The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
25th March 2020
10 Downing Street
Over the last week, monumental measures have been taken by the government to control the spread of coronavirus and now parliament is closing early for the same reason. While we welcome the measures that are needed to try and keep people safe, requiring people to stay at home and effectively ‘locking down’ the UK does not protect the safety of everyone. Increased measures of societal control put women and children experiencing domestic abuse at far greater danger. Government has a duty of care to protect every member of the public.
The 1.6 million women experiencing domestic abuse yearly should be no exception.
Domestic Violence Protection Orders enable the police to temporarily remove suspected perpetrators from a victims’ home for up to 28 days. They are underused across the UK because of the cost and administrative burden. At the same time support services are struggling to keep up with demand from women seeking help. Funding cuts to refuges of around 50% since 2011, along with a surge in reported incidences of abuse has led to 60% of referrals to refuges being turned away.
Reports from organisations across the globe have shown domestic abuse increases with enforced isolation
From a charity in Hubei to a domestic violence hotline in Oregon, reports suggest that social distancing and lockdown measures result in an increase in cases of domestic abuse as households become pressure cookers for coercive control and violence. The government cannot just close its own doors and abandon people to these increased risks without ensuring the police have the powers they need to intervene, and support services are properly resourced.
There are immediate steps that can be taken to protect survivors:
- Domestic Violence Protection Orders must be extended to cover the full isolation period giving victims immediate protection away from the threat of violence, and breathing space to make vital decisions.
- Court fees for cases of domestic abuse must be waived with cases prioritised in court and delegated to trained magistrates.
- Emergency funding must urgently be supplied to refuge services who are currently under immense pressure to protect the increasing number of domestic abuse victims.
If our government acts now, lives can be saved.
Over the past week, our government has proven that in urgent times, urgent measures are well within reach. Parliament must reopen to change the law on DVPOs and release emergency funding for support services. Women’s lives depend on it.
Leader of the Women’s Equality Party
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