Roy Kennedy on the Covid-19 lockdown and the rise in domestic abuse
The Domestic Abuse Bill has for the third time begun its passage through Parliament. Working with victims and others, I hope to play my part in ensuring that a truly transformative Act becomes law later this year – with women and children getting protections that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
Home should always be a place of safety, where you are looked after by loved ones. But what if it is not safe and instead a place of danger? What if, during the current crisis, you are locked down with an abusive partner? And what if you are constantly worried about what might set them off: the wrong response to a question, a look in the wrong direction, no more alcohol to drink in the house.
This is the reality of the lives of some women in the UK today. Living in fear for their safety and that of their children.
Communities have been brought together in the past few months, by people being forced apart and into their homes. Yet in bringing out the best in many people, the lockdown has also brought out the worst in some and seen a dangerous rise in incidences of domestic abuse.
That is why I used an oral question slot in the Lords yesterday to press the government on what it is doing now to protect victims, in lieu of the upcoming legislation.
I did so partly to hear reassurances from the Minister, Baroness Williams, that the Home Office and Police are working together to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. But I also asked if any consideration was being given to using public information films – on TV channels and elsewhere – to reinforce both the message that domestic abuse is crime, and the ways in which victims can seek help and support.
To my surprise, the Minister, while expressing concern that such broadcast campaigns could create additional tensions within abusive relationships, agreed to take the idea back to the Home Secretary for further discussion. A recognition I hope that the difficult times we live in warrant some creative responses.
Domestic abuse is disgusting crime made all the worse by the lockdown. With a potentially long hot summer on the way. I look forward to engaging with the government on how best to act to protect victims, prior to the legislation completing its journey through the Commons and Lords.
Lord Roy Kennedy of Southwark is a member of the Shadow Home Office team in the House of Lords. He tweets @LordRoyKennedy
Published 6th May 2020