Home Office publishes refreshed Violence Against Women and Girls strategy

Ahead of International Women’s Day, the Home Office has revised its cross-sector action plan to eliminate violence against women and girls

Originally launched in 2016, the action plan sets out 54 new commitments and measures designed to help protect women and girls.

Backed by £100 million of funding, the VAWG strategy is a welcome and ambitious programme of reform that sets out a three-pronged approach of prevention, justice, and support for victims.

This includes an end-to-end review into how rape and sexual violence cases are handled by the criminal justice system. The review will cover every stage, from police report to conviction or acquittal in court, with recommendations for change. The process is designed to ensure victims and survivors have the confidence to report their crimes, in the knowledge that action will be taken.

A stakeholder advisory group, designed to involve victims’ groups in the process, will be created as part of the proposed changes. This group will work alongside the Inter-Ministerial Group on Violence Against Women and Girls to oversee the review and inform discussions.

The practice of sending unsolicited ‘dick pics’ will also be addressed. A 2018 YouGov poll found that 41% of 18 to 36-year-old women have received images of this nature and reported feeling distressed or threatened by the act.

In its revised strategy, the government has committed to reviewing the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee, who called last year for “a new law on image-based sexual abuse which criminalises all non-consensual creation and distribution of intimate sexual images”.

The strategy also outlines plans for:

  • A statutory code of practice for employers on sexual harassment
  • Work with online dating apps to raise awareness among users
  • Consider the impact of alcohol on violence against women and girls
  • Develop further measures to support lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender victims
  • Examine the relationship between pornography and harmful attitudes towards women and girls, including acts of sexual violence

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability and Minister for Women Victoria Atkins said: “Violence against women and girls strikes at the heart of our families, friendships and communities and it is our responsibility to bring light, justice and support to victims and survivors.

“It is right that in the week of International Women’s Day, we keep looking at how we can build on the excellent work done so far. Following campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp that have highlighted the sheer scale of incidents, we, as a society, must do all we can to tackle these horrendous crimes and attitudes.”

Meeting for its monthly Steering Group meeting on the day of the announcement, members of Trafford Rape Crisis welcomed the news of the revised strategy.

“There has been a recent collapse in the number of cases of rape or sexual violence being charged, showing that despite positive steps in raising awareness, our criminal justice system is continuing to fail victims and survivors seeking justice,” says Katherine, Trafford Rape Crisis Trustee.

“We’re pleased to see that a review of the Criminal Justice process is to be a crucial part of this revised strategy. Women need to feel confident that when they come forward to report an incident, an experience which can be hugely intimidating and difficult for them, it will be taken seriously and the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

“Addressing the continued nature of victim blaming or shaming in the justice process is long overdue. It’s time women felt supported, rather than as though they’re the ones on trial.”

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