Evidence Submission for the VAWG Strategy
Submission from Dame Vera Baird, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, to the Home Office consultation on the VAWG Strategy.
VAWG is undoubtedly a gendered issue and is high prevalence and high harm. It is a cause and consequence of women’s inequality and is internationally recognised as a human rights issue. As such any new strategy needs to remain grounded in these principles. We recognise that men and boys do suffer interpersonal violence, sexual violence and other forms of ‘VAWG’ abuses, as such government should ensure that they are catered for outside of this VAWG framework.
Any strategy MUST be created in collaboration with the specialist VAWG sector if it is to achieve its’ stated ambition of eliminating VAWG. New and emerging forms of VAWG are often very foreseeable and government should future proof this strategy by ensuring it works with experts in VAWG and expert academics to horizon scan.
The data that we have fails to reflect women and girls lived experience of VAWG and so the strategy must ensure that comprehensive disaggregated data is collected. Because VAWG is so pervasive it is vital that this strategy be truly cross-governmental to ensure that policy makers are able to view policy through a VAWG lens to avoid unintended consequences for women and girls.
The strategy must address the failings of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) which is not fit for purpose for the majority of VAWG offences, in particular in respect of rape which has been practically decriminalised.
The strategy should address prevention by looking at local grass-roots initiatives, making sure compulsory sex and relationships education is rolled out in schools and supporting the whole school approach. The best way to address perpetration is to create a bespoke strategy. It is vital that government commits to long-term sustainable funding for specialist VAWG services, that meet the needs of all women and girls.
- The strategy must remain grounded in the internationally recognised framing of VAWG as a human rights issue.
- Government must continue to recognise the gendered nature of all forms of VAWG.
- Government must create this strategy collaboratively with the specialist VAWG sector and expert academics.
- The strategy must be truly cross-governmental.
- The strategy must compel the collection of comprehensive, comparable and disaggregated data on VAWG across government – at a minimum data must always be collected on the protected characteristics and immigration status for both victim and perpetrator and their relationship.
- The strategy must compel DfE to roll out compulsory sex and relationships education and further to support a whole -school approach.
- Government should commit to a perpetrator strategy as outlined in the EVAW VAWG snapshot.
- The strategy must commit to effective CJS reform in order to make it ‘victim-friendly’.
- The Impacts from Covid will be felt for many years to come, as such this strategy needs to factor this in.
- The strategy must be delivered alongside a secure, national multi-year funding settlement for the specialist VAWG sector, which ensures all forms of service
provision for survivors, children and young people and perpetrators are resilient for the future, provides equity of provision for survivors across the UK nations , and is delivered by all government departments responsible for VAWG – including ringfenced funding for specialist services led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women, Deaf and disabled women and LGBT+ survivors.
- The strategy should outline clear legal obligations on government, local authorities and public bodies to provide specialist by and for community-based support services.
- The strategy should enforce accountability through national quality standards based on the VAWG sector’s quality standards to ensure survivors of all forms of VAWG can access the specialist support services they need – including services led ‘by and for’ survivors with additional protected characteristics.
- The strategy should give clear policy direction for the CJS in dealing with female offenders subject to VAWG and in particular those whose offences are directly related to VAWG, for example coerced drug dealing or prostitution.
- Fuller use of the power in S25 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, to restrict public access during the evidence of the complainant/other witnesses in serious sexual offence trials
- Trauma informed approach in the CJS.
- Re-fresh/re-draft guidance on ISVA role, duties and professional standing.
- Further pilot and then roll out a Sexual Violence Complainants’ Advocates Scheme.
- Screening the Screens in court.
- Roll out of section 28 for intimidated witnesses.
- An opportunity for Victims to make representations to seek a positive outcome from exercise of the Victim’s Right to Review.
- Implementation of a firewall between CJS agencies and immigration enforcement.
- Better training and understanding of ‘so-called’ Honour Based Abuse (HBA) within the CJS.
- A Ministerial lead for Rape.
- We endorse the recommendations of EVAW in their VAWG snapshot and the submission to this call from Professor Clare McGlynn and Dr Kelly Johnson of Durham University, for online harms to be treated as a public health issue and for law reform.
- The value of ISVA and IDVA services are well understood by government and we would like to see a commitment to funding so that each and every survivor if they wish to can have access to an IDVA or ISVA.