Jack Sargeant Column: ‘Domestic abuse is a pandemic in itself, and it must be addressed as a matter of urgency’
Alyn and Deeside MS Jack Sargeant writes a regular column on Deeside.com with updates on his work in the Welsh Parliament and closer to home.
Jack, who is a White Ribbon UK Ambassador writes: Last week, I took part in a ‘This is Not a Recess’ podcast alongside fellow Members of the Senedd, campaigners and survivors – focusing on the issue of domestic abuse during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Shockingly, the number of women being murdered at the hands of an abuser has doubled during the current crisis, rising from one every four days to one every two days across the UK. Whilst this rise in domestic violence is abhorrent, it is perhaps sadly not surprising.
We have been experiencing a crisis of abuse long before the current pandemic and women in already incredibly vulnerable positions have been endangered further by the stay at home guidelines and social distancing regulations intended to keep us all safe.
Without access to their usual support networks and time away from volatile situations for work or visits to friends and family, many women continue to live under the constant threat of physical violence and mental abuse.
During the podcast, my colleague Alun Davies MS and I argue that not enough was done by policy makers at the start of lockdown to protect those most vulnerable in our communities. They are often forgotten in times of crisis when the focus is put on protecting the general public at large rather than considering the possible impact on those most at risk.
We cannot afford to keep making these mistakes.
It is essential that attention now turns to how victims will be supported as lockdown eases. How do we provide the help they need to deal with the mental and physical abuse they have suffered over the past weeks and months?
Domestic abuse is a pandemic in itself, and it must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
As a White Ribbon UK Ambassador, I will continue to stand up and use my platform to speak out for victims.
I would encourage everyone to join me in becoming an ambassador, promising to call out abuse whenever and wherever you see it – there is no excuse for abuse.
For some women, lockdown may have knocked them back to square one in their journey to finding an escape from an abuser. We must ensure the right services and support is available as a matter of urgency to provide a route out of danger.
Rachel Williams, a domestic abuse survivor and close friend of mine, who’s advocacy work has recently been recognised as she received the St David’s Day Humanitarian award from the First Minister, has campaigned tirelessly for domestic violence reforms.
It is essential that policy makers listen to the contribution of women like Rachel and understand the importance of personal experience in understanding the complexity of domestic violence. You can hear more about the work Rachel and her not-for-profit organisation Stand Up To Domestic Abuse (SUTDA) on the podcast.
I believe combatting domestic abuse must become a key priority in all ministerial portfolios and across the work of the Government here in Wales and throughout the UK. Abuse is a multi-layered and complex issue impacting on every aspect of an individual’s life and so the response to match it must be far-reaching and comprehensive.
It is the duty of policy makers and campaigners such as myself to use our platforms and ensure the issue of domestic abuse remains at the top of the political agenda.
An issue I have raised in the Senedd is that of remote technology through smart devices and how these can be manipulated and used by some as a tool for abuse. We have all seen the adverts for devices which control our heating, lock our front doors, play music and give access to cameras and microphones throughout our homes at the click of a button.
It is horrifying to think that this tech, which many of us already have installed in our homes, can be used as instruments of control and abuse.
Those at the centre of Governments across the UK and beyond must get a handle on this issue immediately.
We cannot allow women in danger to continue to be side lined during the policy making process; recognising and mitigating risks such as smart devices as they develop is an essential part of this.
You can find the White Ribbon UK website here: https://www.whiteribbon.org.uk
If you, or someone you know, has been affected by any of the issues discussed in this column, please remember the Live Fear Free helpline in available to provide support 24/7 by calling 0808 80 10 800 if it is safe to do so or by texting 07860077333.
You can listen to the ‘This is Not a Recess’ podcast here:
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