We know by now that the impacts of domestic abuse are physically and mentally damaging. Depending on multiple factors of abuse that survivors endure, many do not get the chance to recover. For the survivors of domestic abuse, especially those with children, the effects of the processes and procedures in place, have been known to be retraumatising. Perpetrators are often granted contact to children and survivors have to stand in a court rooms where they are forced to relive the most traumatising events of their lives, whilst being able to see and feel the presence of their abusers. For many years, this has been dismissed.
Plans for the reform of the Domestic Abuse Bill finally highlights the drastic changes that need to be made in order to protect survivors and children as well as many other aspects of dealing with the aftermath. Survivors will automatically be entitled to separate courtroom entrances, waiting areas and screens to shield them whilst in the courtroom. Although the measures are in place, they have not been readily available for survivors when going through proceedings.
A question at the forefront of my mind is, yes finally it will be a critical element to the procedure, but, why has it taken so long to realise the potential dangers of these measures not being put in place in the first place?
Extended powers will also be given to judges which will enable them to bar orders that allow abusers to cause further damage by continuously having survivors brought back to court. One thing we know about abusers is ‘no contact’ bothers them deeply. They can and do go to extreme lengths to get their survivors attention. Which not only does this put power back into their hands but it also retraumatises the survivor. It has also been proven that in order to break trauma bonds and begin to rebuild their lives, survivor’s are advised to have absolutely no contact. This is proven in work carried internationally with domestic abuse services.
Disturbingly, the previous domestic abuse bill gave parents found guilty of any form of domestic abuse the entitlement to face to face contact with their children. It is deemed critical for contact to be maintained if the abuser did not harm the child or children in question. But what about the indirect impact of domestic abuse on children?
What I find interesting, is the psychology practiced nationally acknowledges that children exposed to domestic abuse is damaging in all elements. A child does not have to be directly attacked or witness abuse to be impacted by it yet this psychology seems to be swept under the carpet in family proceedings. However, finally it is been agreed that during the reform of this bill. Not only will this no longer be a case of a parent against a parent proceedings, but there will need to equally be enough evidence to support how contact between the abuser and children can be managed, if it can, and a reassessment of the risks.
In cases like this, it has been common that the voice of the child has not been considered which will now be an important part of the procedure. This a huge turning point. However, we hope that this can be added to.
1 in 4 children have been murdered by a parent who had a history of domestic abuse and decisions like this should never be agreed without extensive intervention.
Some other elements that will be implemented are as followed:
When the new domestic abuse bill has been rolled out abusers will no longer be allowed to cross examine survivors in person in family courts.
Domestic abusers will be subject to polygraph testing following their release from custody.
Tenants who are fleeing from domestic abuse who had lifetime tenancies will be signing a lifetime tenancy for their new property for security.
A new domestic abuse protection notice and domestic abuse protection order will be implemented.
A domestic abuse commissioner will be established to aid and support the awareness of domestic abuse and advocate on the behalf of all survivors.
Observing how the domestic abuse bill has changed yearly give us hope that not only can we begin to protect individuated survivors where possible, but we can now ensure that all survivors receive maximum support during proceedings or simply in the aftermath of leaving an abusive relationship. The work doesn’t stop here and the reformed domestic abuse bill is yet to be rolled out however, we are on the way.
To read more on the domestic abuse bill : https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-abuse-bill-2020-factsheets
What are your experiences of dealing with law and legislation for protecting yourself from abuse? We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
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