Express & Star

'Domestic abuse victims need urgent action - not warbled talking'

Founder of support group SODA (Survivors of Domestic Abuse), Sam Billingham, on protecting victims during lockdown.

Sam Billingham founded support group SODA (Survivors of Domestic Abuse)

The Government website tells us that the year ending March 2017, in England and Wales, the social and economic costs for victims of domestic abuse was approximately £66 billion.

After a national helpline reported a 120 per cent increase in people seeking help during the coronavirus lockdown, we have seen Priti Patel our Home Secretary launch a #youarenotalone campaign and a £2 million pound pledge to help domestic abuse victims, with a clear and simple message - "You are not alone and you are not on your own”

The campaign will absolutely highlight the support available, with the public demonstrating solidarity by sharing a photo of a heart on their plan, and asking others to do the same to convey to perpetrators that domestic abuse is unacceptable.

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I think that this is an absolute insult to all victims and survivors of domestic abuse because this is nothing more than putting a plaster on it for a quick fix poor response. I fail to see how this is going to keep victims of domestic abuse safe.

When a victim of domestic abuse dials a helpline number or calls the police, they have gone through a horrendous barrage of abuse up to that moment in time. This is now them saying 'I’m done I can’t take any more, I need your help'. They don’t want someone to show them their hand with a heart on, they want to be heard, believed and listened to - along with a strong support package.

It’s 2020, victims of domestic abuse should already know they are not alone. Victims now need urgent action not just warbled talking.

Previous cuts to funding has already lead to devastating consequences so we already know £2 million will not even touch the sides; domestic abuse services have been slashed since 2010 so there is a lot of making up to do and £2 million won’t cut it.

What needs to be done is for the Government and society to not only take domestic abuse seriously but to also understand the crime. We need to focus on taking the root cause of domestic abuse – the perpetrator – by not only taking them out of the home but out of the equation altogether.

The biggest barrier a person fleeing domestic abuse has to face is finding a safe place to go to. More money needs to go into the running of safe houses, without them victims have nowhere to go, often having no other alternative but to stay with their abuser. We also need to see a stronger prison punishment for perpetrators, a tough enough deterrent to stop them re-offending.

Money should be going into long-term solutions, not a quick fix.

Sadly, this campaign simply shows me that where domestic abuse is concerned we still haven’t moved far enough forward to keep victims of domestic abuse safe, it is still clearly misunderstood and there is still so much work to do in giving victims their faith in the system back.

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