New Clause 15 - Children as victims of domestic abuse

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 6th July 2020.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings 7:00 pm, 6th July 2020

I am pleased to follow the hon. Gentleman, who, as I said, has made a persuasive case, to which I hope the Government will respond in the way he suggests.

For most of us, home is where the heart is; it is where we find love and warmth. I guess that most people here would say that is true of their constituents, by and large, but for too many of the people we represent, home is where the hurt is. It is a place of hate and pain—a pain that, for many of them, dare not speak its name, because they feel shame. The irony—the bitter irony—is that some of the victims of domestic abuse feel that they are in some way to blame, that they are in some way guilty, and it goes on year after year, unrecognised, unnoticed, and therefore untreated, undealt with. This Bill is a brave Bill that, to some degree, begins a process. It will not end here; this is a start, not a conclusion. It begins a process by which we can highlight, recognise and then act upon this awful spectre of domestic abuse.

I remember the case of a constituent who came to see me. We all have, every week, every month, horrible things to deal with—things that are memorable in the worst way—but this constituent stands out in my memory. It was a gentleman I knew—I had known him for years; I knew his son. I had no reason to believe he was unhappy —he was always cheerful, a rather jolly sort of chap in his mid-50s. He arrived at a surgery; I did not know why, as I had received no notice of what he wanted to see me about. He sat in front of me and, with almost unbearable tension in the air, revealed to me that he had for years been the subject of domestic abuse. His wife had been beating him. He was a disabled man, so the poignancy of that exchange was exacerbated by knowing that she was much stronger than him and much more powerful. As he burst into tears, I recognised that he was far from the only person like that in my constituency and in all our constituencies. In two thirds of cases, the victims are women, but they can be men, too. That personal experience gave me an insight of what domestic abuse can be and mean for so many of those we represent.

G. K. Chesterton remarked that

“the business done in the home is nothing less than the shaping of the bodies and souls of humanity.”

Home is where most of our experiences take place, and the impact on the formation of an individual’s earthly experience happens disproportionately in homes. That is why the Bill is important and why I commend so warmly Ministers for bringing it to the House, and particularly my great friend, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Victoria Atkins—I mean no disrespect to my equally good friend, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Alex Chalk, by the way—for championing this cause.

My new clauses seek to do two things, as the House will have seen. The first is to monitor the connection between the kind of relationship that people are in and the propensity of domestic abuse. There is some evidence that the sort of relationship in which people are fitted has an impact on the likelihood of domestic abuse taking place. While postmodernists may resent the idea that the Government should play a part in family formation and social solidarity, I do not share that view because I am not postmodern—in fact, I am not even modern, as many people here know. I ask the Government to look at that in some detail, because there is some disturbing evidence to suggest that some kinds of relationships are particularly prone to domestic abuse, which is a heinous crime by any measure.