Councillor Rosa Gomez (Labour, Churchfields) spoke from personal experience when she presented a council motion on domestic violence over the summer. Here, she discusses the work ahead
Since 2015, levels of domestic abuse have been slowly increasing, meaning it is essential that action is quickly taken to bring it to an end. On average, two women a week and 30 men a year die as a result of domestic violence. It is estimated to cost the UK £23 billion annually, including costs to the criminal justice system, the health service, social care and housing. Of course, this ignores the personal costs, which cannot be quantified in pounds and pence.
Domestic abuse has a personal meaning for me; as a result, it is imperative to my work as a councillor that Redbridge does all it can to condemn abusive behaviours and to support those who find themselves victim to domestic violence. It is a great personal achievement to have recently presented a motion on domestic violence before the council and even more pleasing that my council colleagues agreed unanimously to pass it. The motion calls for zero tolerance of domestic violence across Redbridge. As a result, the council will be reviewing its policies and practices to ensure there are no places where forms of domestic abuse may have become normalised. We have committed to making sure there are sufficient resources to support women, men, those with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community seeking to escape abusive relationships.
Personal experience means I know why it is vital those living with domestic violence find help at the point they ask for it. For this reason, I agree fully with my Redbridge Council colleagues in calling on the government to implement a domestic abusers register to keep track of those perpetrating this violence, thus protecting further possible victims, and to properly fund services supporting survivors.
Redbridge Chief Executive Andy Donald wrote to the Home Office regarding the motion. It is good to know from their response there is work going on nationally to support and protect victims. However, this stops short of introducing a register.
In Redbridge, we are lucky to have great support services and wonderful residents who want to support those in need. If you know someone suffering from domestic abuse, Refuge provide specialist support services to local residents. They can provide free, confidential advice.
If you would like to help those escaping domestic violence, please consider joining Women In Need (WIN) on Facebook. They work alongside the charity Hestia, regularly appealing for donations to help women and children fleeing domestic violence. I know from experience that the support of friends made it much easier to move away from an unhealthy relationship and to build something better.