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OPINION: "We have a shared responsibly to tackle domestic abuse"

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

While we’re focused on one public health crisis, another is escalating. Domestic abuse already causes more death and disability among women between sixteen and forty-four than cancer or traffic accidents, and the restrictions designed to impede the spread of the virus have exacerbated the issue.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. It doesn’t discriminate by age, neighbourhood, sex, sexuality or gender identification. Whilst most victims are female, one in six men also experience domestic abuse, and it takes many forms – it can be physical, sexual, or mental – and it increases when families spend more time together.

Since we’ve been confined to our homes for most of 2020, referrals to support services have unsurprisingly increased. That’s why the UN’s annual sixteen days of activism against gender-based violence took on a special significance this year. During those sixteen days, along with Labour MP Sarah Owen, I sponsored an Early Day Motion at Westminster highlighting violence against women and girls. The motion also promoted the GMB Union’s Work to Stop Domestic Abuse Charter.

But the scale of this public-health emergency needs much more than supportive words in parliament or on social media. That’s why it was good to see the Scottish Government allocate £4.25m additional funding to frontline services. Nevertheless, some services are still struggling with the impact of the pandemic.

One example is Lochgelly-based Saje Scotland. The team at Saje provide courses to help women understand their abusive experiences and the traumatic impact these have on every aspect of their lives. Saje provides an opportunity for women to start their recovery process and look to the future.

Saje had planned to apply to the Equally Safe Fund to secure their medium to long-term future. However, due to the pandemic Equally Safe paused the application process, with no new funding available until September 2021. I’ve been supporting Saje with this challenge, but the reality is they will likely run out of funding in May 2021, leaving a five-month gap of financial uncertainty.

Just like our collective approach to Covid, we have a shared responsibly to tackle domestic abuse. We can pledge our support for campaigns like GMB’s charter. We can chat to family, friends, and colleagues about the issue. But we must also support the organisations doing this invaluable work.

And on that note, Saje Scotland has set up a Crowdfunder. If you can, please donate here:

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