Smith to tackle violence against women

By Laura Miller

Jacqui Smith will launch the largest ever cross-government public consultation on violence against women and girls today, in a move campaigners hope will end the “postcode lottery of support services”.

The Together We Can End Violence against Women and Girls strategy will set out government action to stop violence against women and girls, and what more can be done to challenge attitudes that may condone it.

But Holly Dustin, manager of End Violence Against Women, believes the home secretary is continuing to fail the three million women across the UK who experience rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, trafficking, or other violent behaviour each year.

“The current approach to violence against women is very fractured. The focus is on the criminal justice system which fails the 70 to 80 per cent of women who don’t report abuse,” she told politics.co.uk.

“We need changes across all government services, from getting health practitioners much more aware of how to spot domestic violence and offering numbers of women’s services, to discussing consent to sex in schools,” she said.

In January a joint report by EVAW and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) revealed one in four local authority areas had no specialised support for women who experience violence.

The report’s authors called for urgent action by national and local governments, and threatened the worst local authorities with legal action under the gender equality duty if changes were not made to stop the post code lottery of services.

“We think if something happened to our sister or mother they’d have the support on their doorstep, but women are being forced to travel 70 miles to get help after abuse,” Ms Dustin said.

Following publication of the Maps of Gaps 2 report, Jacqui Smith announced she would launch a cross-government consultation on violence against women in March.

David Cameron echoed Ms Smith’s start of year promise by pledging that a Conservative government would invest £2.6 million to increase the network of rape crisis centres by a third, as part of wide-ranging plans to conquer domestic violence, rape, forced marriage and trafficking.