Response to pre-legislative committee on Domestic Abuse Bill

SafeLives calls for proposals to be strengthened to reflect the views of survivors as it submits evidence to Pre-Legislative Committee on the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Following the publication of the draft Domestic Abuse Bill in January this year, UK domestic abuse charity, SafeLives, submits evidence to the Pre-Legislative Parliamentary

Committee, who are seeking views on the reforms proposed.

Honouring the voices of hundreds of survivors who responded to SafeLives’ online call out – Every Story Matters – for what they wanted the Bill to achieve, our evidence calls for the prohibition of cross examination by perpetrators to be strengthened and challenges the government to do more on prevention, including a bold new strategy for men and boys at risk of harming themselves or other people.

Current proposals to stop personal cross-examination require there to have been a prior conviction, caution or charge. However, it is common for domestic abuse allegations to come up in the justice system for the first time in family courts. The new legislation must protect survivors and cover all allegations being heard. Survivors should not have to face court-sanctioned interrogation by the person who may have subjected them to many years of abuse and control.

The perpetrator can tell so many lies but he just has to look at the victim and PTSD will set in and then [your] nervous go and [you] can't remember everything.

Survivor, Every Story Matters

We also urge the Committee to look at the non-legislative measures and ask the government to put prevention at the heart of its plans, with coordinated urgent action against perpetrators in place in every area, by police, probation, mental health, housing and social services and a ‘whole family’ approach which spots multiple risks for different family members sooner.

[perpetrators should] attend a compulsory training programme to look at their behaviour and compare against a 'normal' behavioural response.

Survivor, Every Story Matters

We want to see the development of the first government strategy on men and boys at risk of harming themselves and others, examining the links with other experiences, behaviours and offending, from youth and knife crime and sexual offending, to mental health problems and suicide. Not only do we not look at men in the context of domestic abuse, we are in danger of trying not to look at them – as human beings with experiences and behaviours that need attention – at all.

We welcome the new requirement for schools to teach Relationships and Sex Education, helping children to understand healthy relationships, but ask that the government invests in the necessary resources and training to make this effective.

To truly change harmful behaviour affecting our society, we must look at the whole picture and act at a societal level. Over two million people experience domestic abuse each year. For too long we’ve seen domestic abuse as something inevitable that happens ‘behind closed doors’. It’s time to take urgent action to improve the response.

If we’re serious about ending domestic abuse, we’ve got to stop asking why she doesn’t leave and instead ask why he doesn’t stop. Exactly the same principle applies to same-sex relationships, and all forms of abuse.

The draft Domestic Abuse Bill is a huge opportunity to improve the lives of every victim, survivor and child in a situation like this. We welcome the draft Bill, but our evidence today calls for the government to be more ambitious.

Our evidence is firmly rooted in the voices and stories of hundreds of victims and survivors who engaged with our Every Story Matters platform last year. Their voices tell the truest, most immediate and compelling story of domestic abuse. And there’s no them and us – abuse sucks the joy in living from so many of us no matter what our professional title or background. We’ll be looking at further ways to involve the authentic voice of victims and survivors as the Bill moves through Parliament. There’s so much power in personal testimony. Together we’re going to end domestic abuse.

SafeLives Chief Executive, Suzanne Jacob, OBE,

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