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Are lenient sentences in domestic abuse cases preventing survivors from seeking justice?

Are lenient sentences in domestic abuse cases preventing survivors from seeking justice?

Earlier this week popular indie rock group, Kasabian made an announcement on their social media that lead singer Tom Meighan was taking a break from the band. Outpourings of support followed for the charismatic lead singer.

But all was not as it seemed. The singer was accused, (and found guilty of), a violent attack on fiancé Vikki Ager. Not only had Meighen committed the attack, it was witnessed by a child, who alerted the police. When sentencing the judge told Meighen ‘I could send you to prison.’ Which begs the question:

Why didn’t he?

When the actual details of why Kasabian are now without a lead singer were released, there was an angry backlash on social media.  Although Kasabian condemned the domestic abuse, many thought the statement, and indeed the sentiment, was too little, too late.

Domestic abuse charities have criticised the sentence handed to Meighan (200 hours community service) because there is a wider issue here: Such lenient sentencing is undermining survivors’ confidence in the law. If there really is no excuse for abuse, then why aren’t perpetrators facing the full force of the law?

1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse. Yet it remains under-reported to both the authorities and in the press. With such lenient sentencing for an attack that was filmed, there is little in the way of comfort for those seeking justice without it.

Without wider reporting on the issues surrounding domestic abuse, a lack of understanding on the issues faced by survivors will continue. Refuges will not be adequately funded and the number of women and children dying at the hands of their abusers will increase. Furthermore, the way in which these cases are reported in the media is warping the public perception. Leading to a dangerous misunderstanding both of what constitutes abuse and the misconception that if a partner is not physically violent, the relationship is not abusive.

It should also be noted that research has found that the way domestic abuse is reported in the British tabloids uses language that shifts blame from the perpetrator to the victim. Why is the media not focusing on the abusers?  Instead, excuses are made for abusive behaviour; alcohol, football results(!), depression, lack of employment or the woman’s behaviour.

Case Study Image - Woman in distressAccording to the Office of National Statistics, 2 women are murdered in the UK every week due to domestic violence. In order to encourage women to leave abusive relationships and to get justice for their ordeals, as a society we need to start condemning abusive behaviour, not excusing it. To do this the #noexcuseforabuse slogan needs to be demonstrated through the courts and judicial proceedings.

The blame must never be put on the victim. When a victim has the strength to leave their perpetrator, there needs to be enough refuge spaces. What incentive is there to provide enough refuge space when the severity and prevalence of domestic abuse is being underplayed and sanitised? When the true horrors and far reaching consequences are overlooked because the press decide the victim goaded their ‘struggling’ partner by ‘flirtatious’ actions? When abusers are portrayed as ‘reaching breaking point’ rather than penalised for committing the abuse, there remains little incentive for victims to seek justice.

If you would like more information on domestic abuse, visit our supported accommodation pages here.

If you would like to make a donation to Valley House, and support our work with survivors of domestic abuse, click here.

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