Tackling the evils of domestic abuse
G. K. Chesterton remarked that “the business done in the home is nothing less than the shaping of the bodies and souls of humanity.”
For most of us, home is where the heart is; where we find love and warmth and where many of our most important experiences take place – which is why homes have the most pronounced impact on the formation of our earthly experiences.
For some though, home is where the hurt is – a place of grief and pain—pain that, for many, dare not speak its name, because they feel shame.
The bitter irony of domestic abuse is that often victims feel that they are in some sense to blame; that they are in some way guilty, and so it goes on year after year, unacknowledged, unrecognised and therefore unresolved.
That’s why the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill, which had its Second Reading last week, is timely and right. It begins a process by which we can highlight, recognise and then act to deal with the awful spectre of domestic abuse.
Speaking in last week’s debate on the Bill, I pressed colleagues to go even further in three particular ways:
I learned a great deal from the case of a disabled constituent who I had known for ages when, bursting into tears, he recounted how his wife had beaten him for years.
Appreciating just how lives can be altered by the cruelty of abuse and how easy it is for such things to go unnoticed, I knew for certain that he was far from the only person suffering in South Holland and The Deepings.
Whilst in two thirds of cases the victims are women, many men are affected too and so we should not assume that this is a gender-specific problem.
I also encouraged ministers to examine further the connection between the character of relationships and the propensity of domestic abuse.
The Office for National Statistics’ research, from the year ending March 2019, shows that cohabiting women are almost three times more likely to suffer domestic abuse than married women or those in civil partnerships.
The figures also demonstrate that separated women are more likely to be abused than those in relationships.
If some kinds of circumstances are particularly linked to abuse, we need to know why and consider what can be done.
Furthermore, I proposed an additional clause to the Bill, calling for the Government to look at the nature of these crimes and the penalties they attract, with a view to raising the minimum and maximum sentences.
Frankly, we ought to be doing that in the case of all kinds of crime, but this kind in particular demands that justice is always done and is always seen to be.
C. S. Lewis said: “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good”.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is an opportunity for Parliament and people to unite in a shared noble endeavour – to protect those at risk of domestic abuse, provide succour to victims and to punish the brutes and villains who bring hurt to hearths and homes.
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