The government deserves credit for changing its course. It's good news that it is now acting to ease the misery of at least some private renters. If delivered, the new social homes promised will benefit some of the very people Shelter exists to help - those facing bad housing and homelessness.
New arrival Theo had been trying to get the attention of Tyla, currently 'coupled up' with Jonny, and Jonny wasn't happy. But when Jonny said that Theo would have to prise Tyla from "his cold, dead hands", it was not romantic. It did not demonstrate just how much he liked her and it certainly wasn't funny. It was possessive and controlling. For a survivor of domestic abuse watching, it would have been a chilling moment.
For too long women and children have been left facing a postcode lottery of services and a justice system that does not understand their experiences, keep them safe or deal with their abusers effectively. It is imperative that this country's response to domestic abuse does not simply stay focused on managing risk as it has done previously, but places the survivor at the centre; working with her needs and strengths to build long term safety and independence for her and her children.
Two women a week killed by their partner or ex-partner in England and Wales is not a number to be argued with. Domestic abuse is not an issue that can take a back seat while Brexit deals are negotiated. It is a reality that makes the current picture suddenly look so bleak, as the Conservatives look to form a minority government with the Democratic Unionist Party.
How many more women must die before we learn the lessons? Dhillon made a choice to kill Alice. Two women a week, on average, are killed by a current or former intimate partner in England and Wales. It's not a crime of passion. It's not a fatal attraction, or a man driven mad by love, or a woman who secretly or subconsciously wants to be harmed. Men kill women because they can. And they can, not because women let them - but because our society, our culture lets them.
As the Chief Executive of Women's Aid, the national domestic abuse charity, I all too often see the worst experiences of women 2017. The fact is, that women are abused because they are women: because we as women are not equal. Abuse feeds off our inequality - and abuse feeds our inequality too.
Thousands of women in the UK, right now, are denied the basic human right of safety in their own homes. They are robbed of their autonomy. They and their children are thrown in harm's way, again and again, by systems that should protect them but instead let them down. This is happening because when sexism asserts itself, not enough people say no. And then women are robbed of the power to say no. Well, we have that power and we are using it. That's why I march.
Victimhood is not a competition. There should be help for all who need it. But by cutting services for women, lives are put at risk. Of course men need support to recover from domestic abuse. But to deny that iceberg exists, to deny the roots of the still-rising tide of violence against women in misogyny and inequality, is to turn our backs on prevention.
Life imitates art again. As Helen faces Rob in the family courts in <em>The Archers</em>, our Child First campaign, which is calling for radical change to the family court system in order to protect survivors of domestic abuse and their children, is going to Parliament.
As the trial of Helen Titchener begins, if her plight makes you afraid for real-life survivors of domestic abuse - so it should. And if it makes you think and hope that those real-life women have a way to escape, then you should be even more afraid. I'm here to tell you that their escape route is in danger of being shut down. As actors Louiza Patikas (Helen) and Timothy Watson (Rob) have portrayed so compellingly in <em>The Archers</em>, the level of control a domestic abuse perpetrator can exert over his victim, over time, is total. Yet, it is also often invisible to those around her, even those who care most - or even to herself.
A Women's Aid survey of survivors of domestic abuse with experience of the family courts found that a quarter had faced direct questions from their abuser. This is happening day in and day out. Justice is not being served. Children are not being protected. With your support, aligned with that of our parliamentary champions, we can change it.
When Women's Aid began working with The Archers on the depiction of coercive control - the gradual erosion of Helen's freedom, self-esteem and relationships by her controlling, abusive husband Rob - we hoped it would help increase public understanding of this sinister crime that is at the heart of domestic abuse. It has certainly done so.
I can guarantee that near you, often in a secret location and always with nowhere near enough funds, women have been working for decades to keep victims of domestic abuse safe. They offer somewhere to flee for safety, working with women and their children as they rebuild their shattered lives. This is the face of charity we never see...
Frankly, I cannot believe you genuinely want to undo all the work we and the government have done together to try to put refuges on a more secure footing. I think the disastrous impact the housing benefit cap will have on refuges is unintentional. But, make no mistake, it is dangerous.
We must counteract the bewildering messages about sex and relationships and the objectification of women that our children are mercilessly bombarded with. The Government must take this on board, and Women's Aid will keep the pressure up on them to do so, alongside other organisations.
Young people and teenagers are far less likely than adults to know where to turn for help, and research shows that if parents think they would know if their daughter was being abused by a boyfriend, they are kidding themselves. Only a tiny minority of teenage victims would tell a parent. The new criminal offence is a significant step forward.
Accountability is critical. There are lots of ways councils could be held to account. A commissioner, a taskforce, an ombudsperson: all of these have been suggested. These are all fine - as long as the government also ensures that local councils follow our list of five key priorities for the funding too.
In this fortnight, when the government is both drawing up its spending plans and determining its strategy on violence against women and girls, it's time to decide whether this will be a turning point - or another milestone in the demise of services which truly respond to the needs of abused women.
04/11/2015 16:40 GMT
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