This report was produced by the Communications Barriers Working Group, which is made up of a number of organisations and bodies working in the violence against women and girls sector. The following organisations gathered evidence on behalf of the group: the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), Imkaan, the Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS), Rape Crisis England & Wales and Women's Aid. Fifteen other organisations took part.*
44%had previous experience of discrimination, racism, ableism or xenophobia from the police
1 in 2were not informed of the process, requirements or their rights by police
1 in 5were not referred to safe accommodation that they needed
78%felt powerless as a result of their interactions with police and other services
LL was married to a perpetrator who became aggressive and controlling. When he learned she wanted to leave him, the abuse escalated. He threatened to cancel her visa application as an EU spouse and have her deported. She went to the police and tried to report him. Without providing an interpreter, the police officer tried to communicate with her using Google Translate. The survivor could not understand anything and she was unsure whether the officer understood her either.
(This case study was provided by LAWRS)
Full names haven't been used to protect survivors' identities.
Y was experiencing domestic abuse and her mental health was suffering hugely. The police were unaware that 85% of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers live in bricks and mortar housing, and did not identify her ethnicity correctly. The police failed to safeguard and support Y appropriately; as a result, Y committed suicide a few days later.
(This case study was provided by the Traveller Movement)
X, a Deaf person, needed the assistance of the police. However, they did not want their family to be involved and she requested to make her disclosure outside the home. The police officer asked if they could go into the car as they were cold. In the car, they proceeded to take a statement from the BSL user with a pen, paper and gestures. The client was left exceptionally vulnerable in this scenario, unable to fluently express herself and exposed to further distress as a consequence of not being able to communicate at an appropriate level.
(This case study was provided by the Deaf health charity SignHealth)
Why this treatment is unlawful and goes against survivors' rights
📜 According to the Victims' Code, all victims and survivors of crime in England and Wales have the right 'to be able to understand and to be understood' when interacting with public bodies like the police.
📜 Under the Equality Act 2010, all public bodies have a duty to make sure that Black, Minoritised, Deaf and Disabled people are not discriminated against.
📜 The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (which has been signed and ratified by the UK), gives Disabled people the rights to dignity, not being discriminated against, accessibility and '[f]ull and effective participation and inclusion in society'.
📜 Under the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (which has also been signed and ratified by the UK), the state has a legal duty to protect all women's right to live free from violence, without discrimination.
What can be done differently
Our joint recommendations include:
- The Victims and Prisoners Bill should include a legal duty to ensure victims’ rights to communication support. This is similar to what is already happening for those accused of a crime.
- National strategies for tackling violence against women and girls should make addressing communication barriers a priority.
- Frontline police officers and staff should carry out continuous learning and training on domestic abuse and the experiences of Black, Minoritised, Migrant, Deaf, Disabled, Refugee and Asylum-Seeking victims and survivors.
- Measuring victim and survivor satisfaction with specific questions on communication barriers should form part of the performance measurements for police forces.