A figure that I think that we are all aware of, or should be, is that 2 women are killed by their current or ex partner every week in the UK.
Whenever I see a story about domestic violence or a woman being murdered by her partner in the news, one thing that I always see people saying is “Why didn't she leave him if he was violent?” yet facts show that the most dangerous time for a woman suffering domestic violence in when she is in the process of, or has already left her partner.
Even in 2019, domestic violence is still something that is swept under the carpet. Hidden. Not talked about. Something that happens to other people but could never happen to you. You are too strong, too independent, more educated, more worldly. You would not let this happen. Until it does.
Statistically, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. A lot of things happen behind closed doors and apparent happy facades.
On average, it takes someone suffering from domestic violence 7 attempts to leave. This is a time when support from others is needed most. From both a support and practice side, but also, safety. Sadly, due to Government cuts, help from charities and women's refuges is not always possible; at a time where the need for them is paramount.
Funding for refuges in the UK has been dropping steadily for the past 9 years, to the tune of over 7 million pounds. Two thirds of Local Authorities have implemented major spending cuts, with refuges all over the country being forced to close due a lack of funds.
One of the Councils in my local area for example has cut funding to its refuges by a staggering £620,000.
Help for victims of domestic violence is in nothing short of crisis. 1.3 million women reported experiences of domestic violence in 2018 (source) which is a 100,000 increase from year before. Domestic violence crimes are also up a further 27%.
Due to the lack of funding available and the shortage of refuges, woman are constantly being turned away, often resulting in forcing them back to their abusers as they have nowhere else to go.
How do we help victims of domestic violence when the Government increasingly does not care?
Well if you are Jean Hatchet (pseudonym), you step up and find a positive way to help.
Two years ago Jean came up with the idea of raising money for women’s refuges (in particular Wearside Women in Need) by going on 10 mile plus bike rides, with each ride being completed to honour a woman that had died at the hands of her partner or male family member. To date, she has raised nearly £19,000.00.
Hopefully after reading my post today, you will consider donating to her Go Fund Me campaign too.
Jean has kindly allowed me to send over some interview questions to her, which I share below:
You implemented the idea of bike rides two years ago this April in order to raise women for women's refuges; riding at least 10 miles each time for a woman who had been murdered by her partner or male family member. How many women have you now ridden for to date?
I’ve ridden for 232 women now and over 5500 miles. Some of the women I rode for were at the request of their friends or family. I usually ride a lot further than 10 miles. I always ride up a hill and take time on the way up as it begins to hurt to remember the pain and suffering of each woman. I always smash down on the pedals a bit harder as I think of the man who killed them.
|Image from Pixabay
For many women (and who can blame them), escaping domestic violence is feat enough. For others, it gives them a strength that they never knew that they had. You have escaped domestic violence, experienced a stalker and are battling cancer; where do you get your continued strength to be that loud and strong voice for women every day? What drives you more than anything to do this?
I was lost within my marriage. I dreamed of ways I could live free of abuse. I used to escape into my own head. Sometimes when he was just calling me vile names as a way to pass the time and telling me how stupid I was I would dig my nails into my arm to help focus away from his words as they battered into me.
If I can help another woman to escape that feeling of dying within your own life. I will do it. An abusive man is worse than cancer.
Domestic violence is not just physical. It also encompasses emotional and financial abuse. I once read that one of the most important things for a woman to have when moving in with a significant other is a secret escape fund. A "just in case this all goes wrong" fund. It is something that I have implemented.
Is there any similar "future proofing" advice that you would you give women going into relationships today?
Plan. Plan. Plan. According to the UK femicide census a third of women are killed by ex partners after separation. A third of them are killed in the first month after leaving. Three quarters are killed within the first year. Leaving a man is the most dangerous thing you will probably do in your life.
Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Know where your passport and bank card are if you have them and make them easy to access and grab. Make sure you don’t tell him. Don’t confront him. Get out quickly and go to a refuge or the police or a safe place with a friend he doesn’t know. Stay alert. He’s looking for revenge and he’s looking for you.
Really – the advice I would give to women in abusive relationships is – don’t believe he loves you. Don’t believe he will change. He never loved you. He can’t change. He has shown you who he is. Believe him.
For women going into a relationship with a man look for the signs. Check out his background in any way available. How does he speak of his last partner? If he hates her be suspicious. If he doesn’t have access to his children? Be suspicious. Look for him criticising you for your appearance. Look for him isolating you from friends. Read about coercive abuse. Check if he does any of these things. Read everything you can. Be alert for the signs. Tell your friends EVERYTHING that worries you and listen to any concerns they have early.
Women entering relationships with men do a very risky thing given the statistics that one in four women will be abused between 16 and 64. Set a high bar. The good men won’t be too angry to meet it. If it happens that he is abusive and you didn’t spot it – you haven’t failed. He has.
Gender self identification has been the hot topic of the moment with the proposed change to the GRA and most recently, sports women getting involved and commenting on the issue; making the topic more "mainstream".
Many women, myself included, feel it is very important that women are able to have their own safe spaces, especially in refuges where safety is paramount and places are minimal. Can you ever see a compromise to this in the future?
There can be no compromise on this. Women will die if there is.
I don’t even see this as an area of debate. Women in recovery who are trying to stay alive do not have to consider the needs of trans women or anyone else at that time. Those women have endured enough at the hands of men and those women have a right to recover among women. Women need those protecting them in refuge space to keep their space free of men.
The law provides for this within the Equality Act 2010 and no woman should be afraid or ashamed of using the law provided to protect her.
In addition to your ongoing campaign to raise money for Wearside Women in Need, you also started a successful Go Fund Me for the complainant in relation to the Ched Evans case.
The circumstances of the case were unusual in that the conviction was appealed after the sentence served. What made you decide to start the campaign to raise money, knowing the abuse that you would receive from the angry men and parts of the internet? Does the success of the campaign outweigh the hate and negative publicity that it brought?
When Ched Evans was acquitted on appeal, women throughout Britain felt the pain of the woman who had just endured her ordeal over and over again in a court room. Women felt around the edges of their own pain from their past sexual abuse and it was still raw. Women were hurting and angry and vulnerable and I could feel that. It made me angry.
Section 41 makes me angry. It makes me furious that there has still been no amendment to the law that allowed her past sexual history to be used against her.
I did what I could do. I asked women to help another woman. We do it all the time. We call it “rallying round” and I oh how we rallied! We showed that young woman exactly what we thought of her and exactly how we cared for her and it was one of the things I am most proud of in my life. I loved the women who poured money in to that fund.
I raised £27,000.00 which was split between the complainant and Rape Crisis England and Wales. When I handed it over I felt we had really achieved something. It wasn’t justice we handed her. It was love.
I know for my part, when I saw Jean’s campaign and donated at the time, it really meant something to me too. It was a virtual hug and “we got you” to the complainant and an acknowledgement to all other women out there that have pain of their own.
I really appreciate Jean taking the time to ask my questions and I hope that it will encourage you to donate to her Go Fund Me campaign too.