Two recent reports from independent inspectorates have underlined the need for a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy.
The first – a joint report for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – found that police and the CPS were not always taking opportunities to gather evidence and prosecute domestic abuse crimes when the victim wasn’t able and/or willing to actively support the process.
Such ‘evidence-led’ prosecutions should be standard. We know many victims may be extremely frightened of the perpetrators, which means cooperating with the police feels both dangerous and impossible.
In these circumstances, it is no wonder that the proportion of domestic abuse cases that are prosecuted is so low. We must change this – we cannot have the responsibility for prosecution fall on victims and survivors’ shoulders. Our criminal justice system must do everything it can to protect victims and survivors, while holding perpetrators to account for their crimes.
The second was a joint report on child sexual abuse within the family context, from the constabulary and probation inspectorates, the Care Quality Commission, and OFSTED. It found that victims of coercive control were being held accountable for the safety of their children in a display of, as the report put it, ‘over-optimism’ about what was possible for the adult victim to do.
This ‘over-optimism’ manifests itself, for example, in contracts or safety plans that mothers are required to sign about keeping their children away from the perpetrator. The perpetrator is not asked to sign these documents. It’s almost as if the perpetrator’s role, as the person causing the risk and harm, is ignored or the agencies don’t quite feel empowered to confront them.
Instead it is the non-abusive parent who is put under pressure from public services – public services who don’t always seem to understand the dynamics of their circumstances – whilst the perpetrators are often let off the hook.
The very services who should be there to support victims, including children, can thus make them feel inadequate, in a process that effectively pushes them away from vital sources of help and protection. As the Call to Action for a Perpetrator Strategy – signed by around 80 organisations and experts – says, it is time to support victims and survivors and empower public services to hold perpetrators to account. It’s a re-orientation of thinking that is required across services and public discourse. The Call to Action is a guide for how we can get there. Now is the time for government to take up the challenge and publish a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy.
Blog written by Veronica Oakeshott, Public Affairs and Policy Lead, Drive