Women’s Services in the Twenty-First Century: Where are We Heading?, at Mairi Voice

Cross-posted from: http://mairivoice.femininebyte.org/?p=745
Originally published: 23.05.18

Lisa Dando recently wrote in the Guardian about the closure of counselling services with histories of abuse, poverty and addiction.

“We supported women with complex needs. What will they do now?”

“One woman told me: “It was great to be in a safe environment and able to say things I wouldn’t normally feel able to voice, and to be heard in a completely non-judgmental way.’’ Another said it “helped to see that I wasn’t the problem. To recognise who I was and who I am. To break free and not be broken. To value myself in my future.””

This reminded me of an article I co-authored in 2011, which was published in Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, Australia.

It seems that women’s services continue to be under threat, and not only in Australia. Sadly this article is as relevant in 2018 as it was in 2011.

Women’s Services in the Twenty-First Century: Where are We Heading?

 

MairiVoice (Edit)I am an Australian radical feminist. I have had my blog for over a year now and write mostly about feminist political issues in Australia.I also run a feminist facebook page giving voice to radical feminism by sharing articles and interesting news. I have been a feminist for over 30 years and have been an activist around issues such as child sexual abuse, domestic violence and family law issues. I also love to read women’s books – both fiction and non-fiction – interested in feminist theory – and sometimes write about the books I am reading on my blog

Sexual harassment and violence in higher education: reckoning, co-option, backlash, by @Alison Phipps

Cross-posted from: Gender, Bodies, Politics
Originally published: 12.07.18

This is the text of a keynote (and the inaugural Lincoln Lecture) delivered at the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies conference in Loughborough on June 12th 2018. 

I am speaking today about sexual harassment and violence. It is difficult to speak about sexual harassment and violence; these are traumatic experiences, and survivors are subject to many forms of silencing. This is why ‘speaking out’ is crucial. We speak our truths publicly because problems need to be named, to be dealt with: and putting our trauma ‘out there’ is a way to avoid being consumed by it ‘in here’. But speech in this area is also vexed. Because of where and how we are able to speak our truths, because of how these truths constitute us as subjects and objects of discourse, and because of how our disclosures can be co-opted. We are also caught in a number of binaries and backlashes which position us or which we have to position against. There are binaries between men and women, between perpetrators and victims, which often map directly on to each other. There is a misogynistic, racist backlash from the so-called ‘alt’-right, and on the left what Sara Ahmed calls ‘progressive sexism’, which gives cover to sexual harassment and violence through critiques of neoliberalism and concerns about ‘moral panic.’ This is the context in which I share my thoughts about how sexual harassment and violence are ‘reckoned up’ in institutional and cultural economies. …

Untitled

 

You can find the full text published here. 

Alison PhippsGenders, bodies, politics

 

HOW COMMON IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT ON AIRLINES? – @KATEHARVESTON

As you board a plane, it’s not uncommon to scrutinize the size of the seats and wonder where exactly your carry-on bags are supposed to fit. But other than that, we generally feel safe nowadays, having gone through several security screenings and identity checks to board the plane.

Another problem looms, especially for women who fly. Sexual harassment is commonplace on airplanes, with both passengers and flight attendants as targets. And the contained space in which it takes place makes the situation even more violating, with the person making unwanted advances — and the people who could stop it — sitting mere inches away.

What’s Causing Airline Sexual Harassment?

We know that many stories of sexual harassment, both on the ground and in the air, involve alcohol. One woman detailed her own terrifying experience with sexual harassment on a plane, noting just how much the man next to her had been drinking.

She said he downed several beverages quickly, perhaps to deal with a fear of flying. But the alcohol soon gave him the courage to make an advance on her, which started verbally and ended with him leaning in for a kiss. Nearby passengers intervened to stop him.  …

 

This was first published at Feimineach. You can find the full text here.

