Twitter has come out in support for Labour MP Rosie Duffield, after she shared her extremely powerful story about being in a coercive relationship at the Domestic Abuse Bill’s second hearing.
Finally, the proposed Domestic Abuse Bill had its second hearing in parliament on Wednesday (2 October).
The bill proposes the first government definition of domestic abuse, including financial abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical behaviour. Former Prime Minister Theresa May, who introduced the bill in July, returned to the Commons for the first time since her resignation, reiterating that this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
To show just how essential this bill is for the estimated 1.2 million women and 713,000 men a year in England and Wales who are affected by domestic abuse, MP Rosie Duffield made a powerful speech.
The Labour MP for Canterbury left fellow MPs in tears as she detailed the verbal abuse, gas-lighting and financial control that she experienced over a course of months in a relationship.
Duffield also made an important point that domestic abuse doesn’t “look” a certain way – it can be happening to anyone in any form. “Domestic violence has many faces and the faces of those who survive are varied too. Sometimes there are no bruises. Abuse is very often all about control and power. It’s about making themselves feel big or biggest,” she said.
Her finishing message was a call for anybody who is in an abusive relationship to reach out, saying: “If anyone is watching and needs a friend, please reach out if it is safe to do so and please talk to any of us because we will be there and we will hold your hand.”
Speaker, John Bercow, said it was a “simultaneously horrifying and moving contribution”. And on Twitter, fellow MPs, campaigners and members of the public showed support for Duffield and highlighted the significance of her speech.
Labour MP Jess Phillips, who sat by Duffield’s side while she read out her story, said she was “so brave as she gave voice to her own experience”. And Leader of the Liberal Democrats described the moment as “raw power”. Conservative MP Penny Maundant also called it “beautiful and brave”.
So, what happens next?
Domestic abuse charity Refuge responded to the bill’s second reading, saying: “The bill has the potential to transform the response to domestic abuse – but to be effective, Refuge hopes to work with government to make sure the bill goes further.
“Statutory funding for refuges is essential. Women must be able to flee their violent partners and find safety. The bill must ensure that domestic abuse survivors are in priority need for housing, and must end the ‘postcode lottery’ of support so everyone, regardless of their immigration status, is able to reach safety and access the help they need.”
After today’s news that government will be suspended for a second time this year, Phillips also tweeted: “Minister has announced that today there is a carry over motion so the Domestic Abuse Bill will not fall again in prorogation 2.0. For all who raised their voices thanks so much.”
Labour MP Harriet Harman also confirmed on Twitter that the justice secretary Robert Buckland has promised to add “a duty on councils to provide and duty on government to fund refuges” to the bill.
However, there has been no statement on yesterday’s proceedings made by the UK’s new (and first) domestic abuse commissioner Nicole Turner.
But it finally feels like action is being taken on protecting abuse victims, and the only way is forward.