Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Domestic abuse must not be tolerated

Women, children, young people and men – all across Wales, people's lives are affected by domestic abuse.

Commonly defined as the controlling and forceful behaviour from one adult towards another within the context of an intimate relationship, it can take the form of sexual, psychological or emotional abuse. Financial abuse and social isolation are also familiar features.

There are many myths surrounding this type of abuse but people suffer domestic violence regardless of their social group, class, age, race, disability, sexuality or lifestyle. Despite incidents being notoriously under reported, it accounts for almost one fifth of all violent crime with, on average, 35 assaults taking place before a victim calls in the police. The lives of two women each week and 30 men per year are lost to domestic violence and it is an issue that will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime.

Although the statistics are horrific, the problem is not insurmountable. A lot has been done to support the victims of such crimes but a lot more is still needed.

New laws were brought in with the Domestic Violence, Crime & Victims Act 2004 which increased the protection, support and rights of both victims and witnesses. It gave the police and other agencies the tools to tackle the perpetrators at source.

Specialist courts have been set up to deal with domestic violence cases using a combined approach by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, magistrates and other agencies. They work together to identify and track each case, support the victims and share information more efficiently to ensure more offenders are brought to prosecution.

This joined up approach across the criminal, civil and family justice system is having significant results and, having been tested in several pilot areas, is now being rolled out across the country.

The Welsh Assembly Government has also shown its commitment with the launch of its All Wales National Strategy to tackle domestic abuse and the production of a Good Practice Guide for people working with children and young people to help protect them and to reduce future incidents through preventative work.

Funding has been given to projects across Wales and an extra £250,000 has recently been invested to extend a free, confidential helpline to allow it to offer 24 hours a day, 365 days a year coverage. The number for the hotline is 0808 80 10 800.

Domestic violence must not be tolerated. I believe that by working together to change attitudes, hold perpetrators to account and provide support to victims, we can make a real, tangible difference.

(Article first published in the Bridgend & Valleys Recorder)


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