A blog by Barnet Fairness Commissioner, Julie Pal
Today is Human Rights Day.
It’s also Day 16 of 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, the annual international campaign that takes place between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls (White Ribbon Day, 25 Nov) and Human Rights Day on 10 December.
It should go without saying that it is a human right to live your life without fear, violence or abuse. Yet figures published by the Office for National Statistics on 25 November show that domestic abuse crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales increased by 24 per cent in the last year. That’s 746,219 recorded domestic abuse crimes in total in one year.
In Barnet, there were 792 Domestic Abuse Violence with Injury offences recorded by the police in 2018/19 which is an increase of 5.6% compared to the previous year.
Domestic abuse is widely recognised to be under reported so these figures only reveal part of the picture. Organisations that support survivors speak of domestic abuse being at epidemic levels.
There will be harrowing stories behind these figures, but they are stories that are often hidden and not spoken about. And domestic abuse is often misunderstood as a one-off incident of violence.
But it is very rarely a one-off incident of violence. It is a pattern of abusive behaviour to exert power and control over a person. It can include coercive control, financial abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse.
There are other myths about domestic abuse which often result in the victim being blamed, rather than the perpetrator being held to account for their behaviour.
And there is a gender dynamic to it. Most victims are women – although there are male victims as well. In Barnet over the last year 98 per cent of victims referred to the Domestic Abuse Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) were female, and 95 per cent of the perpetrators were male.
The Barnet Fairness Commission is looking at inequality, how to tackle it and achieve a more equal and fairer society. If we are serious about doing that, we must look at what we can do to end violence against women and girls, and to stop domestic abuse.
So, one of our four main areas of focus next year will be to look at how we can work together as a community to address gender inequality and end domestic abuse.
We want to help raise awareness and look at best practice from the many amazing organisations in the borough delivering life-saving services to survivors – like Solace Women’s Aid, Jewish Women’s Aid, and the Barnet Homes Domestic Abuse One Stop Shop.
In the New Year we will be inviting experts, local authorities, and local community groups to share with us what they are doing to tackle this issue, and how the community can help.
We welcome hearing your views on tackling inequality and any of our four areas of focus. You can submit your views online using our general questionnaire and you can do this anonymously if you prefer.
We all have a responsibility to help bring about an end to violence against women and girls, and there are many ways you can help.
You could donate to or fundraise for one of Barnet’s domestic abuse charities, learn more about domestic abuse and how you can help anyone you know who is experiencing it, or become a Champion on this issue in your workplace, community or organisation.
If you need support or advice about domestic abuse contact the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247.
In an emergency always call 999.