On Wednesday 21st July, the government published its ‘Tackling Violence Against Women & Girls strategy’. We welcome the publication of this new strategy and recognition that VAWG is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality, but are disappointed that it is not more ambitious in approach.
The strategy recognises the negative financial, employment and educational impacts of violence against women, including being forced into debt, and that lack of financial independence can be a barrier to victims leaving abusers. Unfortunately, it still fails to recognise the extent to which economic control and abuse restricts women’s choices and life chances, and that this form of abuse is a key part of violence against women. It ignores the fact that economic control underpins many forms of violence against women and girls and that it typically co-exists alongside other forms of abuse. For example, 95% of women who experience domestic abuse report experiencing economic abuse – and is the reason why many women are on low incomes.
It is particularly surprising to see the lack of mention of economic abuse in relation to domestic abuse (as a form of VAWG), given that it has just been named and defined as economic abuse within the new Domestic Abuse Act) and it is a common form of controlling or coercive behaviour.
However, there were some positive aspects to the strategy – it was good to see links drawn between VAWG and homelessness, recognising how victims lose their homes due to lack of income or from having to flee in order to access safety. Safe and affordable housing is vital for anyone escaping violence and we know that housing concerns can become a method of control for perpetrators. Find out more about SEA’s housing work here.
The strategy recognised ‘sex for rent’, exploitation and the need to review the effectiveness of existing offences relevant to this, along with measures to address the harmful aspects of this form of violence.
The strategy also highlights the need for greater public awareness of the different types of VAWG, including the less publicised or less easily identified forms such as controlling or coercive behaviour.
Moving forward, we are urging the government to use the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to announce the need to fund specialist services.
And of course, we are eagerly awaiting the dedicated and linked Domestic Abuse Strategy later this year – we hope this will put economic safety at its heart and include concrete actions to challenge economic abuse. We also hope this understanding is reflected in the refreshed National Statement of Expectations and that it will make it clear to local authorities that economic advocacy must be an integral part of meeting the safety needs of women and girls.
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