November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Violence in the home has increased during Covid 19; contact during the lockdown period to Wales’ national helpline for women rose by 49% and call time trebled. During the national lockdown period, data from Counting Dead Women – a project that recalls the killing of women by men identified thirty-five murders with another twelve strongly suspected cases between March 23rd and the start of July.
Statistics in 2019 show that one in three women aged 16–59 will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime and that two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales. In Wales last year, only one in ten people accused of domestic violence was convicted. There are a multitude of myths about violence against women ; it only happens when the man uses alcohol, it is isolated to poor families, more women would leave if it was that bad, abusers grow up in violent homes, it is a private matter – we shouldn’t get involved. These are all myths.
More money is needed to finance a system that has been decimated in the cuts to public sector funding. The need is across the board; to help victims be rescued from danger, to support them in their choices for the next steps, to ensure that that children are safe and can also have the mental health support they need, and to address the needs of perpetrators to change their behaviour. Less than 1% of perpetrators of abuse get the specialist intervention they need to change. The justice system needs to be revised dramatically to make it easier for women to come forward and to be believed.
And finally, we need to talk about it more, be more open, allow women the safety to speak out without shame and judgement. In Wales, we have lead the way on a range of issues; free prescriptions, the Future Generations Commissioner and a presumption on organ donation. Wales can do the same with violence in the home and work to stop it right now.
* Jane Dodds is Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats