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Public bodies failing abuse survivors with communication needs, new research finds

A new report argues that statutory bodies are failing black, minoritised, migrant, deaf and disabled survivors of violence against women and girls (VAWG).

24/04/23

Public bodies failing abuse survivors with communication needs, new research finds

A new report exposes how the police and other public bodies are failing to comply with their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to eliminate discrimination, harassment, and victimisation when interacting with survivors facing communication barriers.

The report from the End Violence Against Women coalition finds that victims and survivors with communication needs are more likely to be afraid to contact the police for fear of discrimination and violence based on their previous experiences and interactions.

“Within the violence against women and girls (VAWG) sector, we know that women and girls who are Black, minoritised, migrant, Deaf, disabled, refugee and asylum seeking, or Gypsy, Roma and Traveller face complex barriers in accessing services they’re entitled to,” the coalition said.

“However, women can encounter multiple, intersecting communication barriers; creating unique communication needs. For example, a migrant woman who is also disabled will face specific barriers to accessing services.”

The report is the outcome of the Communications Barriers Working group, formed to evidence communication barriers and investigate the ways to overcome these. The group is comprised of Deaf Ethnic Women’s Association, Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Imkaan, IRISi, Karma Nirvana, Latin American Women’s Rights Service, Rape Crisis England & Wales, Sign Health, Stay Safe East, Solace Women’s Aid, The Traveller Movement and Women’s Aid Federation of England.

Responses to a call for evidence found that more than half of the survivor respondents had experienced police failures to communicate at an appropriate level or make reasonable adjustments and nearly half were not informed about the process or their rights after contacting the police to report abuse or violence.

A worrying 44% of respondents had prior experience of discrimination, including racism, ableism and xenophobia, from the police.

Isabel Ros López, Membership Manager at the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) and member of the VAWG Sector Communication Barriers Working Group, said the police and public bodies need to do much more to fulfil their duties under the Equality Act 2010.

“This latest evidence echoes what specialist ‘by and for’ specialist organisations have long raised the alarm about.

“Specialist services led by and for Black, minoritised, migrant, Deaf or disabled women are best placed to provide the tailored support women need. However, these services are chronically underfunded and facing increasing demand as well as soaring running costs during the cost of living crisis.”

The report is recommending that the Victims and Prisoners Bill should include a legal duty to ensure victims and survivors’ rights to communication support, similar to those accused of a crime and should agencies should ensure all resources are produced in accessible formats and available in other community languages.

It also urges that police training should include more in-depth equalities work; addressing discrimination, myths and stereotypes about sex, race and ethnicity, social class, disability and other protected characteristics concerning victims and survivors.

Authors also suggest that Police and Crime Commissioners should proactively engage and work with specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence services and conduct local needs assessments to ensure that specialist ‘by and for’ services are appropriately resourced.

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