 

 

Feimineach:  quick-hitting the hell out of everything. occasional thinky blogging. Twitter @grainnemcmahon

Everyone Knew: Male Violence & Celebrity Culture, by @LK_Pennington

Cross-posted from: Everyone Knew
Originally published: 30.11.17

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 07.41.08

Everyone knew.

We hear this over and over and over again. Every single time a male actor, athlete, musician, artist, politician, chef (and the list goes on) are alleged to be perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence and abuse, the refrain is “oh, everyone knew”.

‘Everyone knew’ about the multiple allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein; allegations that go back decades. Yet, no one (read men) in positions of power followed even the most basic protection regulations and laws around sexual harassment.

Everyone also ‘knew’ about Jimmy Savile’s predatory behaviour to children and women. Despite multiple allegations made to numerous people supposedly responsible for child protection and multiple reports to police, the media still didn’t want to publish the clear evidence of Savile’s sexually predatory behaviour even after he died. Everyone knew; no one talked.


Read more Everyone Knew: Male Violence & Celebrity Culture, by @LK_Pennington

Emily Maitlis, stalking victims and systemic failures

Cross-posted from: Rachel Horman
Originally published: 23.01.18

Emily Maitlis recently spoke of her distress and frustration at the Criminal Justice System response to over 20 years of being stalked and I was asked to discuss the issue on BBC Radio 4’s PM Show.

She was particularly upset at the fact that he had been able to contact her whilst imprisoned for breach of the restraining order and the lack of treatment programmes available for perpetrators of stalking. Edward Vines who she had met at university had breached the restraining order on a number of occasions and each time he was released from custody he went on to breach the order again.Unfortunately this is not unusual and is the nature of stalking. Stalking is characterised by obsession and fixation which is why it is so important to take immediate robust action to attempt to stem the cycle of abuse before it becomes entrenched.


Read more Emily Maitlis, stalking victims and systemic failures

Surviving Sexual Violence – a review

Cross-posted from: Trouble & Strife
Originally published: 22.01.15
Ever since it began publishing in 1983, T&S has included an occasional ‘classic review’ feature in which a contemporary feminist re-reads an important text from the past. The latest addition to the series features Liz Kelly’s groundbreaking 1988 book Surviving Sexual Violence. Revisiting it in 2015, Alison Boydell finds it as relevant as ever.I first read Surviving Sexual Violence (SSV) in the 1990s for a postgraduate Women’s Studies dissertation about abusive men who murder their current/ex-partners. Today my understanding is informed by both reading and experience of working with survivors: I am involved in providing front line services to survivors of sexual violence, and will be shortly working in the domestic violence sector. I’m also studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Advocacy for Victims of Sexual Violence: SSV is on my reading list. Since it’s now more than a quarter of a century since it was first published, this is surely a testament to Liz Kelly’s work.

In the 1970s, feminists had analysed rape as an act of male power, raised awareness about its prevalence and deconstructed the myths that surrounded it. However, it was only later that literature about other forms of male sexual violence began to emerge. SSV focused on a wide range of manifestations: it was one of two ground-breaking books published in 1988 which forced childhood sexual abuse onto the public agenda (the other was an American self-help book, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis’s The Courage to Heal).


Read more Surviving Sexual Violence – a review

Of Ducks and Drakes: Male Violence Across Species, by @terristrange

Cross-posted from: The Arctic Feminist
Originally published: 17.12.17

Mothers Day, several years ago, I went with a friend to feed the ducks (and possibly nutria) at a local park. It was supposed to be a pleasant excursion to take my friend’s mind off of troubles with her own kids and to see some animals. It ended up being a sad and clarifying outing.

