Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – and the day that the coalition government published our cross-government plans to tackle violence against women and girls.
The Home Secretary has allocated more than £28 million for specialist services to tackle violence against women and girls – running up to 2015. These specialist services which support victims of sexual and domestic violence will continue to receive central Home Office funding – including local domestic and sexual violence advisors, services for high risk domestic violence victims , national helplines and work to prevent forced marriage.
This is my portfolio too (as of about six weeks ago) and this cross-government vision and long term priorities for tackling violence against women and girls will be followed up by a full plan of action next spring. There are four key areas that we will focus on. The prevention of violence including reducing repeat victimisation, the provision of support, the bringing together of groups to work in partnership and action to reduce risk by ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice.
For the first time the strategy brings together work to tackle violence against women in the UK with details of the international approach to tackle this global problem. In fact that includes my own appointment, announced today, as Overseas Champion to lead on the UK’s international work.
This is a departure from the narrow focus of previous strategies – where whilst continuing the pressure to bring perpetrators to justice – we put a big emphasis on changing and challenging behaviours and attitudes. We need early intervention – making sure young people understand the importance of healthy relationships and respecting the right to say no.
We put emphasis too on the importance of training for professionals and front line staff to spot early signs and risk factors of domestic and sexual violence, child sex abuse and harmful practises – including a new e-learning training course for GPs on violence against women and children.
There are new powers to help domestic violence victims break the cycle of abuse including piloting in three areas Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPO). Until now – post a domestic violence incident – it has been the abused partner and the children who have had to leave the home and seek refuge elsewhere. These civil orders enable the police to use their judgement to issue a DVPO where it is then the perpetrator of the violence post an incident who has to leave the vicinity. This is decided at super-intendent level and is for 48 hours at which point it can be extended to between 14 and 28 days – subject to a magistrate’s decision. This applies equally to men as to women.
Internationally it’s about supporting innovative new projects in the poorest countries and working with international organisations and governments overseas to promote women’s rights globally and reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls.
Domestic violence is sadly an everyday occurrence. Last year there were more than one million female victims of domestic violence in England and Wales – nearly two women each minute. And every week two of those women lose their lives. Each year 300,000 women were sexually assaulted and 60,000 women were raped. It is a shaming indictment of the way we are.
This is a priority for the coalition government – and for me!