Domestic Abuse Bill

Written evidence submitted by The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Lord Bishop of Gloucester (DAB76)


1. This submission is presented by the Lord Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek. She was the first woman to serve as a diocesan bishop in the Church of England and the first woman member of the lords spiritual. She is patron of the charity Restored, an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women, and president of the Nelson Trust.


2. This note explains the importance of faith provision for understanding and responding to domestic abuse, and suggests ways in which the Domestic Abuse Bill could better address faith issues.

Why is consideration of faith relevant in addressing domestic abuse?

3. Faith groups are uniquely placed to combat domestic abuse. Victims of abuse may be more willing to disclose abuse to a member of their faith community, and turn to that community to access resources and support. Research by Dr Kristin Aune and Dr Rebecca Barnes in partnership with the charity Restored suggest that one in four church attending women have been subject to some form of abuse in their current relationship. [1] Equipping faith organisations and local government to work together and understand each other will improve support for victims. Engaging faith groups is also essential to address attitudes which can perpetuate abuse, including the use of theology or religious texts to justify abuse.

Does the Domestic Abuse Bill make sufficient provision for faith?

4. Current provision in the bill is limited to one bullet point in paragraph 207 of the explanatory notes which discusses Clause 53 (support provided by local authorities to victims of domestic abuse):

"[Clause 53] subsection (2) defines "domestic abuse support" as meaning support, in relation to domestic abuse, for victims and their children who live in "relevant accommodation". Such support may include:

· Specialist support for victims with protected characteristics and / or complex needs, for example, translators and interpreters, faith services, mental health advice and support, drug and alcohol advice and support, and immigration advice;"

5. Of course the definition of ‘relevant accommodation’ in the Bill is fairly limited, so this only applies to local authorities’ duty to victims and their children living in "dedicated specialist services which provide a safe place to stay for victims and their children fleeing domestic abuse."

How could the Bill be amended to better involve faith communities?

6. s53 - The general duty on local authorities to provide support should be expanded to include victims who do not live in relevant accommodation. In any event, victims’ freedom to practise their religion or beliefs should be proactively ensured.

7. s53(4)(c) - Should include a duty to consult local faith communities; or at least s53(9)(b) regulations should suggest local authorities have regard to faith groups.

8. s11(4) - The Commissioner’s Advisory group should include one faith-based representative.

9. s66(2) - A clause should be added so that the Secretary of State must issue guidance about domestic abuse in faith communities.

Other proposals

10. Section 5.5 of the draft Framework Document for the Commissioner should be amended to include faith groups.

11. Guidance issued under s66(1)(a)(i) of the Bill should refer to the use of religious texts, teachings and practices as a justification for coercive control in explaining the definition of domestic abuse.

The Rt Revd Rachel Treweek

June 2020


Prepared 16th June 2020