Eve Thomas is a survivor of Domestic Violence. On 29th August she went before His Honour Judge Platts at Manchester Civil Justice Centre ,after surrendering herself to the baliffs. A warrant had been issued for her arrest after she was placed in contempt of court for not providing her flee/safe address. Had it not been for a very dear friend, she would have been sent directly to Styal Prison for 14 days for withholding her safety net, her only means of protecting both herself and her daughters. As a result of this, Eve has set up "OneVoice" which is fronting a campaign, supported by David Malone, Human Rights Barrister, to better protect victims of domestic violence and abuse. http://www.evethomas.co.uk/OneVoice-Campaign.html
The Sun, ITV and BBC news and local press have all reported on this campaign as it has highlighted a massive flaw in the British Justice System and raises some very important questions:
Should a domestic violence victim face prison for withholding their safe/flee address? According to our Justice System and courts the answer is yes!
Are the Ministry of Justice, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and co ready to face the consequences if a victim and/or their children are injured or killed?
Despite log numbers, restraining orders, anti molsestation orders etc and a very extensive history of violence and abuse the court refused to see the danger they were placing Eve and her children in, and in fact, the remark was made was that her Domestic Violence history and fear had "no bearing on the case."
As the campaign has gained momentum, victims are coming forward and Eve and her team are hearing of some appalling cases, such as where Anti molestation orders have been served to abusers with safe addresses on them, safe addresses being read out in an open court by a Judge in front of a known abuser, and victims being forced to reveal safe addresses in order to comply with the courts. This cannot continue it is very dangerous practice.
Will this put victims of domestic violence off escaping and reporting the abuse they are facing? Yes it certainly will, because no matter how far you come on your journey as a survivor, our Justice system and courts can put you in danger. It is hard enough for victims to get the police to believe them in many cases, as abusers are often practised liars and charmers, and victims are often in a state of great confusion having sustained sometimes years of abuse, and have very little fight left when they finally find the courage to seek help.
Is enough being done to protect our victims? The answer is clearly NO. The Police are only recently being schooled in how to recognise domestic violence, it is in fact very common for victims to report that police have accused them of "time wasting" and abusers are notoriously good at manipulating the situation (see my earlier piece "Domestic Abuse, Terrorism in the Home").
Why is a child abuser's address protected but not a domestic violence victims or indeed a rape victims?
It is only recently that we hear that John Venables has once again been released and given a new identity. Why is he protected yet a victim of domestic violence/rape isn't? Why are new secret and safe locations of domestic violence victims being read out in open courts and in front of known abusers that Judges know are present? What if a domestic violence victims flee/safe address is a refuge? This will have SERIOUS IMPLICATIONS and could put women, children and staff at the refuge at grave risk.
Indeed, what would happen to the children of a domestic violence victim if they were sent to prison? We are all aware that DV isolates victims from family and friends so the answer to this question is that the innocent children of the victim would no doubt enter the care system, many having witnessed terrible violence and abuse themselves.
It costs very little to take someone to the small claims court. How easy would it be for a known abuser to take their victim to court. The court can then demand their safe/flee address be handed over, the victim knowing that if they refuse they will face prsion. This all begs the question, why are our Civil/County/Family court staff not trained in how to deal with domestic violence victims? It is wrong for a court official to say "wait for the knock on your door" to a domestic violence victim. It is wholly inappropriate for a court officer to repeatedly threaten a victim of DV with prison for withholding a safe/flee address. It is also unacceptable that a court official/judge can cause such distress to an already vulnerable person. This is a blatant infringement of a victims human rights. Neither should a court official cruelly dismiss a domestic violence victims history and fears.
It's time to act. Please support the national campaign to protect victims of domestic violence and their children, here is the link once again:http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/helen-grant-mp-david-cameron-nick-clegg-protect-victims-of-all-abuse-in-particular-domestic-violence