It is long past time to separate the word ‘domestic’ from ‘violence’ - what is simply violence and to change the way offenders are dealt with. Historically our Police Services have had a poor (if not indifferent) record when it came to dealing with domestic violence, with offences of violence in a domestic context being effectively written off.
At the end of the day violence against a person, is violence against a person. The setting (‘domestic’ or otherwise) is irrelevant; it is simply an offence of violence and should be treated as such.
The current level of violence against women in Wales is unacceptable:
- Nearly sexual assaults against women are reported in Wales each year;
- Women were victims in of the domestic abuse cases reaching conviction in 2010;
- Some women will report honour-based violence, with reporting forced marriage;
- FGM is a well-known practice in some communities in Wales. It is estimated or more will be victims each year;
- Each year, women will die at the hands of a male partner or family member.
Reform of the law in relation to domestic violence has been a slow process, there has been some progress but the grim statistics in relation to domestic violence continue to be rolled out. The Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill faces an uncertain future in the National Assembly, The Bill was intended to ensure a focus across the public sector on the prevention of these issues, the protection of victims and the support for those affected by such issues.
The Bill intended to place duties on the Welsh Ministers, County and County Borough Councils (“Local Authorities”) and Local Health Boards to prepare and publish strategies aimed at ending domestic abuse, gender-based violence and sexual violence. The Bill further provides a power to the Welsh Ministers to issue guidance to relevant authorities on how they should exercise their functions with a view to contributing to ending domestic abuse, gender-based violence and sexual violence.
The Bill contains provision for the appointment of a Ministerial Adviser. The failure to make schools duty-bound to teach healthy relationships and respect, something which had been "universally welcomed" when it first proposed, has seriously weakened the Bill and disappointed domestic violence campaigners who are continuing to work to persuade the Welsh Government to strengthen the Bill.