The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 Statutory Guidance: The Disabilities Trust Response

The Disabilities Trust welcomes the publication of Domestic Abuse Act 2021 Statutory Guidance Consultation: Government response. This guidance not only widens the definition of domestic abuse related crimes, but also states the importance of providing further support to victims and survivors.

We are particularly pleased to see non-fatal strangulation recognised as a new offence. The guidance also details the potential brain injury that can occur as a result of non-fatal strangulation, including long term neurological damage, memory loss, and strokes. The emphasis on brain injury is a welcome step in the right direction, pulling focus onto an issue which is often misunderstood or unknown entirely as a potential impact of domestic abuse.

However, we feel the guidance could go further. There has been limited research into the prevalence of acquired brain injury in domestic abuse survivors. From our previous work at HMP/YOI Drake Hall (2016-2018), we found that domestic abuse is a significant cause of brain injury amongst women in the criminal justice system. As published in our ‘Making the Link’ report, 62% of the women we worked with sustained a brain injury through domestic abuse. These findings have led The Disabilities Trust to begin further pioneering research, exploring the prevalence of brain injuries amongst domestic abuse survivors – the first study of its kind in the UK.

As such, we feel this guidance could have further committed to a number of measures, including the introduction of brain injuries screening, practitioner training and support through the lens of brain injury for all survivors of domestic abuse in the community and in safe accommodation. We will continue to undertake research in this area and support the call for the development of sensitive and trauma-informed brain injury screening methods, that are appropriate for use with all survivors of domestic abuse.