Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan asks why cases of violence against women are still not being prosecuted
After seven years, former military policemen Jeremy Jones and Thomas Fulton have been cleared of raping their colleague Anne-Marie Ellement. She doesn’t know that because she took her own life two years after what the men describe as “a consensual threesome” – albeit one after which Fulton admits calling her a “slag” and a “c*nt” and following which she was found naked except for her cardigan, crying and saying she’d been raped. The judge apologised to the family, whose extreme tenacity in the face of what he described as the “extraordinary reluctance of the Ministry of Defence, the military police and the army prosecuting authority to investigate the allegations,” appears to have been the only reason the allegations were ever fully investigated at all.
Lily Allen’s ‘luck’ changed after seven years too. She was an object of a stalker’s obsession (involving death threats, abusive rants and approaches to her friends and colleagues) for that long while the police, apparently, did virtually nothing – she says she was made to feel “like a nuisance, not a victim” and given a panic alarm for a few months – until said stalker broke into her home one night threatening to knife her. Only when it became a matter of burglary, she said, did police seem much happier to act. She has gone public about it in an attempt to force the authorities to start taking the problem seriously. As she put it last week – “I’m a well-known, wealthy, white woman and my case was handled badly. What if I weren’t?”
And coming up in June, Oscar Pistorius will finally be sentenced for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He was at first found guilty of culpable homicide and served just under a year after he claimed that he thought the person in the loo was an intruder and shot them four times. Appeal judges found him guilty of murder. His defence team will argue for a light sentence because his disability will make prison harder for him.
Are you spotting a pattern yet?
Though violent crime generally has been falling since the mid-Nineties and continues to fall against men, violent crime against women has been rising since 2009. One in four women will be a victim of specifically domestic abuse in her lifetime. All the stories I’ve heard from friends, family and colleagues about what they have suffered speak to the truth of this. I have two women in my life I am currently concerned about. Their friends and I keep in quiet touch, checking facts, noting details and readying ourselves to move in when and if they give the word.
Because we are clearly, all of us collectively and individually, in danger. Evidently over the last two decades harassing, stalking, hitting or killing a woman has still not become something that demands attention or resources (women’s shelters have been first in line for funding cuts since austerity began). It is not unusual. It is not startling. It is worth a panic alarm, temporarily. A manslaughter charge. A light sentence. A judge’s apology. Nothing that inconveniences the men around us – be they perpetrators, police or society at large – too much. We are not worth it.
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Photography: Ellis Parrinder, iStock