241 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2017 in England and Wales. This means that around 2 women are killed every week, although studies maintain that there are probably many more women killed by their partners than the data shows. Even though these numbers are shocking, these crimes constitute the most evident form of domestic violence against women, as this issue has a much bigger scope than it appears at first sight. Being name-called or shamed by your partner, not being allowed to access your own money, being forced to have sexual relations or feeling fearful when you are around him, are also different forms of domestic violence and, as such, should be treated with equal seriousness.
Domestic violence is defined by the government as “any incident of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”. It can then include psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional violence, but it is not limited to these types of abuse. Honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation are also included in the broad spectrum of domestic violence. It is also important to note that although domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or sexuality, women are much more likely to suffer, as has been proved by data showing that, in 2013-2015, four times more women than men were killed by their partner or ex-partner.
Domestic violence is a very serious issue that is much more pervasive in our society than data shows. According to the authorities, domestic abuse is chronically underreported to support organisations, which means statistics show only a small fragment of what is actually going on around us. However, government funding for this issues has been systematically reduced in the past few years, especially since 2010, when the coalition government was elected and started its programme of austerity. These austerity measures have deeper effects on women who are already in vulnerable positions, such as BAMER women, whose greater need of support makes them the hardest hit when funding is reduced from domestic violence services.
Even though in the year to March 2017, 1.9 million people in England and Wales (1.2 million women and 713,000 men) suffered from domestic abuse, the government has kept reducing its budget for services to support victims of domestic violence. In fact, local authorities across England have cut spending on refuges for those suffering domestic violence by nearly a quarter since 2010, from £31.2m in 2010-2011 to £23.9m in 2016-2017. This has meant that many refuges have been forced to close or reduce capacity, leaving many victims of domestic violence unprotected and without the possibility to leave their abusive relationships.
Women deserve to feel safe and protected by society, which is why a stronger institutional response is needed to face such a devastating social problem. In doing so, special attention should be paid to those in more vulnerable positions, such as women from BAMER communities. Some of these women face difficulties speaking English, which makes it harder for them to seek help or know about their rights. Moreover, those women who are dependent on their partners for their right to stay in the UK face an even more problematic situation, as that status can be used against them to prevent them from leaving an abusive relationship. It appears evident then that the special needs of BAMER women should be taken into account when addressing domestic violence.
Here at JAN Trust, we stand against domestic violence and provide support to women by creating a safe and confidential environment where they can seek advice and guidance on the issue. With our English classes and different workshops, we also seek to provide a space where women can increase their confidence and become empowered members of society. If you would like to seek advice, or are interested in any of our services, please visit our website www.jantrust.org.