'Housing organisations must do more to tackle domestic abuse.'
All housing organisations have a part to play to tackle domestic abuse, says CIH president Alison Inman.
The reaction since I chose domestic abuse as the cause for my CIH presidency says everything about why the sector needs to take action on this issue.
Barely a week has gone by without someone making a disclosure to me about domestic abuse they have suffered or are suffering – whether in a relationship or as a child.
When you look at the statistics it’s hardly surprising.
I’ve chosen to support Women’s Aid during my presidential year and the stats on their website paint a stark picture about the scale of the problem – 1.3 million women experienced domestic abuse between 2015 and 2016 and 4.3 million have experienced domestic abuse at some point by the age of 16. Two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales and domestic violence makes up a tenth of all reported crime, with police receiving an average of 100 calls an hour relating to domestic abuse.
Though the vast majority of domestic abuse is committed by men against women this is not only a problem for women. Studies estimate nearly two thirds of children living with domestic abuse are directly harmed by the perpetrator of the abuse, in addition to the harm caused by witnessing the abuse of others.
Meanwhile some estimate that one in ten men have experienced abuse since the age of 16 and some studies show as many as one in four LGBT people will experience domestic violence.
Perhaps the most worrying thought of all is that most domestic abuse goes unreported – so as shocking as these statistics are, the reality is even more severe.
I first became involved with women’s refuges more than thirty years ago, when violence and abuse in the home was still seen by too many as ‘just a domestic’, something to be kept between man and wife. I remember a local authority that refused to participate in a county-wide letting scheme for women who needed to be rehoused away from their home town because they ‘didn’t have domestic violence there’.
Although progress has undoubtedly been made since then it is simply unacceptable that we still have these high levels of domestic abuse, too many lives are ruined, too much potential unfulfilled.
There is much that the housing sector is doing, but so much more that we can do.
Domestic abuse does not discriminate and happens to people no matter where they live.
Housing organisations have unique access to their communities. We build, manage and maintain homes and we provide something most people would consider to be their most important possession – a home. And what is a home if it doesn’t provide safety and security?
And what about housing professionals? Housing organisations collectively employ many thousands of them, which means statistically hundreds will be victims of domestic abuse. We have a responsibility to our teams as well.
We all have a duty to do we can to tackle this issue and we can all play a part. And while I know there is some outstanding work going on in the sector I also know that we can do so much more to help our tenants and our communities, to educate our teams and ultimately to save people from the despair of an abusive relationship.
I have been inspired by the work of the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance and will be working closely with them and other organisations leading the fight to tackle domestic abuse to encourage everyone working in housing to see domestic abuse as a housing issue, and to play their part in doing something about it.
If I can help one person it will be worth it.
If you want to be involved please contact us on the details below.
Alison Inman is CIH president.
- Are you affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article? You can find out more at the Women’s Aid website and 24-hour support is available via the National Domestic Violence Helpline
- We’re running a series of comment pieces throughout the year, are you doing work to tackle domestic abuse in housing or have something else to say about the issue? Contact our communications manager Steve Hayes
- Alison Inman is fundraising for Women’s Aid throughout her presidential year, you can make a donation here
- Want to work with Alison or support her cause? Contact us now to let us know.