While the overwhelming assumption is that domestic abuse victims are female, research from Mankind Initiative highlight some concerning statistics: For every three victims of domestic abuse in the UK, one will be male 13% of men (aged 16 – 59 years old) have suffered a form of domestic abuse since the age of 16 In 2017/18, 4.2% of men (approximately 695,000) experienced domestic abuse One in every five victims of forced marriage is a man In 2017/18, 7 men died at the hands of their partner or ex-partner Owing to regressive ideas of what abuse looks like, male victims of domestic abuse find it harder to access help. Nearly half of male victims fail to tell anyone they are a victim of domestic (only 51% tell anyone). They are nearly three times less likely to tell anyone than a female victim (49% as opposed to 19%). National Legal Service Solicitors has helped more than 3,000 victims of domestic abuse in the last year. We feel strongly that each victim should be seen as an individual and helped accordingly irrespective of their gender. Positive Steps Undertaken In September 2017, The Crown Prosecution Service published its first ever public statement recognising the needs and experiences of male victims of offences including rape, domestic abuse, harassment, stalking and child sexual abuse. The CPS statement covers Plans to give prosecutors more information, to help them better understand the experiences of male victims and the barriers to them reporting offences; A commitment to work with third sector organisations and campaign groups to challenge gender stereotypes and improve reporting; Proposals to involve more national men's groups, as well as groups working with boys and girls, in the scrutiny of CPS policies. Head of Family, Ms Kirsty Richards comments, Over the years I have assisted many male victims of domestic abuse and it is my experience that despite there being lots of positive campaigning around domestic abuse, there can remain a… [...]
Domestic abuse can go unidentified by families, friends, and even victims themselves. Some victims fail to comprehend they were subjected to abuse, controlling and coercive behaviour until it is too late and can have a devastating impact on families, particularly young children.
The draft Domestic Abuse Bill was recently published, as it is revealed domestic abuse issues cost England and Wales approximately £66 billion a year during 2016/2017. It was projected approximately two million adults are subjected to domestic abuse each year and so warrants some of the strongest measures to prevent offenders and safeguard victims. However, is the draft Bill feasible within family courts? Does it safeguard children whom have suffered domestic abuse?
The purpose of the draft Bill is to deliver adequate protection for victims of domestic abuse and bring perpetrators to justice and to provide further guidance in relation to the following provisions:
As part of the new Domestic Abuse bill, the government will redefine what abuse is. Lay persons will commonly assume domestic abuse is limited to a specific incident. In recent years, the government formally recognised ‘coercive control’. However, the draft Bill includes ‘economic abuse’ as a recognised form of domestic abuse. This will include control of bank accounts and money.
Protection orders are an important instrument for keeping victims safeguarded and preventing the continuation and/or escalation of abuse. Currently, the Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) aims to protect victims of domestic abuse.
However, the inconsistent Domestic Violence Protection Order will now be replaced by the Domestic Abuse Protection Orders (“DAPO”). The court may enforce requirements to safeguard victims from domestic abuse without any limitations on the Order. It may also comprise requirements, such as, orders to attend parenting courses, perpetrator programmes or substance misuse programmes, in addition to, prohibiting contact between the parties.
More significantly, an application for a DAPO is not limited to the person associated to the perpetrator. This major amendment allows local authorities, probation services or other support workers to obtain a DAPO as such this broadens the scope for those whom are seeking to apply for protection under the family justice system and may limit the risk of further harm attributable from the perpetrator.
The practice of perpetrators currently cross-examining victims causes a significant risk of further controlling and manipulate behaviour. In some cases, victims do not wish to pursue an application for protection due to the risk of further mental harm as a result of the current justice system.
The draft Bill is determined in its effort to provide security to victims of domestic abuse and amalgamate the family and criminal justice system. The government’s set of proposals are welcomed, particularly putting a focus on perpetrator’s culpability and putting families at the forefront. However, the practice of judges cross-examining witnesses on behalf of a party is also questionable in respect of judicial independence and upholding the rule of law.
For many years, victims and their families were expected to be uprooted whist perpetrators would remain unchallenged. However, the new draft Bill has developed significant and meaningful changes to help better support victims of domestic abuse and will allocate funding to support children.
What happens next?
The Domestic Abuse Bill will be scrutinised by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament, highlighting any amendments that need to be made. After this, it will continue through the House of Commons and the House of Lords before being passed for Royal Assent. Hopefully, the Bill is enacted as a matter of urgency, as this is an issue that cannot afford to wait.
At the National Legal Service we are aware that stress and poor mental health can have a major effect on people. As a firm that specialises in family law we often deal with clients who are going through a difficult time. A lot of our work consists of supporting victims of domestic violence and we do our best to support them through what is a stressful process.
In turn, we support our own employees who are constantly faced with cases that are complex and involve clients that are vulnerable. We have a relaxed atmosphere where by the staff feel as though they can speak to one another on their teams regarding any difficulties they may have with their cases. We are also aware that all staff have a life of their own outside of work and that can add to the elements of stress that can impact work life.
Mental health to us is equally as important as physical health and it is vital that we focus on the well-being of our staff and our clients. We ensure that everyone in our team knows that they have a part to play at the making the workplace a positive one.
In the future, we hope to put in to place coffee mornings and other activities whereby the staff can take a break and just engage with one another. We hope that this will lead to building stronger relationships at work so that as a firm we can support each other better to stay physically and mentally well.