Cost-of-living crisis is also a domestic abuse crisis, says Apsana Begum MP
Every week, two women in the UK are killed by a current or ex-partner, and 49% of those women are killed less than a month after separation. This is unacceptable and preventable.
Yet there continues to be a downward spiral in charging, prosecutions and convictions for domestic abusers. The number of charges related to domestic abuse has halved since 2015. In the most recently available data period, from 1 July to 30 September 2022, the Crown Prosecution Service said it received 17,874 referrals from police on domestic abuse cases, and the proportion of cases that were charged was 76.5%.
For many trapped with an abuser, the new year is far from peaceful. The funding crisis in support for those experiencing domestic abuse is putting many at risk and means that too many are unable to access these vital services. This is particularly the case for Black, minority ethnic and migrant women. In my constituency surgeries, I continue to be alarmed by those who arrive to see me about housing or other issues and then reveal that they need support to survive domestic abuse.
Victims of domestic abuse and coercive control also experience more hardship in trying to manage on already limited incomes, especially where they are subjected to economic abuse by a controlling partner. Research by Women’s Aid has found that many women who face domestic abuse already experience economic control and that this financial disadvantage means these women face further barriers when trying to leave, recover and rebuild their lives after abuse. It is very clear that the cost-of-living crisis is also a domestic abuse crisis.
Action is urgently needed. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Domestic Violence and Abuse, which I am honoured to chair, continues to examine several key issues and policy areas where change is needed to support survivors. These include assessing how the criminal justice system all too often fails domestic abuse survivors, and the practice of abusers misusing the court system to maintain power and control over their former or current partners, a method sometimes called ‘vexatious’ or ‘abusive’ litigation – in other words, stalking by way of the courts.
I am also working with MPs from all parties calling for a duty of care to be placed on employers and political parties to ensure that survivors of domestic abuse are not exposed to further harassment in their roles. This must recognise that post-separation control and harassment is a form of domestic abuse itself and can occur long after a relationship or marriage is over. I have also tabled two cross-party parliamentary motions (Early Day Motion 560 Domestic Abuse and public life and Early Day Motion 562 Domestic Abuse and workplaces) and led a parliamentary debate drawing on my own experiences as a survivor of domestic abuse – highlighting that I still feel that I am prevented from being able to participate fully in public life as a result.
I am very conscious that my experiences are far from unique. I have been contacted by women and survivors from all over the country and I feel a tremendous duty towards them.
Domestic abuse has been hidden for far too long, despite it having serious health consequences for individuals and our society; but after everything I have been through and whatever the future holds, I am determined to raise awareness and campaign for a society where individuals experiencing domestic abuse feel confident that they will be believed, listened to and given the support they need.