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Cuts Make Life Even Worse for Victims of Domestic Violence

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To most people domestic violence is an abstract idea - to the victims it is a brutal reality.
As an ex-Police Officer I remember a women whose boyfriend had stabbed her in the back with a screwdriver - a women strangled and left in a ditch - another women left dead in her bedroom and countless others battered bruised and frightened - all as a result of domestic violence. That was just my experience as a one former Police officer - other officers: medical staff, support workers, charity workers and not least the victim's them-selves, will all have their own memories and domestic violence. And of course, many are still living the experience.

I know domestic violence happens to men as well and it is certainly under-reported but I can only say what my experiences have involved.

Many women want to leave abusive relationships but don't dare because they don't have anywhere safe to go - somewhere where a violent and obsessive partner might not find them.
Women's refuges are one such place - except there are not enough of them and they are getting fewer.

So why are so many women's refuges being closed down by cuts in local authority spending? In my opinion it's because there are more votes in filling pot holes and keeping up the bin collections than in keeping a place of refuge open for the victims of violence.

To make things worse there is evidence that domestic violence has increased by 17% since the recession and the Government is reducing legal aid to victims.

To add to the pressure on these vital - life saving - services there are accusations that the changes to the benefits system in the Welfare Reform Act will make it even harder for women to escape to a refuge.

I think it works like this - whilst most people know about domestic violence in the abstract, because it takes place behind closed doors, the brutal reality of it is not real to most people. On the other hand the number of pot holes in the roads and the frequency of bin collections are very obvious.

Of course it is not a choice between one of the other but given the consequences of domestic violence - which leads to the deaths of two fellow citizens a week as well as countless assaults, rapes and women living in a climate of fear, you would think that we could balance things out a little bit more fairly.

Despite the human suffering involved in this most pernicious of crimes I fear that politicians will never take it as seriously as they should. Most will talk the talk but when it comes to committing money to the problem they are more likely to cut services than add to them.

The Huffington Post UK has reported wide spread cuts to women's support services by local authorities - something which I highlighted in a blog last April. Around 230 women a day (possibly higher now) are turned away from refuges and many thousands more have their lives made miserable by violence at home, but it will not be at the top of the list of priorities for politicians - at the local or national level.

Will the newly elected Police Commissioners prioritise domestic violence, I doubt it - already there is evidence that domestic violence and other crimes involved particularly vulnerable people will not be a priority for them. They will set the budget and the priorities for their Forces based, at least in part on winning votes, and I would be surprised if domestic violence was at the top of their list.
Anti-social behaviour is likely to be the top of their political agendas - because that's what the public demand.

Domestic violence - by definition - happens behind closed doors and neither victims nor the perpetrators want to talk about it.

Most people would agree that something should be done about it - but they are not likely to push the politicians to put money into the problem. On the contrary - they will stay silent as the budgets cuts continue and the money goes to other more 'popular' crimes.

The victims of domestic violence are disempowered physically and psychologically - they are the group least likely to have their voices heard - least likely to put pressure on their local Councils and the Police Commissioners - indeed even voting is not likely to be a priority if you are living a life in fear. The violence is real and in many cases brutal but there aren't many votes in it!