A BAN to prevent those charged with domestic violence from cross-examining their victims in family courts has been welcomed by a Christian charity, which has warned that churches are not “immune” from the crime.
The Domestic Abuse Bill, published on Monday, contains a range of measures that are welcomed by charities. They include the creation of a statutory definition of domestic abuse, which states that it can encompass “psychological, physical, sexual, economic, and emotional forms of abuse”, and the creation of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner.
The proposals were welcomed as “wide-ranging and much-needed,” by Andrew Caplen, the co-director of Restored, a Christian charity with a remit to “transform relationships and end violence against women”.
“The proposed ban on domestic abusers being able to cross-examine their victims in the family courts is long overdue — it has so often been terrifying for those who have had to experience this,” he said. He hoped that the Commissioner would be “instrumental in raising public awareness of this heinous crime”.
“It is important for the Church to realise that it is not immune when it comes to the question of domestic abuse,” he added. Recent research commissioned on behalf of Restored and Churches Together in Cumbria found that one in four of women surveyed had experienced at least one instance of abusive behaviour in a current relationship (News, 23 March 2018).
The Church should be “taking the lead in both raising awareness and calling upon changes in attitudes and actions and seeking to model right relationships,” he said.
A gender-justice specialist, Natalie Collins (Interview, 18 January), said that the measures were “good news”, but that many of the issues faced by women and children were related to “wider government decisions: the financial issues around Universal Credit, the lack of resources for women’s services, the cuts to legal aid . . . Unless there is a holistic change to the government’s policies which disproportionately affect poor women and children, there is only so far these measures can really help.”
The Government estimates that about two million adults experience domestic abuse each year: women are twice as likely to be victims than men.
“If law, policy, and spending really are to be radically changed in this area, it is absolutely critical that there is clear recognition that domestic violence very disproportionately affects women,” the co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Sarah Green, told The Guardian this week. “This is not to say that men are not also sometimes victimised, but women’s inequality is part of what drives some men’s sense that they are entitled to bully and control in their relationships.”