Rape Crisis Services and Domestic and Sexual Abuse

Thank you for contacting me about rape crisis services and domestic and sexual violence.

I pay tribute to Fern Champion, who has been incredibly courageous in speaking out recently about this hugely important issue. The Government provides funding for 89 rape support centres. From April, it will increase funding by 10% for these services, with a 30% increase in London, and move to a three-year funding settlement.

Protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims is of the utmost importance.  To support this commitment to tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG), increased funding of £100 million has been pledged between now and 2020.

As well as increased funding, since 2010 there has been continuing action to combat VAWG by significantly strengthening our laws and introducing new tools to protect victims. This includes the criminalisation of forced marriage, two new stalking offences, a new offence for failing to protect a girl from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage and FGM, a new mandatory reporting duty on FGM, the national roll-out of the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (also known as ‘Clare’s Law’), making Domestic Homicide Reviews mandatory and a new offence of domestic abuse covering controlling and coercive behaviour.

The Government has also supported the introduction of a new civil Stalking Protection Order to stop perpetrators and protect victims at the earliest possible opportunity, particularly victims of so-called ‘stranger stalking’.

The Government is committed to transforming its approach to domestic abuse. That is why on International Women’s Day last year, it launched a public consultation to seek views on action the Government should take to tackle this devastating abuse. I know this consultation was important in giving survivors the opportunity to help my colleagues and I understand how to address domestic abuse at every stage, from prevention through to rehabilitation.

In addition, a draft Domestic Abuse Bill has been published. The Bill will create a legal definition of domestic abuse to provide clarity that domestic abuse can be financial, verbal and emotional as well as physical and sexual and that critically it is about patterns of abuse over time. The creation of a new domestic abuse civil prevention and protection order will establish a flexible, bespoke order to provide better protection for victims.

The Bill will also establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness, monitor the response of statutory agencies and local authorities and hold the justice system to account in tackling domestic abuse. You may be pleased to know, that the Domestic Abuse Bill will, if passed, enable England and Wales to be fully compliant with the Istanbul Convention.  

I welcome the fact that the Government is supporting the work of the Employers’ Initiative, a network of over 200 employers who are working together to encourage employers to do more to support victims of abuse. You may be interested to know that the Employers’ Initiative recently published a toolkit on dealing with domestic abuse. The toolkit provides support and information for employers to encourage them to increase their own knowledge of domestic abuse to better understand the scope of the problem and subsequently improve the support available to employees who are suffering, as well as perpetrating, abuse.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

June 2019