Your Local MP: June 2018

May 29 2018

Ending domestic abuse - working with the cause of the problem

In May I set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on perpetrators of domestic violence. This group aims to help inform MPs about this complex issue, increase their understanding of what works and what doesn’t and to help to make effective new laws. 

As many of you know, I spent most of the 26 years before I became your MP working on ways to end and prevent domestic violence and abuse.

It was this work that brought me to Bristol back in 1991, coming to work at Women’s Aid National Office as the first National Children’s Officer.

A few years later, alongside my work as a classical musician, I set up programmes for children and young people in schools across the country to equip them with skills, values and knowledge to try to prevent domestic abuse in their future lives.

I drew on the work which was being developed by colleagues to prevent abusive adults (mostly men, but some women as well) from continuing to abuse their partners or ex-partners. The programmes built on perpetrators’ recognition of the impact of abuse and control on others and their own lives. It increased their motivation to change by helping them to understand underlying belief systems and the benefits of changing. It also taught them new skills, beliefs and behaviours to be non-abusive and non-controlling.

This work started because some people working with survivors and children worried that helping protect those affected left the source of the problem untouched. Some also worried, and many still do, that a programme would become a soft option for perpetrators, or a talking shop at which they would gain new ways to abuse rather than change. 

From 2003 to 2015, I helped commission and carry out research on what makes an effective and safe programme, and set up national systems of inspection and accreditation, for the Irish government and Respect UK. Good programmes always have the safety and welfare of survivors and children as their focus. Sometimes this happens through perpetrators changing their behaviour. Perpetrator programmes also help by assessing, monitoring and managing the risk posed by the perpetrator, providing linked services for victims and children and working with the police, courts, child protection and victim services to reduce risks.

Over the next year, MPs will be working on a new law to improve the legal and other responses to domestic abuse. There is a public consultation on this proposed law out now - anyone can take part and I particularly encourage those with personal experience to do so. Give your views here: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/homeoffice-moj/domestic-abuse-consultation/

If you’re interested in what we are doing, or as ever, if you have a problem you’d like my help with, or have something you think I should know, please email me on thangam.debbonaire.mp@parliament.uk.