A Safe Place To Sleep
Before I begin I’d like some of you to take the time to visit www.hiddenhurt.co.uk
Those of you who do not understand what domestic violence is, those who have no first hand experience of it and those who hold onto the myths that have surrounded it for so long. When you have finished please come back and read this blog.
Some of you will already know that I’m a survivor of domestic violence along with my daughter. We have been free of violence for 11 years. We have been free from abuse for less than that, and free from fear for 3 years.
I’ve written about the cuts to domestic violence services more than once since I started this blog. It was clear at the end of 2010 that the services victims and survivors rely on to escape abuse and to stay safe were under threat. Having personally used these vital services more than once it filled me with dread. Not because I think I will need them again (although I have no crystal ball, it could happen), but because I know how it feels to be sat in a police station with my child literally begging for help, begging for a safe place to sleep for the night. I have personally faced the prospect of not having anywhere for us to sleep unless we went back to our abuser. We have been lucky, last time a police officer spoke to the council and pleaded our case until they found us a room in a local hostel. It was very last minute. I was told by the hostel warden that the lady who should have had our room had simply not arrived and that’s why we were given it. That hostel room was the safest place in the world for us. No one could get in. My daughter wasn’t scared and I slept for the first time in so long because I knew nothing could happen to us. It was just one room with one bed but it was our security and we will always be grateful for it.
Thousands of women up and down the country are not so lucky and it’s getting worse. The single most important factor when I fled domestic violence was having somewhere safe to go, without it I would have gone back. Those of us fortunate to still have contact with friends or family may be able to stay with them but often we have been isolated over a number of years and have no one left or feel too ashamed to approach the people who love us. Many of us are unaware of womens aid or refuge until we actually need them, until our lives depend on it. Womens Aid helped me enormously last time I fled. They assured me that I didn’t need a visible injury When I asked for help to be classed as a victim because abuse comes in many forms. Warwickshire Domestic Violence Support Services helped me with extra home security when I finally got my own place. It was free and it helped me feel safer as a woman living on her own with a small child. All of these things are under threat.
Professor Sylvia Walby, UNESCO Chair in Gender Research, and Jude Towers at Lancaster University, wrote a report on the impact of cuts on violence against women services. A summary is below:
• 31% of the funding to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector from local authorities was cut between 2010/11 to 2011/12, a reduction from £7.8 million to £5.4 million.
• Among those with local authority funding of less than £20,000 the average cut was 70% as compared with 29% for those receiving over £100,000, between 2010/11 and 2011/12.
• 230 women, just under 9% of those seeking refuge, were turned away by Women’s Aid on a typical day in 2011 due to lack of space.
• The number of Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVA) has been reduced: in 2011 among 8 major IDVA service providers supporting 13,180 clients, 2 faced funding cuts of 100%, 3 cuts of 50%, 3 of 40% and 2 of 25%
• IMKAAN, who run services for women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups, report the closing of two of their six specialist refuges and cuts to local authority funding for two more.
• RESPECT services working to reform male perpetrators of domestic violence suffered budget cuts so that between 2010 and 2011 78% of services reduced the number of clients they were able to assist.
• Statutory provision, including those police and court services that involve specialised expertise, has also been reduced following funding cuts. This includes cuts in the operating levels of Domestic Abuse Officers, a unit on female genital mutilation and domestic violence courts.
So we see that as a result of reduced funding victims are being turned away due to lack of space, services are closing, perpetrator programmes are facing cuts and the specialist courts and police officers are being cut too. It’s also worth remembering that there are thousands of male victims of domestic violence aswell. Statistics are hard to find but it has been estimated that roughly 1 in 5 men experience domestic violence at the hand of a female partner. Domestic violence does not discriminate, it cares not if you are rich or poor, male or female, gay or straight. and it is often deadly. No one deserves it.
You may not personally know someone who has been killed, I don’t, but I do remember a lady who lived near to me who was murdered by her abusive partner. Her name was Sharon Franklin. and she’s 1 of millions. Domestic violence kills two women every single week in England and Wales. It devastates the lives of its victims, it destroys children’s futures. I know, my daughter’s spent 11 long years having nightmares, bed wetting, lack of confidence and self esteem and she was the only child in her nursery and school to spend the entire day scared stiff something would happen to mummy while she was gone. It has taken 11 years of hard work and sheer determination to help her become who she is today. Without domestic violence specialist services we wouldn’t have known how to cope, we would have felt alone and worst of all, I wouldn’t have stayed safe. We wouldn’t be here.
Patrick Stewart was a child that grew up in a home blighted by domestic violence when there were no such services as Womens Aid and Refuge. He has spoken out against these savage cuts in the Guardian, it’s about time others followed suit. Being a survivor does not mean I have forgotten the horror, on the contrary, it is with me every day. My story is mild when you compare it to those of Sharon Franklin, Cassandra Hasanovic, my friend Rose, and the thousands of ladies and gentlemen I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years who have suffered even worse abuse than I have. Most of them have been fortunate to have been helped by various charities and specialist services. My friend Rose works in the sector now, my friend Kathy has been helping at her local refuge for over a decade and another lady is studying to be a child psychologist to help children affected by domestic violence. Without the help we all received we wouldn’t be where we are, some of us just wouldn’t be here.
Theresa May said that the government wants to “end violence against women and girls”. They have a very strange way of achieving that aim. Decimating the vital services victims and survivors need to escape, stay safe and rebuild their lives is not only contradictory but it’s extremely dangerous. Remember:
Domestic violence kills two women every single week in England and Wales
That figure is already two women too high. It will rise if these cuts aren’t reversed.
Don’t just sit there, let your voice be heard, speak out. The days of ‘behind closed doors’ are long gone.
Blog it, write to your MP, shout it from the rooftops, join the fight. This has got to stop. One day it could be you looking for somewhere to turn, a safe place to sleep, a future free from fear.