THE UNITED KINGDOM’S DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PANDEMIC

The United Kingdom (UK) is said to be one of the most developed states in the world and is a member of the G-7, the largest economies in the world. With its glorious historical monuments and its respect for the monarchical system, one would think that the concept of ‘respect’ and ‘discipline’ would exist in a country that has lived for centuries. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and we can see that most clearly in the case of domestic violence in the UK. Sadly, such violence has gotten worse during the plague we know as COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in the UK were strict; almost all individuals were to stay at home to avoid the spread of the disease. Grievously, this forced women to live under the same roofs as their abusers, and as such, were unable to escape the violence that befell them. As a result, many women and girls have lost their lives to the men that were meant to love them. According to a report in the New York Times by Amanda Taub and Jane Bradley, “During the first month after the lockdown began in late March, sixteen women and girls were killed in suspected domestic homicides—more than triple the number from the same period in 2019. At least 10 more have died in the two months since then. The oldest of them was 82 years old. The youngest, killed alongside her mother and four-year-old sister, was two.”[1] This statement alone begs the question as to whether there was anyone within the government that cared for the females of this country. The fact that not only women, but young children, could lose their lives from something that could have been prevented is absolutely astounding. What is frightening about this is that these men were meant to be called husband, father, boyfriend, brother, or son, by the women or girls they killed.

There were systems put in place during the pandemic, but the lack of funds made it difficult for them to properly carry out their work. Taub and Bradley report that “The pot allocated was £37 million, or barely half the £65 million that domestic abuse services calculated was needed to keep services running during the pandemic. And even today, only £1 million of that emergency funding is known to have reached front-line services, the government admitted.”[2] Without the funding that allows appropriate personnel, or the resources needed, there is no way domestic violence can be curtailed. It demands group effort, and if most of the team members do not do their work, nothing can be achieved.

Another matter that makes this situation worse is that even if these women and girls were able to seek help and run away from their homes, finding a safe haven was incredibly difficult. Taub and Bradley share that, “Nationally, by contrast, the British government has offered no such assistance. Figures from Women’s Aid federations nationwide show that the number of available places dropped by nearly half during the first seven weeks of lockdown.”[3] From fear of catching a virus that appeared deadly, not only were travel restrictions harsh but room and board that used to be available to these women and girls were quickly becoming scarce. From here, it is understood that COVID led to two problems. The first was that people were told to quarantine in their homes, which meant that women had to stay with their abusive loved ones. The other was that the systems put in place to help victims of domestic violence were not given proper funding in lieu of the pandemic, thereby impairing their job. This goes to show just how bad the domestic violence situation was in the U.K. during the lockdowns.

It breaks my heart to say this, but even without COVID rearing its ugly head, the British authority’s response to domestic violence was questionable. It turns out that in the UK, many domestic violence cases are being dropped because they have passed their six-month limit. This means that once six months have passed, the cases will no longer be investigated, and the abusers will receive no form of punishment. According to Patrick Cowling and Alex Forsyth, Threequarters of all domestic abuse cases – including sexual assaults – are closed early without the suspect being charged. The six-month time limit is meant to keep the criminal justice system moving- but campaigners are calling for it to be extended to two years in instances of domestic violence.[4] It is quite painful when one realizes that victims would most likely not want to report their cases due to the lengthy and complex process. As reported by Cowling and Forsyth, the data shows that information obtained from 30 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales reveals an increase in common assault involving domestic violence – but a fall in the number of charges being brought.[5] The article goes on to say, “Between 2016-17 and 2020-21 the total number of common assaults flagged as instances of domestic abuse increased by 71% from 99,134 to 170,013. In the same time period, the number of these common assaults that resulted in charges being brought fell by 23%”.[6] The fact that women are reduced to begging for the government to take their pain seriously by extending the limit to two years is maddening.

Before COVID, the domestic violence situation was a disaster, but during COVID, the situation became worse, and it still appears that the response from the UK authority is going at a snail’s pace. If women and girls cannot be safe in what should be their sanctuary and cannot even receive help from the people whose sole purpose is to assist the community, then they are left with no other choice but to suffer. If the developed progressive countries of the world fail to do the bare minimum for its women and girls, it is hard for me to believe there is hope anywhere else.

-O.E.N.


[1] Amanda Taub and Jane Bradley, “As Domestic Abuse Rises, U.K. Failings Leave Victims in Peril.” The New York Times, July 2, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/02/world/europe/uk-coronavirus-domesticabuse.html

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Patrick Cowling and Alex Forsyth, “Huge rise in domestic abuse cases being dropped in England and Wales,” BBC NEWS, October 15, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-58910802

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

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