When will women’s lives be a priority?
This week there has been a number of news stories demonstrating the need for governments, public services and communities to be proactive in working to eradicate male violence against women and girls.
This week we have seen:
• Reports showing a five year high in women killed in domestic abuse related homicides.
• Crown Prosecution Service annual data showing a significant drop in prosecutions (15.1%) and convictions (14.3%) for domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault.
• A convicted abuser being awarded a knighthood.
We are pleased to see the Prime Minister make a statement that the Domestic Abuse Bill will appear in the Queen Speech. However, following 2 years of working with services and survivors in Wales to inform its development, the news this week clearly demonstrates our recommendations for this legislation must be listened to.
In Wales at least 31 women were killed as a result of actual/suspected fatal male violence between 2016-18; this is compared with 14 women killed between 2013-2015. This is despite Welsh Government legislation being introduced in April 2015 that puts a duty on devolved public bodies to prevent, support and protect anyone affected by violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
From domestic homicide reviews and other reports we know that many women have previously been in contact with the police or other services such as health or social services but the responses were insufficient to save their lives.
We also know from our work with survivors that they are constantly experiencing barriers to accessing support, protection and justice within the current legislation and protection mechanisms. All to often they are seen as a unit of risk rather than agencies being proactive in enabling survivors to access protection, support and justice and take action to prevent perpetrators from continuing their abuse.
Survivors have also spoken to us about the widespread assumptions, judgements and victim-blaming attitudes they face when reporting violence and abuse. Practices in the criminal justice system such as asking survivors to download the contents of their mobile phones including emails, messages and photographs often make survivors feel like they are the suspects rather than supporting them to access justice.
We must see proactive action across public services to work together to enable survivors to access the support and safety when they need it. Central to this must be to listen and respond to survivors disclosing abuse. Any disclosure of abuse must always be treated with the highest priority. It is vital that we have services and communities that are actively looking to take every opportunity to support anyone impacted by abuse.
Our awesome ambassador, Rachel Williams, is running the Stand Up to Domestic Abuse Survivor Conference in Newport today – centring the voices of many survivors. The First Minister Mark Drakeford stated in his speech, Welsh Governments commitment to the Istanbul Convention which, if implemented, ensures equal protection and support to all survivors of violence against women and girls. This would include sustainable funding of specialist support for all women, including migrant women in our Nation of Sanctuary and a commitment ensuring the eradication all forms of violence against women and girls for future generations. To do this we must ensure we amplify and listen to the voices of all survivors of violence and abuse and take action without delay to ensure we value all women’s lives.