OPINION: More must be done to tackle domestic abuse

Domestic abuse Picture: Getty Images

The Domestic Abuse Act is a good start towards stopping domestic abuse, says Mandy Proctor of Leeway - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Earlier in the year the long-awaited Domestic Abuse Act officially became law after many years of campaigning and debating to get to this stage.

It aims to transform the way that domestic abuse is tackled in this country, providing better protections for survivors and take a tougher stance on perpetrators.

The provisions set out by the act are now gradually coming into force, with a few measures introduced in July and more expected in the coming months.

Included is a statutory definition of domestic abuse, new legal measures to protect survivors and take tougher action on perpetrators, as well as a legal duty on local authorities to fund accommodation-based services.

A Domestic Abuse Commissioner has also been appointed and will oversee the response to domestic abuse across the country, highlighting improvements that need to be made and sharing examples of good practice.

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This is an important role and I hope that it will ensure that the act sets out to achieve its aims and supports everyone experiencing domestic abuse.

The early signs are positive, but there are still a few issues that need to be addressed and more must be done to tackle domestic abuse.

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For the act to fully achieve the transformative approach it desires it must be backed up by a national public information campaign to raise awareness of domestic abuse and what the Act has to offer.

I feel like this would encourage more people to come forward and access support, knowing that there are greater protections available and tougher action is being taken.

At the time of writing there has not been too much publicity around the act, on a national level, and this must change if it is to have desired impact

Locally, Leeway and partner agencies have worked to raise awareness on social media and other platforms, but it is vital the message is spread as far and wide as possible.

It carries an even greater significance given the increasing number of people accessing support during the Coronavirus pandemic, highlighting just how prevalent domestic abuse is in our communities.

The introduction of the act could not come at a better time, and it is important that it hits the ground running to meet the increasing number of people coming forward.

Whilst there are many positives to be taken, there are still areas in which the act falls short though and we must continue to campaign to ensure that nobody gets left behind.

The lack of long-term protections for migrant women is a huge concern and I fear that many may feel that they have no choice but to remain with the perpetrator.

A proposed register for perpetrators of domestic abuse and stalking was also dropped at a late stage, which feels like a missed opportunity to effectively manage and monitor known offenders.

Whilst it is great to see secure funding introduced for accommodation-based services, it is unclear what the situation will be for community-based support services.

They provide vital support in accessible locations within the local community and, without long-term funding, may not be able to meet the increasing demand that has been seen in recent times.

There is still work to be done and we must continue to campaign to ensure that the act does all that it can to support everyone experiencing domestic abuse.

The act does go a long way to improving the way domestic abuse is tackled and supporting survivors but only time will tell if it has the transformative effect it desires.

Mandy Proctor is the chief executive of domestic abuse support charity Leeway 

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