The Cross-Government’s definition of domestic violence and abuse is “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality” (Home office, 2012).
The Department of Health (2002) reported that, an estimated number of 75000 children were living with domestic violence in England and Wales alone. In March 2015,HM Government reported that, the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 1.4 million women were victims of domestic abuse in the last year.
Despite these high numbers of domestic violence incidents within the UK, why is domestic violence often silenced within the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities (BAME)?
Women and children from BAME communities are more likely to suffer abuse from multiple family members as well as from intimate relationships due to culture specific forms of practices such as, forced marriages, female genital mutilation and honour based violence.
Barriers that prevent women from leaving abusive relationships include dependency on partners, cultural views and the lack of awareness about services and support available within their localities. Most women from BAME groups experiencing domestic violence from their partners and families struggle to flee due to this dependency their culture has created. Reasons for this dependency vary subsequently, the culture of men exercising power and authority within these communities remain a predominant factor.
Many women who migrate into the United Kingdom may have qualification but have to retrain or obtain a UK qualification to gain employment. Failure to retrain or obtain a UK qualification can result to unemployment which then, reinforces this dependency on partners and loved ones for basic needs.
Baswo (2012) reported that, some women who have migrated into the UK do not speak English as their first language, this barrier as long side many others (social isolation) can stop individuals from accessing the tailored support they require. If an aggrieved of a domestic violence incident cannot make a telephone call to police to report an incident or to a professional to get access to help due to language barrier, this leads to isolation which increases her chances of being at risk of significant harm.
Risk of being disowned due to izzat (honour) and sharam (reputation) is another significant barrier in cases of abusive relationships. Such dominant cultural believes of izzat, sharam and shame alone constitute a great amount of pressure on victims to remain in violent relationships.
Seeking for help as a victim or informing someone about experiences is essential in cases of abusive relationships. Despite this, women who seek for help are often faced with another barrier of immigration and no recourse to public funds. This issue of public funds prevent women and their children from accessing support as a breach of this condition can, result to a withdrawal in application to remain in the UK.
Perpetrators awareness of such barrier and pressures contributes to the issue of domestic violence as perpetrators “use this to exert greater control” to suppress the rights of women and children.
All women have a right to:
- Apply for and receive legal aid regardless of immigration status or background.
- Seek help from the police and other emergency services by calling 999.
- Register with a GP to gain access to medical treatment.
- Access advice from the national domestic violence Freephone helpline (08082000247)
- Access guidance on government publication on Domestic violence (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-violence-and-abuse)
- Speak up about domestic violence
Women and children experiencing any kind of abuse including domestic violence can overcome this issue by speaking up about it. Speaking up about experiences of domestic violence within our communities will raise better awareness about this matter. This in turn should create tailored services and better support for victims of domestic violence.
References and further Reading