Domestic Violence and Protection Afforded to Women and Vulnerable Adults


According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, Domestic Violence[1] is a forced pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to achieve or continue power and control over an individual.’ This act is considered abusive as it is unsolicited and often unjustified by the victim and includes activities that are intended to intimidate, frighten, manipulate, hurt, disgrace, or falsely accuse someone. Such abuse has an adverse impact on the individual and comes in various forms: physical, sexual, emotional, financial and psychological.

Lately, there was no common definition of domestic violence amongst interested parties. However, in 2004, government agencies decided to use the following gender-neutral definition, which sights domestic violence as prevailing in a variety of adult relationships:“Any incident of threatening behavior, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.” Here, an adult is defined as any person aged 18 years or over; family affiliates are outlined as mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister and grandparents directly related, in-laws or step.

The fundamental role of the Home Office, the lead government department in UK, is the co-ordination of domestic violence policies, collaboration with private administrations to device policies and the supervision of other governmental departments. It undertakes research, delivers information and issues statistics on the pervasiveness of domestic violence. In the Home Office Circular, published in 1995, local level inter-agency co-ordination was named for to encounter domestic violence. Local domestic violence forums were initiated where police, social services, housing services, probation, health services, legal professionals, and a variety of voluntary agencies operated together in local communities to grapple with domestic violence.

The definition is further hardened by a descriptive text: Domestic violence can go beyond actual physical vehemence to emotional abuse, the annihilation of a spouse’s property to control over access to money. Segregation from friends, family or other potential sources of support to personal items: food, transportation, telephone and stalking. As violence can be and is often countersigned by children, there is a correlation between the abuse of women and vulnerable adults. Consequently, it is essential to document this as a child protection problem because the unfavorable effects on children of living in households with domestic violence are huge. Such children are associated to poor educational performance, social rejection, anti-social behaviors, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, psychological disorders and destitution.  Moreover, it is conceded that the actions of immediate and extended family members are responsible for the exhibition of domestic abuse through the enactment of illicit actions, like enforced marriage, so-called ‘honor crimes’ and female genital mutilation.

Presently, the UK Government is assessing policy in this area and is exploiting the United Nations Declaration‘s (1993) definition, i.e.:  “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life[2]

The basic function of the central government was primarily to instrument criminal justice trials and decrease crime. Domestic Violence: Break the Chain Multiagency Guidance for Addressing Domestic Violence[3] , published in 2000 provided further guidance to the locals. Furthermore, the Home Office published a policy consultation paper in June 2003, named Safety and Justice. It argued that instead of playing a controlling role in battling domestic violence, the Government’s proposals on Domestic Violence followed with extensive encouragement by a number of parties including the survivors of domestic violence, should focus more on having a pro-active approach.[4]

Safety and Justice (2003) itemized the degree of domestic violence in England, but also the effect on victims and the price to society. It announced the government‘s projected strategy for combating domestic violence built on three aspects: prevention, protection and justice and support for victims to restructure themselves. Also, legislative and non-legislative variations were suggested in dealing with domestic violence in England and Wales including multi-agency reviews of domestic violence murders, proscribing breach of non-molestation and occupation orders and extension of their obtainability, creating common assault as an offence to be arrested for, giving victims the status of intimidated witnesses, registration of domestic violence offenders and the construction of specialist domestic violence courts.

Safety and Justice acknowledge not only female victimization but also female perpetration in domestic abuse in contrast to the majority of previous public sources[5]. This is evident in the December 2003 summary of responses to Safety and Justice: The Government’s Proposals on Domestic Violence’ was published, accompanied by the publication and introduction into Parliament of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill and later Act (2004).

The 2005 Home Office publication of Domestic Violence: A National Report manifested a stint in central government policy.  Noticing the contribution to date of constitutional and volunteer organizations, it proclaimed that ―the Government has now become a full member of that partnership operating in the field of domestic violence. Seventeen commitments were made by the National Report (2005) to upkeep and develop public services to respond robustly to domestic abuse including the support of Specialist Domestic Violence Courts and Independent Domestic Violence Advisers. The National Domestic Violence Delivery Plan (2005) devised ideas on how to cut the occurrence of domestic violence and homicides linked to domestic violence by reporting the rate of domestic violence to the police so that justice is served and victims are provided the adequate support and protection.

The Sixth Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Domestic Violence (2008) criticized the process of policy execution, arguing the policy to be unduly fixated on criminal justice responses at the cost of effectual prevention and early intervention and thus authorized for a more thorough emphasis on prevention on violence against women more commonly.

Living without Fear: An Integrated Approach to Tackling Violence against Women in 1999 was published as a result of the Inter- ministerial consultation on domestic violence. Many people expected that this would ensure a influential national strategy on domestic violence[6], the government during this time however, decided to advocate local and private sector multi-agency initiatives.

“Together we can end violence against women and girls (2009),” a successive government consultation paper, centered unequivocally on concrete violence against females, observing the horror of domestic abuse and its consequences on individuals’ lifestyles. It insinuated renewed propositions regarding prevention, support for victims and to bring culprits to justice[7]. However, due to a change in the administration in 2010,the English government initiated a new consultation as they panned the former administration for espousing a top-down style to domestic violence and debuted for more local responses to the problem by including partnership working and risk diminution along with the aforesaid proposals and motioned a return to the approach taken before 2005.The consultation centers principally on gender-based and so-called honor-based violence and female genital mutilation[8]. Moreover, it acknowledges the impact of domestic abuse on families and children and the fact that males could also be victims other than perpetrators of abuse.