The nutria did not come out which was unfortunate as they’re really incredible creatures to interact with. We were flooded with ducks and geese grabbing our treats. After we ran out of goodies for the birds we sat talking and let everyone get back to their routines. It didn’t take long before we witnessed a horrific scene on the water of several drakes gang-raping a duck, her screaming out in pain and fear. We shouted at them and threw rocks into the water in the hopes of scaring them off but could only do so much to frighten them. They did let up soon after they were interrupted by us but it was too late, she was already hurt and violated.
Read more Of Ducks and Drakes: Male Violence Across Species, by @terristrange

DOMESTIC ABUSE’S TIES TO HOMELESSNESS IS A SERIOUS WOMEN’S ISSUE – @KATEHARVESTON #XISAFEMINISTISSUE

Cross-posted from: Feimineach
Originally published: 28.12.17

Imagine for a moment that the only option you have to escape daily violence is life on the streets.

That’s the reality millions of women across America face every day. In fact, 50% of all homeless women report that their homelessness stemmed from acts of domestic violence so severe their only options were to stay and die or leave and face homelessness.

Homelessness stemming from domestic violence is not discussed as frequently as it should be, but it’s one of the most pressing women’s issues of our time, as resources for fleeing women are scarce and access to medical care and food are constantly dwindling.
Read more DOMESTIC ABUSE’S TIES TO HOMELESSNESS IS A SERIOUS WOMEN’S ISSUE – @KATEHARVESTON #XISAFEMINISTISSUE

‘I learnt to act like porn stars so boys would like me’ – Jemima tells MTR how her life changed when exposed to porn at 10, by @meltankardreist

Cross-posted from: Melinda Tankard Reist
Originally published: 26.11.17

‘I shaved my pubic hair and became highly sexual…my innocence was stolen from me’

Jemima (her real name withheld by request) is a 19 year old university student living in Melbourne. At age 10 she saw pornography for the first time. Her life began to unravel, culminating in sexual assault by a group of teen boys when she was 14 and leading to severe mental health problems. I got chatting to Jemima at the recent Justice Conference in Melbourne. Within a few minutes her story poured out and she agreed to allow me to record her experience. Articulate and insightful, Jemima helps us see the way porn exposure so young shaped her view of herself, what she was good for, how she should behave and to understand the long-lasting ramifications nine years later. 
Read more ‘I learnt to act like porn stars so boys would like me’ – Jemima tells MTR how her life changed when exposed to porn at 10, by @meltankardreist

“Jezebels” The Handmaid’s Tale, at Mairi Voice

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 11.10.17

When The Handmaid’s Tale first became available on SBS On Demand,  I binged-watched it. I am now watching it on live TV, an episode a week and taking notes with the idea of writing a series of blogs, identifying the underlying themes that occur throughout the series.

I have recently seen Episode 8, “The Jezebels” and it is about a brothel.

This is no dystopian scene. This happens here and now, in every part of the globe, where women’s bodies are bought and sold – for men’s use and abuse – through pornography and prostitution.  I felt compelled to write about this episode in particular because it is so relevant and current –it is what is happening in our world, today.
Read more “Jezebels” The Handmaid’s Tale, at Mairi Voice

Disclosure and exposure in the neoliberal university

Cross-posted from: Genders, Bodies, Politics
Originally published: 18.05.17

This Spring, as part of a collaborative partnership of colleagues from the UK and 5 other European countries, I helped to launch a European Commission-funded project entitled ‘Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence‘. Our main aim is to create university environments in which students can disclose experiences of sexual harassment and assault, through providing ‘first response’ training to key staff. We have committed to training 80 staff in each of our 13 Partner and Associate Partner universities.

