Response to Sunday Times editorial Sally Challen case

This is an opportunity to transform the response to domestic abuse. SafeLives CEO Suzanne Jacob asks politicians not blow it for cheap gags.

The UK Government is four levels deep into Brexit. Almost no other legislation is even being contemplated, never mind progressed. And yet, despite these facts, the Government stubbornly presses on with pre legislative scrutiny for the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, published in draft a few weeks ago. Why? Because Ministers, and Parliamentarians from all sides of the House of Commons, still have room for agreement. Extreme swings to this or that position seen in Brexit haven’t so far derailed this work, neither the legislation nor the funding and other surrounding effort.

In that spirit of commitment and aspiration – that domestic abuse is a subject worth understanding and talking about – victims and survivors notice. They notice that someone is taking their life and their experience seriously.

Sarah Baxter writes that the term ‘coercive control’ has become fashionable. It’s tempting to say that’s what’s been ‘fashionable’ for some time is writing pithy polemics that use caustic wit to minimise human misery and the complexity of certain crimes.

Coercive control is one such complex crime. Its victims say time and again that they don’t speak out ‘because what would I say?’ They know that the types of small, seemingly nasty but not criminal behaviours are actually a cumulative pattern of behaviour intended to entirely destroy another person’s sense of self. Their confidence to be in the world. Self harming and suicide ideation amongst victims and survivors is incredibly common. But those on the outside might see no more than a slightly dysfunctional relationship.

It’s not that jolly, is it? It’s difficult to think of and easier to make jokes about. But the police, CPS and judiciary are learning not to misjudge this crime. They see the humans behind the headlines and slowly things are starting to change.

We’re presented with a major opportunity to stop hiding things we’re afraid of behind closed doors. Let’s not blow it for cheap gags and naive assertions.

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Coercive control

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Domestic Abuse Act

Find out more about the four-year journey to ensure this milestone legislation was a true leap forward for domestic abuse survivors and frontline services.