Refuge calls for Domestic Abuse Bill to be bold and transformative

 
As the Domestic Abuse Bill, many years in the making, starts its crucial ‘Committee Stage’ in the House of Lords, Refuge, the country’s largest provider of specialist domestic abuse services calls for a Bill which is as ‘bold and transformative as it has the potential to be.’

Hetti Barkworth-Nanton, Chair of Refuge said:

‘Refuge is delighted that the Domestic Abuse Bill starts its important Committee Stage in the House of Lords this afternoon. Refuge stands ready to work with the government to make the Bill as bold and transformative as it has the potential to be, and we hope the government will cement its commitment to addressing domestic abuse as the bill moves to become legislation. Women’s lives depend on it, and the time to act is now.

As we have seen throughout the Covid-19 crisis, domestic abuse remains the biggest issue facing women and girls. The need to address the response to domestic abuse has never been greater, and while the Bill has the potential to be transformational, Refuge believes that will only be achieved if vital changes are made.

As a priority, Refuge would like to see the Bill make a simple change to the law, which would better protect women and girls from image-based abuse. Currently, while sharing intimate images without consent is a crime, threatening to do so is not . This is an issue affecting millions of women and girls up and down the country. Refuge research found that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales had received such threats, with 1 in 7 young women impacted. 72% of women who received these threats experienced them from a current or former partner – making this a domestic abuse issue. The government has the perfect legislative vehicle to make this change with the Domestic Abuse Bill, and we hope they will seize this opportunity. The second reading, just a week back, showed the breadth of support that exists across the House for this legal change, and we are confident the government will recognise this as a priority and act fast.

Refuge is also calling for reforms to the benefits system – currently, Universal Credit advances are paid as loans, and, by default, into one account. Refuge wants to ensure these advances are paid as grants, which would help ensure women are able to flee abusive partners with some funds available – and that by having payments made into separate accounts, their perpetrators would have less control over their finances. We also hope that the Bill will include a truly gendered definition of domestic abuse. The overwhelming majority of victims of domestic abuse are women, and the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are men. The Bill must be grounded in that reality.

Finally, Refuge strongly supports the work of the Step Up for Migrant Women campaign and hopes that the government will ensure that all women and children, regardless of immigration status, are able to access specialist support. No one should be afraid of or unable to ask for help because of insecure immigration status and having ‘no recourse to public funds’ should never be a barrier to escaping an abusive partner.’

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Supporters can join Refuge’s campaign to end the Naked Threat here.

Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner. With a sharp rise in women seeking support during lockdown, and as the country is moved into a third lockdown the need to address the response to domestic abuse has never been greater.

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge has a Tech Safety Tool at www.refuge.org.uk.