News | Press Release

20 February 2023

Refuge responds to Home Office announcements on domestic abuse perpetrators

Responding to the Home Office’s announcement of measures to protect survivors of domestic abuse and hold perpetrators to account, Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge, said:

“Refuge broadly welcomes the announcements made by the Home Office today. They make a clear statement about the seriousness of these crimes and mark a commitment across multiple government departments to tackle violence against women and girls and domestic abuse, which is much needed.

“Sadly, however, these measures do not go nearly far enough. We face an epidemic of violence against women and girls in this country. Radical and bold action is needed immediately if victims and survivors are to be protected and if perpetrators are to be held account.

“While many of the measures announced today are well intentioned. Refuge remains concerned that they will fall short of those good intentions by not looking to tackle the root causes of domestic abuse and male violence. Adding the worst offenders of coercive and controlling behaviour to a register won’t, for example, help women spot the signs of coercive control. Early intervention is needed so survivors can recognise these behaviours in their partners – just as we have called for alongside the Make it Mandatory campaign.

“The words around the police treating VAWG as a national threat feel empty and without real meaning. VAWG is supposed to already be a strategic policing priority, and we have seen countless failures to root out perpetrators within their own ranks. As a specialist domestic abuse organisation, Refuge hears time and again that perpetrators are breaching Non-Molestation Orders and the police are not acting. What meaning is there to a ‘national threat’ or ‘policing priority’ when forces do not intervene when a survivor is in danger? I’m afraid I can’t, with confidence, believe that this will make a difference when women’s trust in the police is already so woefully low. More than four in five people who experienced domestic abuse did not report it to the police, and the most recent CPS statistics show that referrals from police, charges and prosecutions for domestic abuse have all decreased in the last year compared to figures recorded in 2020/21. The current system is failing survivors – a sticking plaster measure like this won’t change that.

“The government must now look to the women’s sector for ready-made solutions which will make a real difference. Alongside sector partners, we have advocated a range of ready-made policy solutions to the issues the Home Office is seeking to address, like adding a VAWG Code of Practice to the Online Safety Bill, the immediate suspension of police officers accused of VAWG crimes, or prioritising changes to the Child Maintenance System to reduce post-separation economic abuse. Now is the time to make these interventions. Women cannot wait.”