Fighting Back: MP Rosie Duffield gives powerful speech as she debates the new Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament

October 30, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield speaks about her personal experiences with domestic abuse in the Parliamentary debate for passage of the New Domestic Abuse Bill.

What does this mean?

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were an estimated two million victims of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom; but there are countless others that go unreported. Women’s Aid, a charity working to prevent domestic abuse and protect survivors, noted that 59% of all women murdered in 2017 were killed inside their own homes. The charity said that in the same year, approximately 400 women were rejected from their refuges due to a cut in funding

The new Domestic Abuse Bill, one of Theresa May’s “flagship” policies, is finally being introduced in Parliament. In debating the bill, the Labour MP for Canterbury, Rosie Duffield, gave an emotional speech describing her own experiences with domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is much more than the stereotypes depicted on television and other media. Rather, it is a slow and gradual phenomenon that builds up throughout the course of a relationship. For her, it started with verbal intimidation, silent treatments, then refusals to disclose his salary and contribute to bills.  Duffield described how “…those patterns continue: reward, punishment, promises of happily ever after alternated with abject rage, menace, silent treatment and coercive control; financial abuse and control”. 

Duffield received a standing ovation after she presented her emotional speech. Labour former minister Yvette Cooper praised her and said, “it is a message not just to those across the country who may experience coercive control or abuse, but also to everybody else, and for those of us across this chamber who…want to support her and other people who experience abuse or control or violence across the country”.

What's the big picture effect?

The statistics above illustrate the urgency of the need to address domestic abuse. While Brexit has been hogging the headlines, the long-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill is finally ready to be published. 

It is an important piece of legislation because it includes the first-ever statutory definition of abuse, which extends beyond physical to financial abuse. It is hoped that people will gain a greater awareness and realise that domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviour that takes a variety of forms. The new bill seeks to allow judges, social workers, doctors and survivors to identify domestic abuse

The bill announces £8 million in funding for projects across the country to support children who have been affected by domestic abuse, as well as disabled, elderly, male and LGBTQ+ survivors. It includes provisions requiring perpetrators to attend rehabilitation programmes, and provides for survivors to automatically qualify for ‘“special measures” in criminal courts; this reduces the stress of giving evidence as it prohibits perpetrators from cross-examining victims in family courts. The bill also establishes the role of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner to ensure that all services provided under the provisions are carried out effectively. 

At a time when the country is so divided, it is important for Parliament to come together on such a crucial issue where radical reforms are required.

Report written by Robyn Ma

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