New Clause 15 - Children as victims of domestic abuse

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 6th July 2020.

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Photo of Sara Britcliffe Sara Britcliffe Conservative, Hyndburn 8:15 pm, 6th July 2020

After giving my maiden speech on the Second Reading of this landmark Bill, I would like to acknowledge the cross-party work since then in Committee that will rightly protect so many. I recognise the courage it will have taken for Members across this House to speak of their own experiences and for every victim who has come forward, including my constituents. They have shaped the Bill.

I will use the short time I have to talk about new clause 15. Home should be a safe place for children—a place of comfort, where they have the support of parents who love and protect them; a place free from violence. On Second Reading, my hon. Friend Mark Fletcher spoke about his personal experience, reducing me and many others to tears. His bravery in standing up in this House was inspirational, and his words will have rung true for many. The fear felt by children in those circumstances is unimaginable, as is the feeling of helplessness and being unable to intervene. Children really are the hidden victims, and they need the law to protect them. Action for Children rightly states that making these changes could help thousands of children, and analysis by the Children’s Commissioner shows that 831,000 children in England are living in households that report domestic abuse. It is the most common additional factor of need identified at the end of social care assessments of children in need, and was identified in more than half of relevant assessments in 2018-19. The Bill must reflect the fact that children are also victims of domestic abuse who need support, and new clause 15 would do that.

I would like to take a moment to thank Nicole Jacobs, the domestic abuse commissioner. Services in my constituency have informed me that the commissioner has made a tremendous difference in ensuring that resources get to the frontline. I also wholeheartedly thank frontline charities such as the Emily Davison Centre in Hyndburn, the first ending violence against women and girls hub in the UK.

I am glad that the Bill emphasises that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but that it can be emotional, coercive, controlling or economic abuse. That definition is in place for all the victims who felt that their concerns were not legitimate when their partner constantly criticised or humiliated them, making them believe that that criticism was the truth. The Bill is for those who have worried that what they are having to go through does not constitute abuse when awful comments are made to them and then quickly legitimised by a short apology, or when someone is constantly told by their partner that they are not good enough and all their successes are trivialised. It is for victims who have been accused of doing something wrong, then left for days on end to think over what they have done, with all forms of contact withdrawn while they mull it over. It is for those who are made to believe that every single thing that happens in their relationship and every fault is somehow their fault, and every action taken by their partner is a consequence of something they have done wrong. It is for those who have been gaslighted so often that their sense of self has become so eroded that they begin to believe that they are the problem and that this is normal. The Bill says to those victims, “No, it isn’t your fault. It isn’t you, and it isn’t right,” and it gives them the support they need to get out. That is why I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill and all the work that has been done to make sure that we can keep the millions of victims safe and support the survivors of this horrendous crime.