Today, we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I commend any campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence, but for me - this is my every day. Each year there are 100,000 victims at high-risk of being seriously injured or killed in the UK. And those are the ones we know about. And that is why I do the job...
At times, voices come back claiming that violence against women is in no way tolerated by most of our society, and some claim (perhaps condescendingly) that I am a victim of my own tragic loss, that I may be more prone to see violence where there is none, because my life has been shattered by it, after the violent death of my wife.
'Why not walk away from the abuse?' people say. If only it was that easy. It's an addiction. And believe me, that I know. I've been an addict, I'm not ashamed to admit that. I've made mistakes. I'm only human. Doesn't matter if it's cocaine or being with an abuser, people relapse. Sounds stupid, but sometimes it's the easiest option.
The level of culture change that's needed for cyclists to feel safe all the time is dauntingly huge. At best, motorists are telling cyclists, "Yes this is our game, our bat, our ball, our rules - but you can play if you want. We own the road but you can use it. What more do you want?" What needs to happen is a new game, new rules. Power has to change hands. That's still a long way off.
Since 2010, 32 refuges for domestic abuse victims have been shut down. Victims now outnumber refuge beds 3,262 to one. Refuge, one of the largest women and children's refuges in the UK, has reported an 80 per cent cut to their services since 2011. All of this has placed incredible strain upon these services and left victims with fewer options.
The new research into multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) by Manchester Metropolitan University makes sobering reading, as outlined in the Guardian on Tuesday. It confirms what Women's Aid has heard over and over again from women who have experienced domestic violence and the response of public agencies, and from local specialist services who struggle to advocate for women and support their long-term recovery and independence.
This is a different phenomenon from the carer who is overwhelmed by exhaustion and frustration, and takes it out on the cared-for partner. This is deliberate, coercive, controlling abuse: it is domestic violence. And it is vital to support professionals, particularly those working with vulnerable adults, to recognise and respond appropriately to both.
Refuges save lives. It's that simple. You will probably have seen the Women's Aid campaign with The Sun this week, 'Give Me Shelter', supporting Women's Aid's call to protect the national network of specialist domestic violence refuges. Our own campaign, SOS - 'Save Our Services' - was launched last June, informed by survivors of domestic violence and local Women's Aid Federation organisations. One of SOS's main achievements was a £10million fund from the government for refuges. But £10million is not enough. We have a new government, and we need this to be a priority, cutting through the rhetoric of austerity: we need the government to understand that leaving refuges to local decision-making is failing.