Due to the number of Members who wanted to speak during the second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill on October 2nd, I was unable to make the speech I had planned to say.

This is the speech I would have given.

I have seen first hand how much work has gone on behind the scenes to get this Bill to where it is today including extensive pre-legislative scrutiny. In my role as PPS to the Minister (Victoria Atkins, Home Office Minister) for more than a year I supported her while she worked extremely hard to introduce this legislation. She has demonstrated a sincere and genuine commitment to this cause, as has our former Prime Minister Theresa May. It has been a real pleasure to hear her first speech on this subject since she returned to the back benches.

I’m proud that it is under our watch as Conservatives that we are introducing this landmark legislation that for the first time defines all forms of domestic abuse, including coercive control, emotional and financial abuse, that will make a huge difference to millions of people.

Only the other day I listened to Sally Challen being interviewed on the radio. Sally Challen’s interview had a profound impact on me. Quite possibly her life would have been so different had this legislation been in place and along with a deeper understanding of coercive control, emotional and financial abuse, although we will never know for sure, perhaps she would have been spared nine years in prison and instead received the right support for her and her sons to rebuild their lives.

“This Bill is a wide-ranging piece of legislation that reflects that sad reality of the lived experiences of victims of this hideous crime and puts in place measures to protect and support them in getting justice and escaping their abusers

This government has a strong record on standing up for the rights of women and girls.

“The Violence against women and girls strategy introduced in March 2016 highlighted real progress since 2010 – prevalence of domestic and sexual violence has dropped according to the Crime Survey, and total prosecutions have reached the highest levels ever recorded in 2014/15.

“Many of us have actively worked with the government and made representations to the government. I have campaigned for and spoken up for  the Domestic Abuse Bill to be included in a Queens Speech and I’m glad that it can be brought forward even ahead of a Queen’s Speech.

I count myself lucky in so many ways not least because I have the best job in the world, representing my constituents in this place. But I also count myself lucky because I am married to a wonderful man who loves and respects me and without whom I couldn’t do this job. But there are people who I’m extremely close to who have experienced abusive and threatening behaviour from their male partners. The point is it can happen to anyone, and it is a hidden crime, taking place behind closed doors, in the place where you should feel most secure and sheltered.

Over a quarter of women and 13% of men have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16, and it can happen within relationships between teenagers younger than 16 as well.

“When children are involved the impact is felt on those who are incapable of understanding their experiences and incapable of fighting back. And the effects can last a lifetime. For this reason, I would like to ask the Minister if she is looking at the recommendations from Action for Children and if she will bring forward the review that her Department committed to looking specifically at abuse in relationships between under 16s. It is no longer the case (if it ever was) that teenage girls only look to their own families as role models. They will see people on Instagram and social media, including celebrities with huge followings, normalising violence and abuse at times as well as those speaking out against it. Having an abusive boyfriend at a young age can have a lasting and devastating impact on a young woman.

“So, the campaign #loverespect run by Womens Aid is very welcome providing online support, often much more accessible to teenagers. And I know as a mother of a daughter and three sons I want my children, as I’m sure every parent does, to be with a partner that treats them with respect and love and how to distinguish between healthy and toxic relationships.

For me, both the Sally Challen case and the #loverespect campaign highlight the importance of education and support from early age for young women and girls who are forming their ideas about relationships in the full glare of the social media goldfish bowl they live out their lives in. They are under pressures that we cannot begin to imagine, their bodies, behaviours and attitudes are constantly judged and picked apart. Sally Challen said she still loved her husband. We might marvel at such a statement. From the dawn of time love between two individuals is impossible to describe or explain to anyone outside a relationship and I certainly don’t advocate that the government should try to do that. But clearly, we need to understand why so many relationships are going wrong, why some young men and boys find it normal and compulsive to treat their partners badly and why some women and girls do not have the understanding of a normal healthy relationship should look like. With the cost of domestic abuse put at £66 billion in 2017 we must invest in prevention not only the compassionate thing to do it is smart economics.

“As a constituency MP, I hear of concerning and difficult cases of domestic abuse which leads to housing problems, and problems in the court system. I believe the Commissioner can play a vital role in ensuring front line services are co-ordinated, safe and timely. It would also assist us as constituency MPs making the case in Parliament for where services need to be improved.

“In Redditch we are fortunate to have a variety of support services provided by the local authorities as well as charities and community groups working with victims of domestic abuse as well as for families generally. These include

“The Sandycroft Centre which provides full wrap around care for domestic abuse survivors. They run a freedom programme, specialised counselling sessions and one-on-one appointments.

As they’ve been running for the past 30 years, the Sandycroft has built up trust with partner agencies and the local community which is why they are successful in what they do.

“Lee McKenzie said: “Sandycroft welcomes the formal introduction of the Bill and hopes this will help local Authorities to prioritize and help assess the needs of Domestic Abuse victims and survivors. This sends a strong message to survivors that what has happened to them will not be ignored. This is a good start of moving forward hopefully funding and resources will follow as there is such a demand.”

“To conclude, the House can be assured that this Bill has my full support, and I hope that for the sake of all those affected, it can move speedily to its next stage in committee where I have no doubt it will be carefully scrutinised and will come into law soon.”