There is no typical victim of domestic abuse, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has declared in newly published guidance for prosecutors.
In an announcement accompanying the document, the CPS stressed that, contrary to stereotype, both men and women could be victims.
According to CPS domestic abuse lead Kate Brown:
“Many people seem to have a fixed idea about what a domestic abuse victim looks like and what their circumstances are. They are wrong. This is a crime which affects both men and women from every walk of life. But these damaging misconceptions can have a real impact on a case with some victims withdrawing from the process altogether.”
The guidance highlights a number circumstances about which juries and other third parties often make unhelpful, stigmatising assumptions. These include:
• The victim’s failure to leave an abusive relationship.
• Failing to cooperate with prosecutors.
• A history of making, then withdrawing complaints.
The guidance explains that it is important to challenge such preconceptions and acknowledge the difficulties and complex emotions inherent in abusive relationships. Prosecutors should instead encourage an ‘offender-centric’ approach, with the behaviour of the abusive partner subjected to full scrutiny.
Domestic abuse should be not be romanticised as an impulsive ‘crime of passion’, the guidance insists. It also states that any children who witness domestic abuse between parents or guardians should be classified as victims too and treated accordingly.
Kate Brown explained:
“It is vital our prosecutors have all the tools to ensure every single stereotype is rightly and fairly challenged. By understanding both the defendant’s behaviour and the devasting effect it can have, will help our prosecutors build stronger cases and offer better support to victims.”
The CPS has also published a public statement, setting out the organisation’s determination to increase the number of domestic abuse prosecutions and convictions. The CPS will be working closely with police forces across England and Wales to ensure consistent treatment for victims.
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