Violence against Women and Girls

Part of Contamination of Beef Products – in the House of Commons at 1:31 pm on 14th February 2013.

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Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change) 1:31 pm, 14th February 2013

On the day when we celebrate love and romance, I am glad to take part in a debate that seeks to ensure that no one should ever be subject to a mentally or physically abusive relationship. I congratulate the Backbench Business Committee on securing the debate and my hon. Friend Stella Creasy on her work in raising the profile of the incredible One Billion Rising campaign.

Despite Liverpool being the second safest city, victims of domestic violence make more than one in five of all 999 calls to Merseyside police—the highest rate in the country. That amounts to 43,995 calls. The increase in the incidence of domestic violence across Merseyside is staggering, with 32,511 incidents having been reported in the last year—an increase of 36% from 2003. This situation cannot continue. It is a terrible indictment that in 2013 in the UK one in six children aged 11 to 17 experience sexual abuse and that 109 women and girls lost their lives last year at the hands of a partner or former partner.

At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. Although that affects both girls and boys—I note the point made by Philip Davies—80% of calls to ChildLine on abuse were from girls. The statistics on that are many. Even if the Government do not accept the enduring physical, psychological, emotional and social consequences experienced by too many women across our country because of this terrible crime, it must surely be in their interest, given that according the Home Office violence against women and girls costs the public purse £36.7 billion a year, to address these heinous crimes and do more about this stain on our national conscience.

We have a serious problem in our society when findings from the crime survey in England and Wales show that one in 12 people think that a victim is completely or mostly responsible for someone sexually assaulting them when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or when they are sexually assaulted by someone they were flirting with heavily beforehand. No one in the country should ever blame a victim for the crimes perpetrated against them.

Is this any wonder when too many abusers are glorified? Perhaps one of the most famous cases of domestic violence was in March 2009, when the music artist Chris Brown was charged for, and pleaded guilty to, assaulting Rihanna. Members will remember the shocking photos of Rihanna in our press—her lip was split and she had a bloody nose and major contusions on either side of her face—yet two years later Chris Brown was given an international platform at the Grammies. This is the man who subsequently got a tattoo on his neck showing a woman bearing a striking similarity to Rihanna and the scars of a serious beating.

We heard the other week that some of our major supermarkets are stocking an energy drink called Black Energy promoted by the convicted rapist Mike Tyson. It uses the slogan “Sex energy” and includes a series of adverts in which he is surrounded by scantily clad women in bikinis and calls himself “an animal”. I remind the House that this is a man who spent three years in jail for his heinous crimes. We also heard last year about the tragic story of a girl from Battersea who did not report a rape at the age of 11 because of a storyline in “Eastenders” that made her so worried about the court process that she thought she would not be supported.