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Cynical Tories' domestic violence bill not enough
Heather Rawling, Leicester Socialist Party
How do you leave a violent partner? Well you need guts for a start, as many are attacked or even killed after leaving abusive relationships. 55% of women killed by their ex-partner in 2017 died within the first month of separation, and 87% in the first year (Femicide Census, 2018).
But for working-class women especially, it needs resources - initially somewhere to escape to, and then somewhere to call home. Money to buy clothes and furniture, as many women flee with nothing, childcare facilities, a minimum wage of £12 an hour or decent benefits without a punitive sanction system.
Many will also need counselling for themselves and their children to overcome the trauma.
The Tories have introduced a Domestic Abuse Bill which is currently having its second reading in parliament. They say that the purpose of the bill is to raise awareness and understanding of domestic abuse and its impact on victims. They claim it will provide protection for domestic abuse victims and bring perpetrators to justice, and that the bill will 'seek to strengthen the support' provided by other statutory agencies.
There are some positive aspects to the bill, including broadening the statutory government definition of domestic abuse to include economic control and coercive behaviour. But, in reality, it is a cynical attempt to appear to be doing something about domestic violence while at the same time cutting back on the very services and support that women need to escape. A paltry £34-43 million has been allocated to pay for the bill
Since 2010, councils in England, Wales and Scotland have cut nearly £7 million from refuges alone. And the situation is getting worse: an estimated 21,084 referrals to all refuges in England were refused in 2017-18 because there was insufficient funding or no space for the victim.
Yet in the year ending March 2018, an estimated 2 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse. (1.3 million women and 695,000 men).
Councils have also slashed public services that would enable women to escape. Corbyn has promised a programme of council house building. Women's Lives Matter is fighting for resources and a reversal of the cuts. But they cannot do it alone.
Corbyn and the trade union leaders should be mobilising workers to defend public services, demand that Labour councils refuse to make cuts, and fight for a massive programme of council house building. With better provision, women would not be forced to endure domestic violence and abuse.
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