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Draft Domestic Abuse Bill - why it matters

16 July 2019 — Mandy Marshall — Blog Draft Domestic Abuse Bill - why it matters

Domestic Abuse Bill

What is it and why is it needed?

The new draft Domestic Abuse Bill is aimed at supporting survivors, victims and their families, pursuing offenders and bringing justice. The bill puts into the law the widened definition of domestic abuse that includes a pattern of incidents and coerce and controlling behaviour. The expanded definition is needed as it represents more of the reality of many survivors of abuse. It is more likely to be a pattern of incidents of abuse rather than a one off. This builds up a picture over time of the offending behaviour of the perpetrator of abuse. 

So what is the 'new'* definition of domestic abuse?

The 'new' definition of domestic abuse is:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.” *

This definition includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

*It's new in terms of being brought into the legal definition but the definition has been in use for a few years now. 

What does the new bill introduce?

Restored welcomes the bill as it brings into law the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse which specifically includes economic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour, or manipulative non-physical abuse.

The bill will also: 

  • enable everyone, including victims themselves, to understand what constitutes abuse and will encourage more victims to come forward
  • establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues
  • introduce new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders to further protect victims and place restrictions on the actions of offenders
  • prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts
  • provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts

Is there anything missing from the bill? 

Last year Restored took part in the government consultation on the new domestic abuse bill. We submitted a response highlighting the importance of faith, in particular churches, in the response. The draft bill does not include faith or faith organisations in the response. This is disappointing. It does mention the victim and perpetrators religious belief but that is all. Restored would like faith organisations to be included in the response and ensure training and support is made available to all. Churches and places of faith can make a huge difference in whether a survivor gets the help and support she needs and signposted to the professional services available.

How will it impact me or my church?

Domestic Abuse is a crime. It will be the law. It is essential then that churches are trained and made aware of what domestic abuse is, how to identify it and how to respond appropriately and effectively. If your your church is interested in being trained please email us on info@restoredrelationships.org We provide training in conjunction with Thirtyone:eight.

We have produced a pack for churches on ending domestic abuse which can be downloaded here

Is there anything I can do?

Yes! Here are a few things you can do:

1. Make yourself aware of the domestic abuse bill here

2. Write to your MP and ask for faith to be included in the response and for funding to be made available to train Churches and Church Leaders. Ask them to contact Restored to come and speak to them about what we do.

3.  Tell people about our work and highlight the church pack

4. Give to Restored. We operate on a small team of less than 3 full time equivalent. We need your support. Do give regularly to Restored as every penny counts. A small amount coming out of your account will make a big difference to a small charity like ours. Thank you. www.give.net/Restored