The second in our series of guest blog posts comes from Baroness Scotland QC of the EDV Global Foundation on the ‘Reducing Domestic Violence’ coalition as part of our Global Truce 2012 campaign.
When I was a young barrister working on my first cases in 1977, I encountered a case of domestic violence for the first time. This early experience shocked me. I had not truly realised the depths of pain and the devastating consequences implied by the term “domestic violence.” Over the next 20 years of my career I devoted myself to tackling domestic violence in the courts, attempting to achieve legal redress and protection for the many victims I represented, all the while becoming increasingly aware of the terrible human costs incurred and the damage to society as whole. While this was worthy work, I came to realise that the problem of domestic violence could only be properly addressed with proper legislative reform and political will. Accordingly, when I entered the House of Lords with the Labour party in 1997 I was determined to do everything I could to change the paradigm in which do many domestic violence victims were trapped.
Over the next ten years I held a number of ministerial posts, eventually becoming Attorney General. During this period I held firm to my conviction that it was possible to tackle domestic violence. I held firm in the face of considerable institutional resistance – in fact it felt like and was at times implied that the targets suggested by my government colleagues and I were impossible! But by establishing a coordinated partnership between government bodies, public organisations, private business and the voluntary sector we found that successful progress could be made and significant reductions achieved: not only in the number of domestic violence incidents (down by 64% over the period 1997-2009) but also in domestic homicides. In 1997 domestic violence accounted for 23% of violent crime; by 2009 this number had dropped to 14%. However in the field as a whole and in individual cases, successes are never enough, and there is always more to do.
Recognising this, I have continued working to stop domestic violence since I left government. One of my most important acts has been to found the Eliminate Domestic Violence Global Foundation. Globally, violence against women is the leading cause of injury in women from age 15-44. This is greater than war, cancer, malaria and motor vehicle accidents. Sadly family violence claims the lives of four children under the age of 14 each day in the European region alone, some 1300 every year, with millions more children witnessing violence in the home. Violence in families can affect children’s brains, health and development as much as danger on the battlefield affects soldiers.
During my time in government I learned the critical importance of partnership. It is my firm belief that it is possible to eliminate domestic violence on a global scale if the will is there and we learn from each other and share our experiences.. In essence, through our collaborative work with nations and organisations – sharing expertise and research – we aim to reduce the human and economic impact of domestic violence on a global scale.
I envisage great things for EDV and our partnership with Peace One Day has been a landmark for raising awareness of our shared mission. It has been very exciting to see Jeremy and his team engage so effectively with a focus on reducing conflict in the home as part of this year’s Peace Day, which I firmly believe can be an excellent platform through which we can reduce violence and save lives worldwide, not just on the day itself but sustainably in the future.
Since our press conference on 21 March, the continually increasing number of signatories to the global coalition reveals the power of the idea that is Peace One Day and the wonderful effort being put in by all the people working towards it. I strongly urge anyone reading this to become part of the world’s largest coalition to reduce domestic violence and help create peace worldwide.
Baroness Scotland QC