Domestic Abuse.
Domestic Abuse.

The campaign for ‘Valerie’s Law’ seeks to improve support for black women and girls affected by domestic abuse.

I believe that all victims of violence must be seen, supported, and protected. However, as we saw in the case of Valerie Forde, and on a statistical level, the system is currently failing women and girls from the African and Caribbean Heritage community.

I am concerned that domestic abuse is currently at epidemic levels. For example, police-recorded domestic abuse-related crimes in the year ending March 2021 increased 6% from the previous year.

In the circumstances, I do not believe that the Government’s current strategy goes far enough and polling shows that seven in ten women also consider current policies to stop sexual harassment, rape, and domestic abuse to be inadequate.

It is also important to recognise that migrant women and girls, as well as women and girls who are Black, Asian and ethnic minority, LGBT+, or disabled, can face intersecting forms of discrimination and additional barriers to accessing support and protection, that contribute to disproportionately high levels of abuse or violence. Policies and the provision of services that deliver for the specific needs and experiences of women from these groups are vital.

I therefore welcomed the Valerie’s Law campaign, which highlighted the lack of assistance that black, female victims of domestic abuse receive, and the Westminster Hall debate on 28 March that it triggered.

During the debate, the Minister for Safeguarding, Rachel Maclean, gave a positive response to the campaign. She said that the Government is bringing forward a new domestic abuse plan, “which we will publish shortly”.

When asked if the new plan will specifically reference support for black women and girls, the Minister said:

“It does indeed. The hon. Lady will not need to wait much longer to read the domestic abuse plan in full, nor for the domestic abuse statutory guidance that she has asked about. We are in the process of finalising that, and it will provide further detail on specific types of abuse that can be experienced by different communities and groups, including black and other ethnic minority victims.

“That guidance specifically mentions that ethnic minority victims might—and almost certainly do—experience additional barriers to disclosing domestic abuse and seeking help, including distrust of the police and other agencies. It mentions that professionals should be aware of that, and should actively seek to ensure that the right support is made available. We expect all agencies, and those working with victims of domestic abuse, to pay regard to that guidance.”

Although we haven’t seen the domestic abuse plan yet, this statement from the Minister is encouraging and I hope that the plan will improve support for those affected by domestic abuse.

When it is published, I know that the supporters of the Valerie’s Law campaign, both inside and outside of Parliament, will be scutinising the plan and making sure that black women and girls are specifically included.

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