MP fears domestic abuse is ‘under-reported’ and ‘hidden’ in Oldham

Debbie Abrahams MP speaks on debate on Domestic Abuse Bill

I spoke in the House of Commons debate on amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill, stating that the data suggests the problem is ‘under-reported’ and ‘hidden’ in Oldham.

Addressing fellow MPs in my speech, I said: “That we should need a Domestic Abuse Bill is a sad indictment of our society.

But the facts speak for themselves. In England and Wales two women a week die at the hands of their partner, ex-partner or family member. Yes, domestic abuse affects men as well, but most abuse is directed at women.

This violence against women and girls in a domestic or wider setting, has context. Too often, women are not seen as equal to men in dignity and rights. This needs cultural change and leadership for this change.

If we are going to try to prevent domestic abuse, we also need to recognise its drivers, including socio-economic conditions.

Domestic abuse happens in all walks of life, but there’s strong evidence that shows being under financial pressure is associated with an increased risk of abuse. Poverty cannot be decoupled from abuse. It is both a cause and consequence.

The lack of provision in the Bill to address wider cultural issues, and the socio-economic context associated with abuse, were discussed at a recent Oldham roundtable looking at the impacts of Covid on domestic abuse over the last year.

In addition to these gaps, I noted with some concern that the detection of abuse at community level didn’t translate to incidents reported to the police.

Reflecting national patterns, during the first lockdown the average numbers of cases at Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) doubled every fortnight; and the numbers of children on child protection plans following domestic abuse concerns increased by 41%.

But this wasn’t reflected in the numbers of domestic abuse incidents reported to the police, which has remained fairly static at around 400 a month, suggesting that domestic abuse has been under-reported and there is an increased problem of hidden abuse.”

The Bill is a good step forward but there are still gaps and the amendments debated on Thursday would have strengthened it considerably.

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