28 JULY 2016

What does the concept of ‘future’ mean to a woman experiencing domestic abuse? The future can be a scary and dark place when you are living with an unpredictable perpetrator, trying to anticipate their every move and mood, unsure of how much longer you can go on without being seriously injured – or feeling like you are going to lose your mind completely.

On average, every week, in England and Wales two women are killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. The police receive 100 phone calls every hour in relation to domestic abuse. Approximately 12,000 women and 12,000 children have to flee their homes every year in fear for their lives. One in seven children and young people (under the age of 18) will have lived with domestic abuse at some point in their childhood.

There can be no doubt that domestic abuse is a cause and consequence of women’s inequality. It is deeply rooted in our patriarchal social structures and disparities in life chances between men and women.

The EU has been a critical factor in determining how victims of crime, including domestic abuse, are treated. It firmly places the abuse of women and girls by men as a human rights issue, situated in a wider context of gender inequality. Despite what you may have been reading, leaving the EU is not simply an issue for fiscal policy, immigration and the NHS; it also impacts on women and children’s safety, too.

The EU Victim’s Directive sets out clear standards for EU member states in terms of the type and level of support they are required to provide for domestic abuse survivors. Women’s Aid warned of the dangers, for women and children affected by domestic abuse, of exiting the EU. Now is the time when this Government needs to ensure that the future that survivors face is not even more frightening and dangerous as a result of Brexit. In order to protect the future of women experiencing domestic abuse, it is vital that this Government is able to weave conversations around gender equality into every level of their Brexit negotiations. We urgently need assurances that Brexit will not hinder women’s opportunities to access high-quality domestic abuse services – and ultimately, their opportunities to leave an abusive relationship.

This Government, particularly our new Prime Minister, has shown a real commitment to enhancing protections available for survivors and improving the police response to domestic abuse. Yet, women’s voices and experiences are still so often absent from political debates and decision-making. So, if women’s voices are often absent then you can rest assured that survivors’ voices are silenced. Through this campaign we can make sure that when a survivor of domestic abuse has to #FaceHerFuture, we are holding the Government to account on their promise to work towards ensuring that ‘women and girls can live their lives free of violence and abuse’ and remind them that this issue must be central to the Brexit negotiations.

So what is the future that survivors of domestic abuse will face? We don’t have a crystal ball, but we know that by supporting this campaign and working with organisations like Women’s Aid and the Fawcett Society, the Government can put gender equality and domestic abuse front and centre of Brexit conversations. Women’s Aid stands alongside the Fawcett Society on this important campaign and we ask you to do the same. Together we can help to ensure that survivors of domestic abuse have a voice around the table during EU negotiations.

Together we can ensure that survivors of domestic abuse have a future to look forward to.

Sian Hawkins is the Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager at one of our partner organisations, Women’s Aid, in the #FaceHerFuture campaign. You can follow Sian and Women’s Aid on Twitter and visit the website here to find out more about Face Her Future. 

Sian Hawkins, Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager at Women’s Aid Federation of EnglandABOUT AUTHOR 

Sian has been working in the women’s sector for 10 years, she is the Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager at Women’s Aid Federation of England. Sian leads on the SOS: Save Refuges, Save Lives campaign that has successfully secured an additional £13.2 million of funding for women’s refuges and the Child First campaign which is calling for safe child contact.