The UK government is debating whether to implement specialist training to help Black survivors of domestic abuse – here's what you need to know about Valerie's Law

The campaign has been led by Sistah Space. 
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Valerie's Law is a proposal to tackle domestic abuse specifically among Black communities, through a process of cultural competency training for the UK police force and its related bodies. 

The bill is being debated today in parliament, following an appeal. The government's original response to the Valerie's Law bill, in 2021, deemed it unnecessary to mandate.

“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,” was the response. 

It remains to be seen whether it will be passed today. It has been backed by the likes of FKA Twigs, who tweeted in support of the campaign to her almost half a million followers.

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It is named after the late Valerie Forde, who was murdered together with her 23-month-old daughter Jahzara by her ex-partner Roland McKoy in 2014. 

Six weeks before the murders took place, Valerie had reported McKoy's threats to police but they had been recorded as a threat to property rather than to life. The police had come to the home after Valerie called 999, but left after allegedly knocking and hearing no answer. Entry to the home is said to have taken 40 minutes, according to the campaign website, during which time the murders took place. 

What happened to Valerie and her daughter highlighted, according to campaigners, a “severe knowledge gap when it comes to the black community and its domestic violence victims” by the police force and related services such as hospitals.

The campaign aims to see specialist training introduced as standard practice for service providers, in order to help them better navigate domestic abuse within Black communities. 

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An online petition to support the bill, now closed, has garnered 106,519 signatures. For each person who signed, the online petition automatically sent a letter of support to the signer's local MP urging them to support the bill in the parliamentary debate. 

“Make specialist training mandatory for all police and other government agencies that support black women and girls affected by domestic abuse,” reads the official description on the parliament website. “Police and agencies should have culturally appropriate training to better understand the cultural needs of black women affected by domestic abuse.”

The petition was hosted by Sistah Space, a community-based non-profit initiative which was set up in 2015 to support domestic abuse services for women and girls of African heritage. It also offers specific support to victims of sexual abuse, discriminatory abuse, organisational abuse and financial & material abuse. 

“If the appropriate cultural training had been in place sooner across all agencies, Valerie and her infant daughter may still be with us today,” reads the campaign description on the Sistah Space website – which argues that police officers and government agencies tend to use “White-British standards” to assess risk in potential domestic violence situations involving Black women.

It is estimated, according to survey results shared on the platform, that 86% of African and/or Caribbean heritage women in the UK have either directly been a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse, or knows a family member who has been assaulted.

Some 85% did not feel as supported by non-Black domestic abuse advisors “due to a lack of cultural and situational understanding," while just over half (57%) said they would report an offence to the police. Just 1% of respondents said they felt the current system in the UK support Black women with equal care as it did white women. 

Domestic abuse is defined, according to the Women's Aid website, as “an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence."

For more information about emotional abuse and domestic violence, you can call The Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge on 0808 2000 247.