MPs debate support for Black women affected by domestic abuse after high-profile campaign
The ‘Valerie’s Law’ petition by charity Sistah Space was backed by Michaela Coel and FKA twigs – and signed by more than 100,000 people. Campaigners are now asking people to write to their MPs to show support.
Valerie Forde warned police that she and her daughter were in danger. Image: Sistah Space
A high-profile campaign calling for specialist training to protect Black women affected by domestic abuse will be debated by MPs on Monday.
A petition calling for the introduction of ‘Valerie’s Law‘ was signed by more than 100,000 people last year, and backed by Michaela Coel, FKA twigs, charity Refuge and the Women’s Equality Party.
It was created by Sistah Space, a community organisation in east London that supports African and Caribbean heritage survivors of domestic violence.
The debate, which was opened by Labour MP Abena Oppong-Asare and attended by Sistah Space organisers, saw speeches in support of Valerie’s Law from a number of MPs including Diane Abbott, Apsana Begum, Holly Lynch, and the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Taiwo Owatemi.
Many MPs raised personal stories from their constituents regarding domestic violence and their interactions and treatment by agencies and institutions, namely the police.
Abbott even recalled a personal experience involving her mother being subjected to coercive control by her father, adding that “although Valerie was a victim of domestic violence, she was not just a victim. We should also remember her for who she was and her contributions to our community.” A sentiment echoed by the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities who ended her speech with, “there’s no better way to honour the memory of Valerie and her daughter than by standing here today and advocating for this much needed law.”
Rachel MacLean MP, the Minister for Safeguarding at the Home Office, was responding for the government in this debate and set out the current actions it will be taking to tackle violence against women and girls, which includes the soon-to-be published Domestic Abuse Plan. A plan that was referred to regularly throughout her speech, even when pressed for specific references to Black women by Oppong-Asare.
MacLean did, however, round off her remarks by agreeing to arrange and facilitate a meeting between Sistah Space organisers and the College of Policing, in order to open up a dialogue around the specific issues that Black women face when it comes to domestic violence.
The law would see all relevant government agencies trained to ‘acknowledge and protect Black women in abusive situations.’ Sistah Space says Forde’s case highlighted the lack of knowledge and understanding that institutions, like the police, have when it comes to Black communities and domestic violence victims, and how the two intersect.
Campaigners are currently rallying support by asking members of the public to write letters to their MPs in an attempt to get as many MPs as possible to attend the debate and support Valerie’s Law, with the view to eventually passing it into legislation.
To write a letter to your MP, Sistah Space have created a template you can use to ask your MP to attend and support the debate.
In response to the petition, the government said: “Current training on domestic abuse should include recognising the specific needs of victims due to their ethnicity or cultural background; Government does not feel it is necessary to mandate it.”