AGENDA: We Can Kick out Monster of Domestic Violence for Good; It's a Monster That Destroys Families but Many of Its Victims Won't Come Forward for Help. Conservative MP Theresa May, the Shadow Minister for Women, Calls for Tougher Action against Domestic Violence

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Byline: Theresa May

I like to think that Britain today is a civilised country. We have electricity, clean water on tap, hospitals, libraries, schools, universities, cinemas, theatres and so much more. Yet behind closed doors there is a deadly monster lurking in our apparently modern and cultured society.

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. It's a shocking thought - of the women you know, a quarter might be affected. And let's not forget the men either - some 20 per cent of domestic violence victims are male.

And the Government estimates that 750,000 children witness domestic violence each year.

Here in Birmingham domestic violence costs the city's services nearly pounds 100 million every 12 months.

But these shocking figures are only half the story as most domestic violence isn't reported.

In thousands of households, victims are suffering from often daily abuse, too frightened to tell anyone or ask for help.

They feel that the authorities can't help them or that reporting the abuse will lead to them being hurt even more badly than before or losing their children. Or maybe they don't want their partner to end up with a criminal record and go to prison, leaving their children without a father or a mother.

For these women, suffering in silence seems to be the only way to live. But in some cases, that can be deadly.

On average, two women a week are killed through domestic violence.

Apart from the distress and emotional and psychological damage, domestic violence also puts enormous strain on the police, the health service, social services and local authority housing. So it really does affect us all and we all need to face up to its existence in our own communities.

As the shadow Minister for Women I am determined to wipe out this despicable blight on modern society.

I'm working on proposals now that would help the next Conservative Government put an end to domestic violence. We're looking at a whole range of options, from better support for victims and their families through to policing and sentencing. But in the meantime I am trying to work with the current Government and back their policies that would help victims of domestic violence.

That's why we supported Section 12 of the Domestic Violence, Crimes and Victims Act 2004 which allowed restraining orders to be extended to any offence, even after an acquittal if the court believes it is necessary to protect a person from harassment.

This would have offered protection to hundreds of domestic violence victims and helped them regain control of their lives.

The Act went through in 2004 and Section 12 was due to be brought into force on July 12 2007, nearly a year ago. But nothing has happened.

I have pressed the Government time and time again on this matter - I wrote to Harriet Harman, the Minister for Women, on January 31 and on March 6. She said that there would be an announcement about the implementation of Section 12 shortly. And still nothing.

I find it unbelievable that the Labour Government can be sitting on legislation which has already gone through Parliament and should have come into force nearly a year ago which could help so many victims of domestic violence.

The Government claims it is serious about putting a stop to this hideous crime so what is it waiting for? …