Victoria Atkins on the Domestic Abuse bill

Domestic abuse has no place in our society. It is a crime that is usually hidden behind closed doors but its repercussions can be felt far and wide in society, including skewing the understanding of love and healthy relationships of children affected by domestic abuse. 

In July, I introduced the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to the House of Commons. The Bill sets out, for the first time, a legal definition of Domestic Abuse and will strengthen the protection offered to victims of this multi-faceted crime. I share the Government’s determination to ensure that victims feel safe and supported when seeking help and rebuilding their lives and that perpetrators feel the full force of the law.

As the Minister leading on the Domestic Abuse Bill, last week I took this landmark bill one step closer to becoming legislation when it passed its second reading unanimously. There were 38 speeches by MPs in Wednesday’s debate and every single one had an extraordinary contribution to make to the Bill. Many heart-breaking experiences were shared, demonstrating the need for this legislation. In contrast to other recent debates in the chamber, this was the House of Commons at its best. 

One of the most moving speeches was by Rosie Duffield MP. For the first time, she spoke about  her own experience of domestic abuse. She described the gradual transformation of an exciting new relationship into a pattern of coercive controlling behaviour in which she felt trapped and had to learn to survive. In this speech and others were examples of behaviour that I have heard often when speaking to survivors about their experiences. They all reinforce the importance of this legislation in recognising that domestic abuse does not always include physical violence.

This is a ground-breaking Bill, and I am delighted that it has cross-party support. This is a once in a generation opportunity to make a step change in tackling domestic abuse and improve the support that is available to victims. Tackling the blight of domestic abuse is a Government priority. 

Alongside the Bill, I have been working in Government on 120 additional commitments to diminish the prevalence of domestic abuse. This includes £8 million of Home Office funding to support children and additional for services for disabled, elderly and LGBT victims.

We all have the responsibility to ensure that people begin to understand what domestic abuse entails, that the abusive relationships that victims are entering are not healthy and that girls growing up can expect much better from relationships in their adulthood. This is what the Bill and the non-legislative measures seek to achieve. The Bill is vital, but there is also so much more that we need to do to ensure that everybody understands that domestic abuse is everyone’s business.

Should anyone reading this article realise that they, or someone they know, needs help, please call the Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247. Together we can stop the scourge of abuse.