The Policy Context of Domestic Violence

Nov 27, 2013, 09:52 AM

Amy Nichols, Head of Domestic and Sexual Violence Policy at the Department of Health, explains the policy context for addressing domestic violence in the UK.

Transcript: I have been asked to set out the policy context for “intimate partner violence.” Intimate partner violence is a form of domestic violence and abuse.

The Government has a broad definition of domestic violence which includes intimate partner violence, as well as honour-based violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and sexual abuse. I will set out the definition but will focus on intimate partner violence only.

So, domestic violence is: 'Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members1 regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:

• psychological • physical • sexual • financial • emotional”

Domestic violence in England and Wales accounts for 16% of all violent crime and is the major cause of injury in women under 60 years old. More than 1 in 4 women had been affected by domestic violence since the age of 16 years. Men too experience domestic violence. The physical and mental health impact on the person at the end of the violence can be chronic. It includes trauma and injury; reproductive health and gynaecological problems; as well as mental health consequences, such as post- traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance misuse and suicide.

The effects of domestic violence don’t stop there. Children who witness domestic violence can also get caught with trauma and injury; experience developmental delays and acquire behavioural and mental health problems.

The coalition Government is absolutely committed to preventing violence against women and children in all its forms and this is a Government priority. I want to mention two important overarching pieces of legislation because intimate partner violence affects equalities and inequalities and is also affected by them. Public sector equality duties under Under the Equality Act 2010 are a key framework for ensuring that the impact of equalities is addressed in a way that provides opportunity for all. This duty requires public bodies, to demonstrate that we are taking action on equality in policymaking, service delivery as well as public sector employment. We have to take steps not just to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment, but also to actively promote equality. Age, Race, Sex, Sexual orientation, Religion and belief, Disability, Gender reassignment, Marriage and civil partnership, Pregnancy and maternity are important protected characteristics against which it is unlawful to discriminate and all these bear on domestic violence.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 also requires the Secretary of State for Health to have regard to the need to reduce health inequalities. This duty covers both the NHS and public health and relates to the whole population of England.

In November 2010, the Government published a strategy on how it intends to tackle violence. The outcomes we want to achieve in Call to end violence against women and girls are: • Societal – for people to find domestic violence unacceptable and to be able to challenge it; • Reduction - for fewer people to experience domestic violence. • Identification and support - for frontline professionals such as doctors and nurses to be able to identify and deal with domestic violence • Employers – for employers to recognise and support victims of domestic violence

The main principles behind Call to end violence against women and girls are: • Preventing domestic violence • Providing services • Working in partnership • Better justice outcomes

In March 2011, the Government published the first action plan for Call to end violence against women and girls and this has been refreshed eac...