Specialist Domestic Violence Courts – How special are they?

A report commissioned on Specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVC) by the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, found evidence of defendants ‘gaming the system’ by pleading not guilty to domestic violence offences in the hope that the domestic violence complainant will not turn up at court and the case will then be dismissed. This was confirmed in observations of 170 domestic violence cases in which significant numbers of defendants changed their pleas from not guilty to guilty at the last minute when the complainant did appear at the court. The authors of the report emphasised that because of the nature of domestic violence crimes, and complainants’ vulnerability to ongoing coercive control, they may not appear in court as a result of intimidation. The authors argue that this reinforces the need for well-funded Independent Domestic Violence Advocates  (IDVA) services and for adequate training for magistrates and court staff in order to support victims of domestic violence to pursue prosecutions. Cuts to IDVA services and for training for sentencing and SDVC court staff are a concern.  Of interest for our study, the authors note that defendants cited alcohol misuse on the part of complainants as a way to undermine her claims of victimisation. In addition, alcohol intoxication as mitigation for an offenders’ behaviour was observed to go unchallenged by courts although this is not part of sentencing guidelines. The report notes: ‘There were concerns that the most frequent mitigation was that the perpetrator was in drink and that the courts did not, in any hearing, point out that there is no known causative link between the two’

You can access the report here.

 

New article published indicated the link between brain trauma and IPV

 

An article has been published in JAMA this month that focuses on brain trauma due to IPV and the devastating consequences this can have on patients. The article focuses on work conducted the Barrow Neurological Institute’s Concussion and Brain Injury Centre in Phoenix.  The author Rebecca Voelker points out that

‘some experts say what’s lacking is attention to the long-term consequences of being hit, punched, or kicked in the head over and over. Concussion and chronic traumatic encephalitis (CTE) among professional football players who take continual hits to the head have grabbed headlines, but for survivors of partner violence—some who’ve been hit every day for years—brain injuries have essentially gone unnoticed.’

She acknowledges that domestic violence patients may not have time to recover between injuries which can lead to further complications. Staff in homeless shelters are now being trained to screen all women for domestic violence who come into shelters who have sustained head injuries. The article covers further research and findings in this field.

You can access the article here. 

Janet Street Porter advocates considering alternatives to imprisonment for non-violent women

A Loose Women lunch time show on television this week discussed reforms for women who are sent to prison and the impact on their children of prison sentences. Janet Street Porter spoke on the programme and is an advocate of the campaign to find alternatives to prison for non-violent mothers. She discussed how many of these women are substance users and in domestically violent relationships and require support. She argued that many support services and refuges are being closed because of cuts in funding for women in domestically violent relationships. The programme also highlighted the government’s new strategy to divert women away from prison sentences by piloting residential centres for women rather than building new women’s prisons.

A government press release discussing this strategy is available here.

Article by Rachel Jewkes on the relationship between poverty and IPV

The open democracy website has published an article by Rachel Jewkes that highlights the interaction between poverty and IPV. She points to projects in Tajikistan and South Africa aimed at providing women and girls with the means to start businesses to ease family poverty or delay dating – which have led to positive outcomes reducing the risk of IPV.

Rachel has led research on violence against women at the South African Medical Research Council for over two decades. She is the director of the UK Department for International Development-funded “What works to prevent violence against women and girls?” global programme.

Through the course of the programme, the percentage of women reporting intimate partner violence halved. Food insecurity for women reduced by two-thirds, and the proportion of women earning money increased fourfold. Meanwhile, reports of depression in women nearly halved and depression in men more than halved.

You can access the article here.

Abusive men are using immigration fears to control women

End Violence Against Women Coalition have identified that insecure immigration status can stop women reporting violent and sexual crimes to the police. This is particularly true for women with insecure immigration status or for those who are reliant on a spousal visa as they are more likely to be fearful of deportation.

Rachel Krys, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (Evaw), said: “The public are rightly outraged by the devastating impact the hostile environment immigration policy has had on the lives of the Windrush generation. The same policy is also leaving many women at risk of violence and exploitation, scaring them away from seeking help and making it harder for them to access life-saving services.”

Many migrant women, including victims of trafficking, as well as asylum seekers and those with work visas, student visas or visas connected to their spouse, also have no access to public funds and are therefore prevented from using refuges.

The Guardian article is available here.

End Violence Against Women (EVAW) call for responses to the UK government Violence and Abuse Bill Consultation

The End Violence Against Women Coalition is a UK-wide coalition of more than 70 women’s organisations and others working to end violence against women and girls (VAWG) in all its forms, including: sexual violence, domestic violence, forced marriage, sexual exploitation, FGM, stalking and harassment.

EVAW has drafted a response to the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill Consultation and is calling other contributors to read their response complete their own response or send suggestions to them to contribute to their working document.  The submission date is 31 May 2018. EVAW accept the consultation document is long and stress it is not necessary to complete every question. You can access their call to action here.

