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Academic Joins Anti-Domestic Abuse Taskforce

A Liverpool Hope University academic has been selected as one of a handful of high-level experts contributing to the creation of a new anti-domestic abuse strategy.   

Dr Emma Katz is a Senior Lecturer in Childhood and Youth at Liverpool Hope University. 

Her research into the experiences of children caught in the crosshairs of ‘coercive control’ - a severe form of domestic abuse that humiliates, isolates and manipulates victims - was published in the journal Child Abuse Review last year.

And now, because of her expertise in this area, Dr Katz is helping to shape national policy guidelines for UK universities seeking to implement anti-domestic abuse strategies at an institutional level.

In Domestic Abuse Policy Guidance for UK Universities 2021, Dr Katz, a member of the Expert Advisory Panel, says: “In every university class and department, it is statistically likely that there will be one or more students/staff members being subjected to domestic abuse. 

“It is also likely that there will be one or more perpetrators. Domestic abuse can happen on campus, where perpetrators may stalk, harass, monitor and psychologically abuse victims/survivors. 

“Domestic abuse can be devastating; it can cause students to drop out of university or under-achieve in their degrees and can blight the careers of university employees. It is vital that universities step up to the challenge of domestic abuse and put robust policies in place for tackling it.”

In January 2021, a review found that only 9 of 133 UK universities had a specific anti-domestic abuse policy.

As part of the Expert Advisory Panel, led by the HARM Network and Research England, Dr Katz worked under the HARM Network’s leader Dr Roxanne Khan and with fellow panellists including the Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs, CEO of Women’s Aid Farah Nazeer, and Senior Policy Lead at Universities UK Fiona Waye.

The official virtual launch event for Domestic Abuse Policy Guidance for UK Universities 2021 will be held on 3rd June.

Earlier this year Dr Katz also voiced her concern at lenient prison sentences handed out for coercive control domestic abuse offences in England. 

She said: “The consequences of coercive control are truly nightmarish for victims. It’s an attack on your liberty, your autonomy, your ability to make decisions.

“Perpetrators often attempt to gain compliance through a system of ‘reward and punishment’, keeping victims trapped in a cycle of abuse.

“And very often children and young people often become victims of this abuse, too. 

“What’s concerning is that sentences for coercive control crimes are often very low, with perpetrators handed a few months or a year or two on the back of some horrific histories where they have psychologically tortured their victims for 15 years or more.

“The maximum you can get for coercive control is five years in prison - but many perpetrators don’t get that maximum, they get a couple of years at most.

“And it’s my view that the maximum sentences for coercive control should be changed from five to ten years, at least, in line with serious crimes such as making threats to kill and cruelty to children.”

It is a criminal offence in England and Wales for someone to subject another to coercive control - a law that came into force in 2015 and which recognises victims who experience a pattern of repeated control and domination from a perpetrator.

But Dr Katz adds: “England should look north of the border to Scotland to see a solution to the problem of lenient sentences of perpetrators of coercive control. 

“A new domestic abuse bill was passed in Scotland in 2018 which made coercive control a key issue, and which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. 

“If the Government wants to send a serious message that domestic abuse is not acceptable in our society and will not be tolerated, tougher sentencing like this is an important part of the way forward.

“The way that Scotland has really prioritised the tackling of domestic abuse shows that it is streets ahead in the fight against this crime. Its approach to domestic abuse has been described as the ‘Gold Standard’ which should be emulated around the world.”

Published on 01/06/2021