As we begin our work, I want to think more deeply about disclosure. The word is loaded, and the act is too: laden with emotion and often perceived as a threat. It means to reveal, to expose, to name something which creates discomfort and shame. Our work is loaded. Sexual harassment and assault in universities is pushed under the carpet in every national context I have studied, both within Europe and further afield. The 2015 film The Hunting Ground portrayed US university campuses as sites where sexual predators roam with impunity. Although I was not a fan of the film’s restitution-retribution narrative, it relayed powerful testimonies by survivors who described a heartbreaking silence which resounds across national borders.
Read more Disclosure and exposure in the neoliberal university

On hashtags, secrets and the balance of power, by @abigailrieley ‏

Cross-posted from: Abigail Rieley
Originally published: 22.10.17

This post is a hard one to write. I’ve kept this blog for years but this is the post I’ve always second guessed myself out of writing. I’ve written about dysfunctional homes so many times, homes that weren’t safe, predatory men, an inadequate legal system, but I’ve never said that what I had a personal stake in what I was writing – that I understood, that I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to live with a volatile narcissist who will make you doubt the facts in front of your nose. I know what it’s like to dodge ever-changing emotions. I know what it’s like to fear for your life – a dull practical alertness, not a nerve jangling panic.
Read more On hashtags, secrets and the balance of power, by @abigailrieley ‏

Yes we do want it both ways. Because we’re human. Just like men, by @Herbeatittude

Cross-posted from: Herbs & Hags
Originally published: 07.11.17

Whenever sexual harassment is discussed, someone will always pipe up “but they don’t mind it if the bloke’s good-looking!”  as if that proves – what?  That sexual harassment is a deeply unfair concept, designed to unjustly prevent unattractive men from exercising their natural right to grope their female colleagues and friends whenever they want?  That women are inconsistent and “want it both ways”, i.e.: want to have friendships and love affairs and personal relationships with some members of the opposite sex, without being obliged to extend their personal relationships to every single other member of the opposite sex who might fancy a relationship with them – just like men do?

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 07.54.36How galling must it be, to be treated with civility and politeness every day, instead of being treated to what you are entitled to: bantering, flirting, joshing around and the occasional knee-stroke during the working day.  How outrageous is it, that a woman might connect with another male colleague more than she does with you, finding him wittier, more congenial and more interesting than you and therefore treating him with a level of friendliness and companionship that will never be extended to you because … well, er, just because she doesn’t like you as much. 
Read more Yes we do want it both ways. Because we’re human. Just like men, by @Herbeatittude

Me Too, Now What? (sex, the left, and gender identity), by @GappyTales

Cross-posted from: Gappy Tales
Originally published: 20.10.17

Sparked by the exposure of Harvey Weinstein as an alleged serial sex offender, a mass confessional has taken place recently via social media, in which women everywhere have held up their hands and said, me too: the things that Weinstein did to those women have happened to me too. I hope to goodness it was cathartic and useful for the women who took the brave and exposing step of outing their private pain to the world, and I hope to goodness there were as many women reading who felt less alone, less ashamed as a result. But the outpouring is slowing and I, for one, am relieved. A collective boil has perhaps now been lanced, although I still cannot see through the pus.

The pus gathers in the responses, which can be divided into three broad categories. First is blanket denial, whereby men and their cheerleaders deny that sexual abuse on such a massive scale exists at all. Women are fanciful, lying, exaggerating for effect. There is a bandwagon onto which women are joyfully leaping in an attempt to malign men and revel in their perceived victimhood. Second, we have the more modern form of denial which concedes that yes, sexual abuse is a common problem, although not a gendered one. There are simply some people that abuse other people and all abuse is equally bad. The inconvenient and statistical truth that 98% of all sexual crime is committed by men, and that the overwhelming majority of their victims are female, can be pasted over with obfuscation and the politics of individualism. In other words, if we focus in carefully enough on all the tiny pictures, the big picture will begin to fade into the background and eventually disappear altogether. In the face of this manipulative myopia I can find myself longing for the first, more traditional trope. It is, at least, straightforward. Lastly, we have the outraged hyperbole. The shock! The fury! Whoever could have imagined such horrifying evil existed in the world?!


