The threat of closure to domestic violence refuges across the UK was reported in news this year – but despite a few eloquent pieces it didn’t get the coverage it deserved in terms of features, comment and political impact. On average, two women a week are killed by their partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. A lack of space in refuges already led to 60% of referrals being turned away last year. The British government’s proposals to remove short-term supported housing from the welfare system would mean that women could no longer pay for a refuge stay out of their housing benefit – which, according to the charity Women’s Aid, means that 39% of refuges would have to close.
Domestic violence is found in all social classes, but it is especially prevalent in lower income groups. Women from these groups are likely to have fewer housing options should they leave an abusive partner. It seems they have a more easily ignored voice in the media as well. In recent weeks the UK has been caught up in a media storm over what constitutes sexual harassment, some of it amounting to a disputed but unwanted pass: an allegation of this type can now endanger a ministerial career. Yet the state’s growing failure to protect women who live in terror of serious injury and even murder by partners or ex-partners seemingly doesn’t spark political outrage in the same way. We urgently need to re-think our priorities.
Introduction to this Under-reported series.
Summary guide to all under-reported articles in this series.