After three years of delays Domestic Abuse Bill is best chance in decades of better protection for survivors

Calls to domestic abuse helplines increased during the first lockdown. Credit: PA

Delayed by two general elections, the prorogation of Parliament and a Covid pandemic, the Domestic Abuse Bill is at last reaching its final stages. 

It is scheduled for a second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday afternoon.

Coming less than 24 hours after the prime minister announced another national lockdown, its timing seems particularly fitting.  

Covid may have delayed the Bill’s progress but it’s also underscored its importance.

Before the pandemic an incidence of domestic abuse was reported every minute in England and Wales. 

But in the first three months of the lockdown last year, Refuge reported a 66% rise in the number of calls to its helpline.

And in the first three weeks of the restrictions alone, 14 women were killed by men according to the charity Counting Dead Women, the highest rate in more than a decade. 

The new legalisation, years in the making, has been described as a once in a generation opportunity. 

It will create a statutory definition of abuse for the first time, to include emotional, coercive and economic abuse as well as physical violence.

Local authorities will have a legal duty to provide secure accommodation for survivors and the defence of “rough sex” when a woman is killed will be outlawed. 

But domestic abuse charities and campaigners are still fighting for a number of changes, with the Bill’s  journey through the House of Lords the last chance to make amendments.

Refuge runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline and currently supports more than 7,000 women and children each day. 

It is calling for the Bill to make sharing intimate films and images a crime, after research showing that one in seven young women in the UK have been threatened with exactly that. 

It also wants migrant women experiencing domestic abuse in the UK to get the support they need, whatever their immigration status, to ensure no woman or child is turned away by over-stretched refuges. 

The government has made it clear that even under lockdown, people are free to leave their homes if they are at risk of harm.

It has also provided £30 million in extra funding. 

But after three years of delays, the Domestic Abuse Bill is the best chance in decades of better protection for survivors. 

If any of these issues have affected you, here's how you can get help and advice:

  • Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.

  • Women's Aid has a range of direct services for survivors, including a live chat service and an online Survivors’ Forum.

  • The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. Contact on: 0808 801 0327.

  • Galop runs the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse specialist helpline. Contact: 0800 999 5428. Email:

  • Chayn provides online help and resources in a number of languages about identifying manipulative situations and how friends can support those being abused.