In March 2011, a new action plan, Call to End Violence against Women and Girls, was published. It focuses on unfolding direct and longer term priorities for actions and responsibilities of different government departments, edging policy development within equalities and prevention framework with a discrete focus on adults but also on the fortification of children from domestic and gender-based violence in families, schools and from damaging material on the internet. The plan was financed by a £28 million fund for specialist services for victims and prevention work.After 2000, policy development progressively documented the inter-dependency between domestic violence and the abuse of children. The agenda for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (Department of Health, 2000) distinguished the influence of domestic abuse on childrearing capacity. Goals were set out by The Every Child Matters Outcomes Framework [9]to ensure that children affected by domestic violence are recognized, sheltered and supported.  Moreover, the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (2004) painted the harmful effects on the witnesses of domestic violence. A Vision for Services for Children and Young People affected by Domestic Violence[10] conveyed guidance to support children affected by domestic violence by focusing on meeting their needs under the formation of integrated children‘s services. This was under wired by subsequent publication of Working Together, a guide to inter-agency working, to defend and stimulate the welfare of children which encompasses legislative and non-legislative direction to public agencies to work together to protect children, including the unborn children, inspire mothers to protect themselves and their children and to identify the abusive partners and hold them liable for their violence and stipulate in them prospects for change.

Over the three decades, growing activism and lobbying by the women’s movement and copious services provided to abused women by the private institutions were prosperous in bringing major changes in the national policy and comprehension of domestic violence in the UK[11].  With respect to policy developments, the criminal justice system, especially the police service has been involved in resolving the problem of domestic violence through constituting justice responses (ibid), particularly in the health and social care services policy arena. Several government and private institutions began contracting research on domestic violence and articulating policy recommendations.

There are many civil remedies and criminal offences developed to offer protection to victims domestic violence.  More significant legislation has been developed since 1900s prevailing prior legislation. In 1992 Homes and Domestic Violence Bill was introduced to Parliament which failed to pass resulting in women demanding for new legislation. Part IV of Family Law Act (1996) provides a civil law remedy to courts giving them power to grant non-molestation orders which can be applied to a range of people including children, civil partners and spouses. Moreover, Protection from Harassment Act (1997) deals with violence from outside the home combating the problems of stalking and is useful in dealing with post-separation violence.

English legislation, despite considerable researches regarding domestic violence against children, has been quite slow to develop. The Children Act 1989 is a major legislation which acknowledges the jeopardy and practical problems experienced by women and children providing a threshold of significant harm. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 amends the definition of significant harm by adding a new category of impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another and thus removing the abuser from his or her property. The Children Act 2004 promoted local delivery service regarding children‘s safety and calls for cooperation between children‘s services and the police in the identification and investigation of domestic abuse. Over the past 30 years, The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004) has been a major piece of legislation. It converts the breach of civil remedy of non molestation orders to a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of 5 years. Moreover, extends the availability of this injunction to same sex couples. It was stated that members aged 16 or over may be held liable for causing or allowing the death or injury suffered by vulnerable adults. This brought the women of the United Kingdom arguing that it would be unfair to them if they were provoked, intimated or threatened by the perpetrator to help them with the abuse towards vulnerable adults because they would despite be held guilty of homicide regardless. This act also misses out some very important measures such as it does not cover the breach of non occupation order. Likewise there is no defence available to victims who have killed the perpetrator. The act did not fulfill the expectations especially of the non government agencies but managed providing helplines, internet services and refuge services.

Victims‘ Code of Practice and a Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses aims to promote and provide statutory multi-agency domestic homicide reviews when anyone over 16 years dies of violence, abuse or neglect from a relative, intimate partner or member of the same household. It also promotes multi agency for making arrangements for serious injury or death of a child.  This act, moreover, made common assault an arrestable offence with punishment of 5 years or even more.

Government policies are inclined towards criminalizing domestic violence. In the United Kingdom legal solutions represent the extent to which domestic violence has been considered as a social issue.  In stances where, civil law remedies fail, the criminal justice system steps in to apply criminal sanctions. There are several Acts which apply criminal sanctions such as Protection from Harassment Act, Offences against the Persons Act, Sexual Offences Act 1956, Children and Young Persons Act 1933, Child Abduction Act 1984.

There was a great parliamentary debate in passing of the acts for scenarios where second defendant is also a victim there has been concerns to provide reasonable steps to prevent them. The 2012 Amendment Act suggested that the courts would take into account any such circumstances where any on of the defendants has also suffered domestic violence. The courts will consider individual circumstances and thus may find that it was not reasonable for the defendant to take some of the steps that might otherwise have been available to the completely depending on the facts of the case. The Act makes clear that the protective steps which could have been expected of the defendant depend on what reasonably could have been expected of him or her. Academics like Herring suggest that it is inappropriate to charge those suffering domestic violence with failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult, and that domestic violence should in itself act as a defence to the offence. Even though considerations regarding domestic violence can be seen but the protection afforded to them is unclear.

Between 1997 and 2010, the emphasis of policy and legislation was on employing measures constructed on deterrence, protection and justice and support for victims of domestic abuse which also be instigated in collusion with service providers at local and national levels. Conclusively, in order for improvement in this area organizations need to support good practice. There is a need to ensure that ensure that there are effective and clear links and arrangements between safeguarding services. The organizations develop protocols, policies and ways of working to enable safe enquiry within assessments of domestic abuse and safeguarding provide services based on a local needs assessment to meet the needs of people needing safeguarding. Another way is to contribute effectively in identifying what organizational changes can be made in order to reduce the risk of death and serious harm occurring in the future. Supporting adults who have care and support needs who are experiencing domestic abuse involves all health and social care providers, housing and criminal justice agencies, as well as specialist domestic abuse and advocacy services. Multi-agency initiatives aimed at prevention, early identification, advice and support for victims, and dealing with perpetrators, including awareness raising and provision of information.

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