) about how we can keep improving this picture. Whether victims and survivors are staying or leaving, whether they do or don’t have children, support should be available to them when they need it. They should be able to find that help easily and know that they’ll get a responsive, high quality service.
The recent Citizens Advice report called, for example, for the government to put a thin ‘front door’ layer on all the information hosted online about support that victims and survivors can access. In a world where women (whether in Calcutta or Colchester) still find that responsive, high quality service too hard to find, this seems like an extremely sensible thing for the government to put into its new strategy.