Read more Me Too, Now What? (sex, the left, and gender identity), by @GappyTales

#MeToo: A Hard Freedom To Bear, by @God_loves_women

Cross-posted from: God Loves Women
Originally published: 18.10.17

I’ve been working out if or how to write about #metoo.  The hashtag was started over ten years ago by Tarana Burke to enable women in underprivileged communities who did not have access to rape crisis centers or counseling, to be able to share their stories of having been subjected to sexual assault.  In the wake of the New Yorker publishing details of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assault of women across Hollywood (over a number of decades), actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to tweet their stories of sexual harassment.  A million people have tweeted using the hashtag in the last few days, with many people also using it on Facebook.

 

The most wonderful Vicky Walker has written over at Premier “Harvey Weinstein isn’t just Hollywood. Men like him exist in our churches too”.  Vicky’s piece, which included her own personal experiences of having been subjected to harassment by Christian men, has been commented on by a number of men.  Peter tells us that, I am concerned that this article is actually approaching the whole issue from the wrong perspective.” (What wisdom Paul has…)  Whilst Paul tells us that, Plenty of conjecture and personal anecdote but nowhere near enough sources to properly level the claim with credibility.”  (I’m hoping Paul is going to commission a nationwide survey on harassment in churches to help us get the data he thinks is acceptable.)


Read more #MeToo: A Hard Freedom To Bear, by @God_loves_women

Why don’t women matter?, by @FeministBorgia

Cross-posted from: Feminist Borgia
Originally published: 06.02.14

This morning on the Today program I listened to a very interesting segment regarding deaths of children and young people in the criminal justic system. You can read more about it here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26061816

The charity Inquest has worked with the Prison Reform Trust to produce a report
(called Fatally Flawed, can be found here) regarding deaths in custody, specifically those of children and young people under the age of 24. They report that in the past ten years 163 children and young people have died in the care of the state, mostly as a result of suicide (although there are cases where the cause of death was a result of, for example, the types of restraint used against them). Of those who died, two thirds of those under 18 and almost a third of those between 18 and 24 were being actively monitored for self harm and/or suicidal behaviour. Today’s coverage is as we await an announcement from the prisons minister, Jeremy Wright as to whether he will acquiesce to the charities’ request to hold a full independent enquiry. He has previously refused such calls, but has agreed to look at the request again.
Read more Why don’t women matter?, by @FeministBorgia

Wah! How am I supposed to know if someone consents to sex?, by @Herbeatittude

Cross-posted from: Herbs & Hags
Originally published: 25.01.15

A flurry of internet indignation from rapey types has greeted the announcement of new guidelines for dealing with rape. New Guidelines

The guidelines advise that rape suspects who claim that the sex they had with a woman alleging rape was consensual, should be asked questions about how they ensured that the person alleging rape was actually consenting to that sex.  Just as a man accused of burglary who said “no, guv, I didn’t do it” would be asked further questions to find out if he might be lying, a man accused of rape will be treated in exactly the same way.

This is considered extremely unfair by some sections of the internet, who appear to believe that rape suspects should be treated differently from any other crime suspect.  “Off you go then mate” is apparently the correct response, followed by a no-crime report. By and large that’s exactly how it’s always been done and is one of the reasons our rape conviction rate has stood at round about 6-7% for the last few years: because police don’t bother to ask further questions in the way they do of other crime suspects. Now the DPP have issued guidelines to ensure that the police at least go through the basics of crime investigation when an allegation of rape is made, you would think that it means the presumption of innocence has been dumped.  
Read more Wah! How am I supposed to know if someone consents to sex?, by @Herbeatittude

Broadchurch, Call the Midwife, Vera – Male Violence Against Women

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 07.03.17

There is not much in the way of quality programmes on TV, so it was with some delight that I looked forward to last weekend when three of my favourite programmes – Broadchurch, Call the Midwife and Vera  were going to be on ABC TV in Australia.

And each of them dealt with male violence against women.

In Broadchurch, Trish, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh is a victim of sexual assault. She portrays the trauma of rape very realistically and sympathetically, forgetting her name and many of the details of her experience.

