Research project launched to tackle domestic abuse ‘justice gap’

The report draws on data collected by the University of Bristol on the experiences of homeowners and private renters.

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A new research report reveals the extent of domestic abuse for homeowners and private renters and their experiences with the criminal justice system.

Conducted by the University of Bristol, the report draws on data collected as part of the ESRC-funded project, ‘Justice, Inequality and Gender-Based Violence’, which looks to challenge and influence government and institutional polices on approaches to domestic abuse.

The final briefing, which was completed on behalf of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance and Surviving Economic Abuse outlines several factors that are found to relate to issues regarding gender based violence and housing.

As part of a study conducted as part of the report, over two thirds of those interviewed (71%) were either living in private rented property or owned their own home.

A further 14% were said to be council tenants and 5% were living in a specialist domestic violence refuge, many of whom reported being left destitute by their abusive partner as they were in the UK on a spousal visa.

Another factor highlighted is that of housing costs; of the 118 victims-survivors reporting a financial impact of the abuse experienced, over a quarter (26%) reported problems paying housing costs or priority bills.

The report also reveals several barriers to ‘justice’ in relation to housing issues, said to largely stem from the fact that where a victim-survivor and perpetrator were on a joint tenancy agreement or mortgage, both parties were classed as a single legal entity.

Several interviews are presented in which situations were described where the perpetrator had caused damage to the property and/ or refused to pay their fair share of the rent/mortgage or priority bills for the property thus leaving victims-survivors financially liable.

Key issues for private renters also included:

  • Financial penalties for victims-survivors (including the cost of starting over in new accommodation)
  • Barriers to safety
  • Use of court orders
  • Emotional impact of having to leave the family home
  • Experiences of help-seeking amongst victims-survivors

The report also highlighted a need for “awareness to be raised” and more prevention work within the PRS to tackle this.

In regards of the demographic of participant data of those living in the private sector, almost all (97%) were reported to be female, heterosexual (85%) and ‘white’ (79% compared to 24% recorded as BME).

Over 90% reported experiencing emotional abuse; 81% had experienced control or manipulation and 75% had experienced physical violence and abuse.

Most victims-survivors in this category were also reported to have children, with at least 60% having children under the age of 18 at the time of abuse.

The report also draws on the victims-survivors of experiences living in rented accommodation or a joint tenancy agreement, expressed as a form of ‘injustice’ due to the unfairness of the situation they found themselves in.

Some found themselves in the position of having to end the joint tenancy to escape an abusive partner who refused to leave the tenancy, with one participant finding she was liable for damage caused to the property even though that damage was caused by the perpetrator during the abuse.

For some participants the cost of having to move to new accommodation is just ‘one of the many financial burdens’ they had to deal with because of experiencing financial and other abuse.

According to reports, the interviews also revealed that victims-survivors had used a range of criminal or civil injunctions (including Restraining Orders) allowing them to remain in their home or avoid leaving everything they own behind to escape abuse.

Along with the physical and financial impact that these factors had on the individual, the research also highlighted the emotional trauma of having to leave the family home.

Although both private renters and homeowners reported financial difficulties associated with escaping an abusive partner and leaving their home, the report highlighted key differences between the two groups of victim-survivors.

These include:

  • Victims-survivors who were private tenants seemingly had more complex and additional needs compared to victims-survivors who were homeowners
  • In terms of DVA experience, a higher proportion of private tenants reported sexual violence abuse, stalking and experience of so-called ‘honour’ based violence compared to homeowners
  • More homeowners reported financial abuse, however where private tenants reported a financial impact of the abuse, they were more likely to report experiencing problems paying housing costs and priority bills than victims-survivors who were homeowners
  • Homeowners were more likely to apply for occupation orders (75%). Private renters accounted for just three of those participants who had obtained occupation orders (19%).
  • Victims-survivors who were homeowners were more likely to have children, be ‘White’, heterosexual, British nationals compared to private tenants
  • More male victims-survivors were homeowners than private tenants (9% of homeowners were men compared to just 1% of those renting

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