When it became clear that the Government wasn’t going to get away with its unlawful closing down of Parliament we persuaded them to bring back their Domestic Abuse Bill. There’s much cross-party support for the Bill which seeks to take the fight against domestic abuse to a new level. A Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Domestic Abuse Protection Orders and a new definition of Domestic Abuse are all aimed at offering greater protection for victims and challenging stereotypes.
As a Minister, during our consultation on Violence Against Women and Girls I recall very well, in the Big Red Bus at the top of Northumberland Street, hearing the stories of victims. They were quite different from what might have been expected and often went beyond physical abuse to include emotional and financial abuse. Being both lead Minister and a man sometimes raised eyebrows, but it highlighted that though domestic abuse is most often a problem for women and the perpetrators are usually men, in reality it’s a problem for us all.
I’m also grateful for a recent Age UK report which drew attention to older victims, particularly worrying because they are often more isolated and less likely to report abuse. There are also omissions from the Bill. I recently visited a local refuge and heard how a lack of safe houses sometimes discourages victims to leave. Councils need to make it more of a priority and government needs to find the resources.