We see the detail of the forensic investigation, such an intrusion in itself. The detectives, Ellie Miller played by Olivia Colman and Alec Hardy played by David Tennant, respond to Trish with compassion and sensitivity.  The whole ambiance of these scenes acknowledges the trauma and pain of sexual assault.

“The considerable effort they have put into portraying the trauma of sexual assault sensitively and accurately is hugely welcome. Broadchurch, along with the likes of the BBC’s Apple Tree Yard, is helping to make significant strides in dispelling the myths and stereotypes around sexual violence.”  Rowan Miller
Read more Broadchurch, Call the Midwife, Vera – Male Violence Against Women

Sharing images of ‘missing children’: the problems of violent fathers and spiteful trolls

Cross-posted from: Louise Pennington
Originally published: 10.06.17

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 20.49.17Within hours of the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, people across social media were sharing images of those who were declared missing. Some of these were shared by family and friends who knew girls and women attending the concert, but who had not yet heard whether they were safe. These images were also being shared by those wanting to help – a desire borne out of genuine kindness. Unfortunately, by early Tuesday morning, media were already reporting that some of the images being shared were of people who were not at the concert. One of the first images we saw when we logged on to Twitter was of Nasar Ahmed, who died in November from an asthma attack at school. We immediately tweeted out asking people not to share images of children declared missing unless they knew that the source is real. At that point, we didn’t know the scale of the spiteful and cruel trolling. Then we were informed that another image being shared was of Jayden Parkinson who was murdered in 2013 by her boyfriend, who had a history of domestic violence. In the end, multiple false images were being shared; many of which originated from a thread on reddit where men were encouraging each other to deliberately and maliciously harm the families and friends of victims with ‘fake news’.


Read more Sharing images of ‘missing children’: the problems of violent fathers and spiteful trolls

Writing women’s lived reality out of the narrative of their death

Cross-posted from: Karen Ingala Smith
Originally published: 14.07.17

8 Christina Randall

Hull City Council has recently published a Domestic Homicide Review[i] (DHR) into the murder of Christina Spillane, also known as Christina Randell. The conclusion in the  Executive Summary of the full report stated ‘Nothing has come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’

On 5th December 2013, Christina Spillane had phoned the police and in the course of describing threatening and aggressive behaviour from Deland Allman, her partner of over 20 years, she told them that he was going to kill her. The claim that nothing suggested her murder could have been predicted is not just wrong, it is doing one of the things that DHRs are supposed to avoid: writing the voice of the victim out of her own narrative. Christina had herself predicted that Allman was going to kill her and she told this to the police the first time there was any recorded contact between  her and them. Also, women are more likely to underestimate the risk they face from a violent partner than overestimate it.  Her fears should not have been ignored whilst she was still alive, let alone after she had been killed.

The conclusion of the executive summary of the DHR, contrary to several examples given in the body of the report, states ‘There is nothing to indicate there were any barriers to reporting and advice and information was given to [Christina]  regarding services but these were not taken up.’ This belies any understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and almost 1 in 10 will suffer domestic violence in any given year. Most women will never make any sort of formal report, to the police or any other service, statutory or otherwise, but most of them would be able to explain why they haven’t, exactly because of the multitude of barriers to doing so: shame, feeling it’s your own fault, not wanting to admit there’s a problem, feeling knackered enough and demoralised by the abuse and not being able to face telling a stranger about it, feeling judged, feeling more afraid of the unknown future than the known present or past. These are just a few examples from a much longer list of possibilities. On one occasion that the police were called to respond to Allman’s violence against Christina, their adult child had told the police that their mother, Christina ‘was too scared to call the police.’ That the panel of people assembled for the domestic homicide review panel declined to identify this, or any other significant barriers to reporting in the report’s conclusion, is a shockingly bad omission.

