The report, by a national inter- agency working party formed by Victim Support, said organisations trying to help women were unco-ordinated, providing only 'patchy' help. Greater co-ordination could be achieved by giving one department the power to draw up a national strategy to combat the problem.
One of the first priorities should be increased funding for women's refuges so that victims have a 'real means of escape'.
Helen Reeves, director of Victim Support, said: 'Women who are trapped in repeated violence need emergency accommodation and other practical help before they can begin to consider long- term solutions.' The police should also make sure that victims of domestic violence know who they can turn to for help.
The report urges police and other organisations to treat domestic violence as seriously as other crimes. 'Hence, it may be necessary, in the interests of justice, to compel a witness, including the victim, to give evidence. But it is against natural justice to compel a witness who is thereby endangered without offering protection and support.'
There should also be changes in the civil law, the group says, taking up a theme addressed by the Law Commission in a recent report on domestic violence. Orders banning a partner from the home should be extended and more use should be made of threats to arrest anyone who breached them.
Victim Support echoes the Law Commission's call for court orders to be available from magistrates' and county courts. The Princess Royal, patron of Victim Support, said: 'We are not going to help women in the long run if the report, or feeling in general, is going to alienate men by making them feel they are being got at.'