PRESS RELEASE issued by Women Against Rape (8 June), part of SNS. See our briefing on the Bill see here.
Domestic Abuse Bill must go further and ensure family courts protect victims not perpetrators
The Domestic Abuse Bill is now going through Committee stage in parliament when amendments are considered. Some of its measures are welcome, but it must go further to stop violent fathers using the family courts to continue their reign of terror against women and children and avoid prosecution.
The Bill must:
End the legal presumption of contact with children, and the consequent use of “parental alienation” to torture children who refuse to see their violent fathers and take them from mothers who report domestic violence. WAR is part of the Support Not Separation Coalition which says:
“Just last week, six women described to us how they and their children have been accused of “parental alienation” after they reported violence. One mother has already lost her children to the violent father who hits them and is so neglectful that they have been sent to live with their grandmother. In two cases court professionals are recommending the children be taken into foster care to force them into contact with their fathers, including twins who would be separated. Such blatant disregard for children’s best interest amounts to child abuse. Three of these mothers are women of colour and one an immigrant from Eastern Europe – we believe they face not only sexism but racism and xenophobia.”
Ensure resources for women and children escaping domestic violence, regardless of immigration status. Without resources such as refuges, housing and benefits, women and children are unable to escape violence. One resource already exists in law but is hardly used: Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 which instructs local authorities to assess what mothers need to keep their children. Instead millions go into taking children into care. In low income areas, up to 50% of children are being investigated for “neglect” and are therefore at risk of being taken from their mothers – easy prey of a growing privatised “child protection” industry.
We are calling on the Committee to reject all the wrecking amendments proposed by MP Philip Davies who wants “parental alienation” to be included in the definition of domestic abuse. Davies is closely allied with fathers’ groups who deny domestic violence and have influenced CAFCASS and other family court professionals to take up their cause. A member of the 1922 Committee, he has a long misogynistic and racist parliamentary track record, which so horrified his women constituents that in 2016 they formed the Shipley Feminist Zealots to campaign against him. Over 1,000 marched against him and President Trump, whom he supports: “I would vote for Trump in a heartbeat”. They say now:
“We are appalled by his track record of obstructing legislation which seeks to protect survivors of domestic abuse in the name of ‘men’s rights’. Well over 1,000 of us have worked tirelessly over the past four years to hold him to account, despite being branded by him as “extremists”, “socialists” and “feminist zealots”. We urge the scrutiny committee to ensure that this long-awaited Bill is not delayed or derailed by him at the expense of the safety of women and families across the country”.
We won’t go back to the 1980s when it was legal for a man to rape his wife, and for men to sexually abuse children!