Refuge statement on SafeLives report

 
Refuge responds to the Report ‘Understanding Court Support For Victims Of Domestic Abuse’ commissioned by Nicole Jacobs and carried out by SafeLives.

 

Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said:

‘It is disappointing but not surprising to find the vast majority of domestic abuse survivors are not receiving the specialist support they need in the court system and are finding the court process traumatic.

The report published today by SafeLives and commissioned by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner shows that 89% of domestic abuse victims didn’t get any support through the family courts.

Specialist domestic abuse services have been decimated by funding cuts over the past decade, leaving many women stranded without recourse to the support they need to access justice and protection. This situation has been compounded by the pandemic, which has caused severe court delays and backlogs which we know have been growing by around 1,000 cases a month leaving many survivors in limbo, unable to progress with their lives and fearing for their own and their children’s safety.

Refuge’s experiences chime with the findings from this report – we hear too often that the courts, and in particular the family courts, are failing to offer appropriate support to survivors and that court professionals often do not understand domestic abuse. We know that when survivors are accompanied in the criminal justice system by specialist trained Independent Domestic Abuse Advisors (IDVAs) they feel more supported and in control and are much less likely to withdraw from the court process. For women who have had control taken away from their lives due to domestic abuse, feeling unsupported, unheard and misrepresented in the court system is disempowering and re-traumatising. Specialist support can make all the difference – it is life-changing support which needs to be properly funded and offered to all survivors.

Refuge supports calls for a sustainable long-term funding model, rather than ad-hoc, short-term funding pots to ensure the full range of services including IDVA support are available to survivors going through the traumatic family and criminal justice system.

The upcoming Violence Against Women and Girls strategy and Victims Bill provides a critical opportunity for the government to ensure all survivors receive the support they need. For domestic abuse survivors, the court process is an extremely stressful and isolating time and providing specialist support within the court system is vital in ensuring women feel confident in the court process and are empowered to access justice and protection.

Refuge is also calling for urgent action to manage case backlogs including opening more courts and ensuring that funding is provided to enable existing courts to operate at maximum capacity beyond this year, so that survivors receive the justice they deserve

ENDS

For more information contact press@refuge.org.uk.

About Refuge:

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.