Their draft response to the consultation includes a short Executive Summary which will be enclose with the submission and will cover key points about overall disappointment at the ‘narrow offer’ being made. This includes the lack of commitment to guaranteed protection and advocacy for women despite the drive to increase reports to police. They also urge a broader role for the new Commissioner in this area. EVAW also identified it is important that the Government provides a strong response on questions related to the following areas:  the domestic violence definition; relationships education; women offenders; the ‘no recourse’ question concerning women with insecure immigration status (number 15); work with perpetrators; the Istanbul Convention (question 50); and the proposed new commissioner (question 59 & 60).

You can access the draft submission for the consultation here.

You can get in touch and suggest changes to EVAW here.

Protests about legal outcome of gang rape in Spain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thousands took the streets in Madrid to protest over the gang rape ‘Wolf pack’ case. A court acquitted five men of gang rape charges. The rape took place during a bull running festival last year. The protests are because the men only received a 9 year sentence between them and fines, their charges were reduced to sexual abuse rather than rape.  The prosecution had been pushing for a 20 years worth of sentence due to the gravity of the case.

According to a police report, the men promised to walk the woman to her car and then surrounded her and forcibly removed her clothes and had unprotected sex. Some of the men filmed the rape and posted footage on a Wattsapp group bragging about their conquest and sharing the videos. They also stole her phone.  Many argue that if she had consented as the men  claimed they would not have stolen her phone afterwards.  Altamira Gonzalo, vice-president of Themis, a Spanish organisation of women jurists, told Efe news agency: “It should have been a courageous sentence. The courts can’t be so distant from society.”

 Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez tweeted his outrage  “If what the ‘wolfpack’ did wasn’t group violence against a defenceless woman, then what do we understand by rape?”

You can read more about the coverage of this story in The Guardian here. 

Article published in The Guardian commenting on the impact of economic abuse for women and children

 

 

 

 

The Guardian has published an article this week highlighting the far reaching implications of economic abuse. The journalist Louise Tickle focuses on the long term impact economic abuse can have many years after a relationship has ended. She points to how partners can maliciously destroy property resulting in unexpected costs which cannot then be met by victims. It highlights how some abusive partners send damning emails to landlords or employers stifling opportunities to rent property or start a new job. Other cases have come to light which included partners contacting colleges or universities claiming damaging criminal behaviour such as child abuse or criminal activity. This may result in delays to completing courses or women leaving to avoid confrontation.  Additionally, victims may be forced to commit fraud or build up debts destroying future credit ratings. Economic abuse can be seen as another facet of controlling behaviour preventing victims from gaining independence and stifling chances of escape.  The article can be accessed here.

Charities such as Surviving Economic Abuse believe that economic abuse needs tighter regulation in the UK and some call for financial compensation for victims of these types of behaviours saying this should be paid for by the perpetrators themselves.

The UK Government’s UK, 2017 Drug Strategy

The stated aim of the UK Government’s 2017 Drug Strategy is to “build a safer, healthier society: one that works for everyone.” Furthermore to, “to improve life chances and protect the most vulnerable.” The government hopes to achieve these key aims by cross-government working and engaging those from the drugs field, health and criminal justice setting including specialists from academia, practitioners and service users.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) and abuse has been given a particular remit within the 2017 drug strategy – to explore links between substance misuse and IPV, with a view to producing innovative approaches to working with both victims and perpetrators to reduce the offending behaviour and the substance misuse. The need to support those families where domestic violence features, is also recognised. In particular, The Troubled Families Programme has been expanded to include supporting family members where domestic abuse, substance misuse and mental health problems are prevalent.

A copy of the 2017 Drugs Strategy can be downloaded here.

 

 

International Women’s Day 2018 – 8th March

 

 

The Centre for Violence Prevention Institute of Health and Society based at the University of Worcester are a group of multi agency professionals (police, nurses, social work, specialist domestic abuse workers and counsellors) training together to address domestic abuse.  This photo was taken to promote international women’s day (IWD). Find out more about their training events, publications and conference here

March 8 sees the annual IWD campaign theme kick off for the year ahead, although many groups around the world adopt and promote the campaign theme from early in the year. The IWD campaign theme provides a unified direction to guide and galvanize collective action. Throughout the year many groups worldwide adopt the IWD campaign theme for further campaign work, gender-focused initiatives, continuing activity and events. A great example of this was in 2017 when the USA Women’s Hockey Team went on to adopt the #BeBoldForChange IWD campaign theme.

Collective action and shared responsibility for driving gender parity is what makes International Women’s Day successful. Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist  once said  “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

Started by the Suffragettes in the early 1900’s, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911. International Women’s Day belongs to all communities everywhere – governments, companies, charities, educational institutions, networks, associations, the media and more. Whether through a global conference, community gathering, classroom lesson or dinner table conversation – everyone can play a purposeful part in pressing for gender parity.

You can find out more on how to get involved on the IWD website here.