To be clear the opportunity for the debate was only for half an hour and it was to take place in Westminster Hall and so there was only a modest number of MPs that could have participated. However even so it would have been much more positive if some of the other MPs could have added their words to the debate so that we would have known who else was taking part in the session. The first person who took part was Apsana Begum from Poplar and Limehouse who has submitted two documents recently in the Early Day Motions. The second person was Kate Kniveton who is the Conservative MP for Burton and these two EDMs were the first EDMs she has ever signed. She was one of the three MPs who initially approved both of the EDMs. The third person was Sarah Dines who is a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. She is the MP for Derbyshire Dales. The whole of the discussion which was primarily contributed by Apsana Begum can be obtained from here and these are some of the initial words.
Apsana Begum: I beg to move, That this House has considered domestic abuse and public life. I am delighted to have secured this debate ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women this Friday. Domestic abuse can affect people from all social classes and in all forms of employment, including public life. That is why I am working with MPs from all parties to call for a duty of care to be placed on employers and political parties to ensure that survivors of domestic abuse are not exposed to further harassment. There must be recognition that post-separation control and harassment is a form of domestic abuse itself and can occur long after a relationship or marriage has ended, with different tactics of abuse being used.
I would like to draw attention to the work of the all-party parliamentary group on domestic violence and abuse, which I am honoured to chair, in examining several key issues and policy areas where change is needed to support survivors. I am particularly pleased to see the hon. Member for Burton (Kate Kniveton) here today. I pay tribute to her for her bravery and courage in speaking out about her experiences, and I thank her for the support and solidarity she has shown me.
Kate Kniverton: I thank the hon. Lady for securing this debate, which means so much to us both. Does she agree that those of us in public life who have a platform and feel able to should help to eradicate the stigma and shame that many victims of domestic abuse feel by speaking out and raising awareness of the fact that domestic abuse can happen to anybody? By raising awareness, we can encourage those who do not have a platform to speak out and to speak without shame, so that perpetrators of this awful crime, which is so often committed behind closed doors, can no longer be so sure that their crime will go unnoticed.
Apsana Begum: I completely agree with the hon. Member; she is absolutely correct. It is so important to be able to give others the hope and courage to come forward. Those of us in public life, I am sure, feel a duty to encourage others to come forward, and feel quite lucky to be in a position to do so.
I want to make it clear that I do not view myself as a victim as such, nor am I seeking to play the “victim card”. In fact, I would argue that such accusations reflect not my weakness, but the weakness of those who make them. The truth is that it is extremely difficult for survivors to come forward. The stigma and the structural and systemic bias is always against us. The use of the courts and the law to threaten and silence us, never mind the trauma of the abuse itself, all too often seems insurmountable.
When I put myself forward to represent my local area, it was with hope for the future. Perhaps stupidly, I thought I could move on. Little did I know then that, a few years later, I would be in court facing a possible jail sentence and, just this June, I would have to present myself to A&E and subsequently be signed off sick. Just as I manage to survive one onslaught, another is coming up ahead—it goes on and on. The wall of institutional gaslighting is chilling.
I have a choice: to submit, to be crushed and then to be swept under the carpet as an unsightly problem, or to speak out. But I know this is not just about me. My experiences have shown that, despite steps forward, including the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, there is still insufficient understanding and awareness. I am very conscious of how survivors struggle against a system that fails them. Today is for them, and I am moved to see campaigners and local women watching this debate………
When Apsana Begum had finished her speech there was a speech from Sarah Dines which began with these words
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I take stock of and am impressed by the courage of all victims of domestic abuse, from whichever walk of life, who have to deal with misogynistic physically and mentally abusive behaviour. It is a pleasure to address this Chamber. I would like to thank the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Apsana Begum) for requesting the debate and for speaking so openly and candidly about her terrible experiences. I thank everyone else for attending, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Kate Kniveton) for her contribution.
We can all agree that domestic abuse has no place in our society. It is a terrible crime with devastating consequences. It is high volume, affecting 2.3 million adults a year. It is also high harm and high cost. The social and economic costs of domestic abuse are estimated to be in the region of £77 billion. Our Parliament and our institutions must play a role in addressing it and making sure victims are supported and feel supported. No one should have to experience the abuse we have heard about today and the Government are determined to tackle violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse.