SafeLives welcomes the Ministry of Justice’s new pilot scheme to provide better support to domestic abuse victims in the family courts

Liz Thompson, Director of External Relations at SafeLives

For years victims of domestic abuse and sector staff have said loudly and clearly that the family court process is re-traumatising, and can actively facilitate the perpetration of further abuse. The adversarial nature, insufficient specialist support for victims, and lack of a trauma-informed approach demonstrably causes more harm.

We welcome the Ministry of Justice’s new pilot scheme which aims to improve support to victims of domestic abuse, however we believe this is just the start of the reform that is needed. In addition to the changes being piloted, training in the dynamics of abuse, including how legal proceedings can be exploited to perpetrate post-separation abuse, must be mandatory for those working in family courts. Family justice system professionals also need a better understanding of the impact of trauma on both adult and child victims. Our recent report on court support and advocacy for the Domestic Abuse Commissioner demonstrates the positive impact court Idvas can make for victims of domestic abuse, so we would also like to see further investment in this role, and for court Idvas to be present throughout legal hearings.

Together we believe these changes would create the change that is necessary for victims of domestic abuse to have faith in the system that is meant to protect them, and achieve better, safer social justice outcomes

Liz Thompson, Director of External Relations at SafeLives

The Family Court process has left me severely traumatised, worse than the domestic violence itself. I was belittled, undermined, exposed to my abusive ex repeatedly, my children were not listened to and it felt like the father's rights trumped mine and negated his history of domestic abuse. I've never been more frightened and alone in my life.

One of our Pioneers, an expert by experience, said of the family justice system

Read the Report

This report was commissioned by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to shine a spotlight on the support victims and survivors of domestic abuse receive in both the criminal and family justice system.

Understanding Court Support for Victims for Domestic Abuse
Two people in suits walking towards a court door.

Training for family lawyers

Domestic abuse training for family lawyers empowers family lawyers to take a trauma-informed approach to representing survivors of domestic abuse, understand the dynamics of abuse, recognise the effect of trauma on clients’ presentation, explain the impact of domestic abuse on children and young people, and enable clients to achieve best evidence. Moreover, the course keeps learners up to date with recent statute and case law.