Following a recent LinkedIn post about how the UK family court system is letting down domestic abuse victims, we received a lovely comment thanking Holland Family Law for the work we do and ‘being a voice’ for those facing abuse. This uplifting comment prompted this blog, hoping to raise more awareness that we are here to help.
A headline in The Independent recently made for stark reading: ‘Nine in 10 domestic abuse victims get no support via family courts, finds study’. This made our blood boil. For years we have given hope to hundreds of domestic abuse victims that they can escape their abuser, only to find that so many are let down by the very system put in place to help protect them.
It’s harrowing and frustrating, but also a recognition that there is still so much more to be done to change attitudes towards domestic abuse.
No support for minority domestic abuse victims
What was most worrying about the study reported on by The Independent is that the domestic abuse commissioner said that there is almost ‘no support for black and minoritised women, male victims, LGBTQ+ and deaf and disabled victims.’
How, in the 21st Century are domestic abuse victims in these communities not getting the support they need? It’s baffling. Well, according to the study, it’s the coronavirus pandemic that has left the family court system in chaos.
While we appreciate that the pandemic has turned everything upside down, failing to support those facing domestic abuse means that the family courts risk re-traumatising victims.
What we’re seeing
Holland Family Law has seen a sharp rise in domestic abuse cases during the pandemic, and the number of people seeking our services has increased dramatically. Unfortunately, the length of cases and backlogs in the family court in some areas of the UK are stretching into 2022, which leaves domestic abuse victims at greater risk.
Sadly, every four days in England and Wales, a woman is killed by a current or ex-partner. Meanwhile, a 2016 study by Women’s Aid revealed that in the cases of 12 families, 19 children were intentionally killed by a parent who were known to be perpetrators of domestic abuse.
What’s more is that domestic abuse victims have described their experience of the family court system as ‘humiliating, traumatising and worse than the domestic violence itself’.
One such survivor told The Independent: “I was belittled, undermined, exposed to my abusive ex repeatedly, my children were not listened to and it felt like father’s rights trumped mine and negated his history of domestic violence. I’ve never been more frightened and alone in my life.”
Family courts abused
Meanwhile, researchers who polled more than 300 domestic abuse survivors found that victims routinely stated their abusive partners were deliberately using the criminal justice system as a weapon to subject them to ‘coercive control’.
If you are in immediate danger, call 999 or head to your nearest pharmacy and look for an ‘Ask for Ani’ display.
The NHS website has a lot of resources for victims of domestic abuse.