October 6, 2014
Reduce female suicide that is attributed to the trauma of male violence.
This public health matter will be brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women prior to their UK visit between 31 March and 15 April 2014. I would like the following points to be addressed:
1. Include women coping with trauma from domestic and sexual violence when tackling inequalities around access to mental health care. Armed Forces veterans are in the government’s ‘Closing the Gap’ list of priority actions whereas women traumatized by male violence are not. They are at increased risk of suicide and also re-victimization. Please provide a choice of appropriate and effective NHS therapies because over-reliance on anti-depressants or CBT is not an adequate response.
2. Address possible inequality in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme by reconsidering from a gendered perspective. Waive the requirement of immediate reporting for domestic and sexual violence claims. Replace case officers’ discretion with an absolute by abolishing (or greatly extending) the 2 year limitation period for domestic and sexual violence claims. This will facilitate access to private, specialist therapies for women who cannot otherwise afford it.
I’ve launched this campaign for women coping with trauma from current or past experiences of domestic and sexual violence. Cuts to women’s services, legal aid, and welfare reform are a toxic combination that will heighten our vulnerability. It is a global problem of epidemic proportions and a gender-neutral approach could eradicate our current progress.
Women coping with trauma may be dealing with any, or all, of the following: depression; anxiety and panic attacks; social phobia; flashbacks; nightmares/terrors; substance misuse; eating disorders; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; suicide ideation; self-harm; and attempted suicide.
For nearly 30% of women who experience domestic violence (DV), the first incident will happen during pregnancy. There is clear association between DV, pregnancy, and maternal suicide. 19% of women who experience abuse while pregnant will attempt suicide (compared to 5% of non-abused pregnant women).
Women who have experienced physical violence from husbands and partners are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than other women.
A systematic review of global, longitudinal studies (Devries, et al. 2013) found intimate partner violence associated with attempted suicide.
Of the attempted suicides by women leading to A&E admission, 80 a day are attributable to DV and almost 30 a day have DV as the primary cause.
The number of female deaths by suicide from the trauma of DV is 10 times higher than the number of deaths by suicide from the trauma of war.
In 2011, 15 serving soldiers died by suicide. In the same year, 156 women living with DV died by suicide.
In 2012, 21 serving soldiers died by suicide and BBC Panorama established a further 29 by veterans, making a total of 50 suicides attributed to war. 34% of female suicides can be attributed to DV. On 2011 figures, that is 508 deaths from a total of 1,493. (2012 figures not yet available).
Waiting lists for psychological therapies are too long. Often, the quality and type of available therapy is inadequate. Therefore, victims of violent crimes are funding their own recoveries – if they can afford it. Those who cannot must rely on self-help.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICA)
CICA claims must be made within 2 years of incidents which need to be promptly reported to the police. DV is a grossly under-reported crime so this could be excluding the majority of victims. It is estimated that fewer than 1 in 4 people report DV to police (Home Office, 2013). “It is estimated that up to 9 in 10 cases of rape go unreported and 38% of serious sexual assault victims tell no-one about their experience” (Stern Review). Women may be unable to report immediately for myriad reasons, including psychological harm. Case officers have discretion for these particular claims but it is unknown whether knowledge of gender and trauma informs their decision-making.
Once a person has been victimized, their risk of experiencing further crime is higher than someone who hasn’t experienced any. The level of repeat victimization in domestic violence is higher than for any other crime. This risk may be alleviated by access to high-quality, specialist mental healthcare. It could be argued that the government fails to exercise due diligence in mitigating psychological harm to women from male violence. It could be argued that the State condones further violence by failing to ameliorate this risk of re-victimization. Current policies do not appear to reflect government’s strategy to end violence against women and girls with its vision to ‘provide adequate support’ and ‘take action to reduce the risk’.
Current approaches to healthcare provision and compensation to victims may not comply with domestic legislation, European Conventions and international laws.
Policies may be discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010. Public bodies may not be meeting their public sector equality duty under s.149 by having due regard to eliminating discrimination, advancing equal opportunity, and fostering good relations.
Policies may be violating The Human Rights Act 1998 and Article 1 (respecting human rights), Article 2 (right to life), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) and Article 14 (prohibition on discrimination) under the European Convention of Human Rights.
Violence against women puts lives and health at risk. Failure to ensure equal access to healthcare, provide appropriate support, and payment of compensation may violate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Recommendation No’s 19, 24 (incl. Article 12 for women and health) and 28).
Equality and a gender perspective are both required under the Istanbul Convention. Although not yet in force, the UK has signed this Convention (but not yet ratified) and it clearly shows the direction we need.
“It is reasonable to suggest that women who experience domestic violence and also subsequently attempt suicide do so out of a will to live” (Maris, 1971).
Please help raise awareness. If you agree, please sign the petition calling for urgent access to therapeutic interventions. Help me to help them to live.
I am on twitter @10womenaweek