Society needs to stop ignoring an epidemic of abuse and start doing something about it.
Firstly, some facts from the latest batch of research on the ongoing matter of men killing women: one in six people murdered in London last year were women murdered by their (overwhelmingly male) partners or former partners. One in five of those women had previously contacted the police about their killer-to-be.
Secondly, some conjecture: London will not be unique. This pattern, or something remarkably close to it, would be reproduced were the research conducted anywhere up and down the land. And probably other lands, too.
Thirdly, some more facts: domestic violence is more common in a woman’s lifetime than diabetes, depression or lung cancer. Over six years (2006-2012), the same number of people were killed by terrorism in the UK – 100, each an utter tragedy – as women were killed by partners in every single year. Two women a week, the figures show, die at the hands of those who profess to love them.
Three friends of mine were nearly part of those statistics, and they are just the ones I know about. I have heard too many stories from other friends about women whose abuse only came to light years later or when the woman was hospitalised or when it was accidentally witnessed by someone outside the home.
I have not one story of a single person being arrested, let alone charged and imprisoned, for what he has done.
I can’t stand it. I can’t stand the lack of importance attached to women’s lives that results in so much suffering and an almost absolute lack of punishment for those who cause it. I can’t stand the lack of imagination behind the treatment of domestic violence as somehow less than any other kind.
Imagine being scared in your own home, all the time. Imagine not knowing from one second to the next when your partner is going to ‘turn’. Imagine having your self-esteem chipped away over the years by someone who lives to brutalise you inside and out. Imagine having no safe space.
More facts: the latest police report shows that arrests for domestic violence have fallen across 23 forces. The attachment of bail conditions for suspects has fallen by 65%, leaving victims entirely unprotected when suspects are released.
We need to get angry – angrier – about all of this. We need to start protesting, furiously, about things like the changes to legislation that make decisions such as dropping bail conditions possible, about the cuts to council budgets that mean one in six refuges for victims of domestic violence have closed in the last eight years.
There are only 302 – each able to house just a handful of women during an epidemic whose size results in 100 murders a year – serving the whole of England and Wales. We need to fight on all fronts against the underlying idea that women’s lives are not a priority. That we do not deserve the same protection as others.
And we need to fight to change a legal and political system dominated by the sex that has to leap an apparently insurmountable hurdle to imagine what it must be like to be at the mercy of someone bigger, stronger and more powerful than you in a society built around his needs.
Because I cannot stand it. We cannot stand for this.
If you are affected, call the free 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or visit womensaid.org.uk
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