Research published in 2012 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that 95% of women using women’s services preferred to receive them from a women only-organisation.   Another report ‘Islands in the Stream’ by London Metropolitan University also stressed the importance of independent organisations. The domestic violence and abuse service in Hull is provided by Hull Domestic Abuse Partnership, a multi-agency response within the council’s community safety function. This is not an independent woman-only organisation. It is remiss that the DHR report does not consider whether this might be a barrier to reporting. Indeed it only reinforces the suggestion that too many statutory commissioners are happy to ignore what women tell us about the services they most value and furthermore, that independent women’s organisations are often undervalued and their importance side-lined.

For Christina there were additional problems: she had problematic substance use and a long history of involvement in prostitution. The review details that she had a criminal record including  ‘prostitute loitering and prostitute soliciting’ but does not consider even in passing that this may have affected her behaviour, choices, beliefs about herself or relationship with ‘the authorities’. By failing to look at this, the inclusion of this information in the review risks merely inviting judgment of her character, the expectation of which is itself a barrier to accessing support. Indeed a report by nia found that prostitution-specific criminal records have a profound and specific negative impact on women, massively influencing how they expect to be viewed by others. Additionally, involvement in prostitution itself is a homicide risk factor.  The Femicide Census found that of women who were involved in prostitution and killed  between 2009 and 2015, almost 20% had been killed by a current or former partner, suggesting prostitution must be recognised as not just a risk factor for or form of male violence, but also as a risk factor for intimate partner violence including homicide. There is no indication in the DHR that anyone on the review panel had an expertise in understanding the impacts of prostitution upon women and considered this a barrier.

On 1st February 2015, almost two years and two months after telling the police that she feared Allman would kill her, Christina Spillane was found dead. Allman had stabbed her three times and strangled her in an assault of such force that the blade had snapped. She was 51. Far from there being ‘Nothing [that had] come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’ as concluded in the executive summary, there had been a number of indicators of serious risk: escalating violence, threats to kill, reports of strangulation, separation, expression of suicidal thoughts by Allman, and male entitlement/possessiveness indicated by Allman’s belief that Christina was ‘having an affair’. Christina had spoken to the police, her GP, her drugs support agency, a support provider for women offenders and A&E between calling the police in December 2013 and her murder on the eve of 1st February 2015. It is simply incorrect to state that support ‘was not taken up’. Another interpretation is that Christina Spillane was desperately afraid and made multiple disclosures as she sought to find a route to safety, was facing multiple barriers to accessing specialist services and was failed by those that may have been able to help.

Frank Mullane, CEO of AAFDA,  a charity set up to support families of victims of domestic homicide in memory of his sister and nephew who were murdered by their husband/father, says that the “victim’s perspective should permeate these reviews throughout”. The DHR in to the murder of Christina Spillane sorely failed to achieve this aim

No-one but the perpetrator, Deland Allman, bears responsibility for killing Christina. It is not the purpose of a DHR to redirect blame from violent killers (usually men) who make choices to end (usually women’s) lives. But if DHRs are to fulfil the functions of contributing to a better understanding and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse, they cannot be a hand-washing exercise. They need to ask big questions, there needs to be a robust challenge to victim blaming and they must endeavour to see things from a victim’s (usually woman’s) perspective. If we want them to be part of what makes a difference, we need to make sure that we hear what victims of violence tell us, rather than use them as a means of absolving us from taking responsibility for the differences that we might have been able to make.

 [i]  Since 2001, local authorities have been required to undertake and usually publish reports on Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) where the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by a relative, household member or someone they have been in an intimate relationship with. The purposes of the reviews, which should be chaired by an independent person with relevant expertise, include establishing and applying  what lessons are to be learned from the ways that agencies work to safeguard victims and also, to contribute to a better understanding of and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse.

 

Karen Ingala Smith: Blogs (mainly) about men’s violence against women, feminism, inequality, infertility.  Twitter @K_IngalaSmith