Campaigners are calling for the government to protect lifesaving women’s domestic abuse services.
Campaigners are calling for the government to protect lifesaving women’s domestic abuse services. Launching on International Women’s Day, a petition by domestic abuse charity Womens’ Aid is asking for the government to require local authorities to fund women’s refuges.
The domestic abuse bill, which reaches report stage at the House of Lords today, requires councils to fund accommodation for survivors but does not specify women-only shelters. The charity is asking for specific funding for women’s’ shelters because abuse is a gendered crime and the vast majority of victims who get seriously injured or killed are women.
This petition follows a number of Women’s Aid member services losing local authority funding. The charity’s recent Fragile Funding Landscape shows that one in five domestic refuge services are running without local authority funding, with spaces for Black and minority women far more likely to be unfunded.
Women’s Aid chief executive Farah Nazeer said that the women-led domestic abuse services losing funding could lead to more women and children dying.
She said: “The decision by some local authorities to commission ‘gender-neutral’ services disregards the evidence that women experience the most severe domestic abuse; are more likely to be killed by their abuser; and that women experiencing domestic abuse need access to women-only support.
“Women need to trust a service and feel safe to be able to access support, especially if they are leaving their home to move into a refuge with their children. Many will be living with long-term trauma, and will need specialist support to rebuild their lives.”
Nazeer said that 91% of domestic violence crimes that lead to injuries are against women and three women are killed every fortnight by a current or former partner in the UK.
“Coupled with the current government plan to separate domestic abuse from the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy, this will only serve to encourage more ‘gender neutral’ responses to domestic abuse,” she added.
“Women-led domestic abuse services are under threat, and there will be severe consequences for women and children if we do not stop this now.”
You can sign the petition here.
Sophia Dourou is a freelance journalist
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