Domestic abuse survivors to regain their voices under plans to reform voter

first_imgThe Prime Minister has called tackling domestic abuse a 'priority' Domestic abuse victims are to “regain their voices” with a new law which will make it easier for them to register to vote anonymously, campaigners have said. Victims of domestic violence live in fear of being “hunted down” by those who abused them, meaning they need to appear on the electoral register anonymously. But the process is currently difficult, with victims required to produce a court order or have their application supported by a senior independent witness, such as a police superintendent. Advocates have warned that bureaucracy and fear of being discovered puts many off registering to vote at all.Under plans announced today the law will be changed to increase the number of people who can act as witnesses, to include medical and healthcare workers and refuge staff.  The Prime Minister has called tackling domestic abuse a ‘priority’Credit:Carl Court/Getty Images Europe  Domestic abuse victims often fear being tracked down for a long time afterwards, the charity saidCredit: Dominic Lipinski/PA The required police rank will also be lowered to inspector and the type of order needed will be expanded to include domestic violence protection orders and female genital mutilation protection orders.The changes form part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s reforms to help those who have suffered because of domestic abuse. In Feburary she announced a draft domestic abuse bill, saying reforming the law was a “key priority” and something she attaches a “personal importance to”. She has also committed to introducing new tougher sentences where the violence is committed against a child. Domestic abuse groups said the changes would “give survivors their voice back”. Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “The changes announced today will help survivors of domestic abuse to regain their voices. “For too long these women have been silenced because it was too dangerous for them to sign up to an electoral register, which would reveal their location, and too difficult for them to register anonymously. “For them anonymity is a matter of life or death; with the very real threat of being hunted down by their perpetrator.”center_img Domestic abuse victims often fear being tracked down for a long time afterwards, the charity said Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. She said the charity particularly welcomed the move to allow refuge staff to act as witnesses. Up to 12,000 women are being supported by its refuges at any one time. However, she added that the current need to re-register for anonymity each year also needed to change, so that the anonymous status could instead last indefinitely. “Often women are on the run from domestic abuse for the rest of their lives,” she said. The Cabinet Office added that it would “launch further research to identify and explain other barriers to electoral registration faced by survivors of domestic abuse”. Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution, said: “Ensuring every eligible person is able to vote is a matter of social justice. Every voice matters and this Government will continue to encourage our record levels of democratic participation by ensuring we have a democracy that works for everyone.”last_img read more