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We Are Failing Victims of Domestic Abuse

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Around 230 women are turned away from women's refuges every day and front line services for women experiencing domestic abuse are facing severe cuts according to recent research - as a result many more women are being put in danger. The same research has also revealed that, in recent years, thousands of women have been forced to leave their homes to escape violence.

As these cuts take effect more and more victims will have to rely solely on the police to protect them or worse still have no help at all.

It is staggering that more has not been said about these cuts - except when we remember that terrorised women don't tend to speak out and probably don't vote as often as other citizens. Worrying about their own lives and possibly those of their children tends to do that! If you have no confidence and no sense of self worth then lobbying your local MP is much harder.

I was a police officer in London for over 20 years and like many of my ex colleagues have a good deal of experience of the results of domestic violence - from harassment to assault to rape and murder. In some cases I don't think there is any difference between this sustained abuse and more conventional terrorism - both are aimed at intimidation and control - and both can lead to people losing thier lives.

The police had to improve the way that they dealt with this type of crime and I think they did get better at it through the 1980s, '90s and early 2000s - but of course there is no such thing as 'good enough' in something like this.

One thing is clear in my mind though - relying only on the Police to keep victims safe is definately not good enough - they have too few officers and too many responsibilities. The idea that you can reduce these other services and instead rely more on police responding to calls for help from the victims when an attack has already begun is cruel and a failure of the state to protect its citizens from crime. As a result of these cutbacks victims are now more likely to stay longer in these dangerous situations leaving them and their children exposed to harm.

Some of the perpetrators are so remarkably determined to pursue their victims that police intervention is seen only as a temporary hurdle to them - their obsession and drive is hard to believe unless you witness it.

There were (and probably still are) other schemes being developed that involve greater security for victims who stay at home - and it would be good to think that these were a good substitute for relocating victims to a shelter, for instance, but I doubt that this is true in the worst of cases.

According to recent reports around two women are killed every week in England and Wales through domestic violence - if this was the result of the other type of terrorism we would hear much more about it. This type of terrorism is the hidden type - not so politically sensitive - not too many votes to be gained?

The police (or ex police in my case) cannot take any moral high ground in this of course - the Police history on tackling domestic violence is not good enough - but it needs to be said again - cutting these services will endanger the lives of victims.

The government and local authorities have to make cuts - all the main parties agree - but severe reductions in the front line services to women facing life threatening abuse is not justified.

This is a matter of life and death in some cases - in others it's about fear and violence - but in all the cases it is about failing these most vulnerable of our fellow citizens.