The Family and Criminal Courts need to stop colluding with stalking and domestic abuse perpetrators

Cross-posted from: Rachel Horman
Originally published: 07.04.16

Mandy Dunford has been a victim of serious stalking for almost 10 years and her experience of the Criminal Justice system highlights many of the problems still facing victims of stalking and domestic abuse. The issue was recently featured on BBC Breakfast when both Mandy and I discussed the terrible way in which she and hundreds of other victims are being let down (Click here to watch the interview).

Mandy was treated badly by the police when she reported the stalking with the police failing to take it seriously and one officer even sexually assaulting her when he went to see her. The police failed to take appropriate action and Mandy felt – like many stalking victims – that her only option was to investigate the matter herself and gather her own evidence so she was forced to set up CCTV cameras. We don’t expect victims of other crimes to do this yet it happens constantly to victims of stalking. It is what we pay our police to do. Stalking victims will have experienced on average over 100 incidents before they even make a report to the police so it is vital that this crime is taken seriously particularly when you consider that 1:2 domestic abuse stalkers will carry out the threats they make and that the vast majority of domestic violence homicides involve stalking. It is what Paladin – National Stalking Advocacy Service refer to as “murder in slow motion”.

Mandy’s perpetrator was eventually arrested and charged with a number of offences including several firearms offences and several sexual offences as part of his behaviour had involved standing close to her home, naked, whilst watching her through binoculars and masturbating. Yes, exactly.

Did I mention that the stalking had been going on for 10 years??

Whilst the court did impose a custodial sentence – mainly due to the firearms offences – they failed to protect Mandy with an appropriate protective order. This is another all too common situation for victims of stalking and domestic abuse. In Mandy’s case because of the sexual offences a SOPO was made (Sexual Offences Prevention Order). Unfortunately Mandy was not consulted around the wording of the order and its terms were changed by the judge without reference to her which allowed him to return to live next to her and allowed him to approach very close to her property. This would never have been allowed had he lived next door to a school in my view.

The police accepted that Mandy would be at risk of serious harm due to the lack of protection afforded by the SOPO but said that they were powerless to do anything to help other than give her £5000 to build a “panic room” aka a prison cell in her own home.

Remind me who the victim in this case is again…?

Mandy is being assisted by Paladin who have been advocating on her behalf and the police have recently agreed to refer the case back to court to have the terms of the order altered. Unlike restraining orders it is not possible for a victim to apply to the court to change the terms of a SOPO so Mandy has been powerless in this regard. Let’s hope that this time the judge takes a more victim centred approach to it rather than concentrating on the perpetrator’s wish to return to home where he would be able to continue his reign of terror.

I represent victims on a regular basis to obtain properly worded protective orders in the civil courts to plug the gaps left by the useless orders sometimes handed out in the criminal courts.

Victims deserve properly worded protective orders to ensure that they are not re-victimised by feeling that they have to move away as the perpetrator is allowed to return to live next door to them. This is a common situation as stalkers will go out of their way to find accommodation near to their victim and all too often it is the victim who has to move again and again as the stalker tracks them down. This constant moving is then used by social services and the family courts as a stick to beat the victim with as they are accused of putting the welfare of the child at risk by keeping moving even though the father (who is often the perpetrator) is not criticised or held to account for his actions.

The criminal and family courts need to take the issue of domestic abuse and stalking far more seriously and stop colluding with the perpetrator as it is putting women at risk of serious harm and homicide.

 

Rachel Horman: Feminist legal blog by family legal aid lawyer of the year Rachel Horman. Mainly domestic abuse /forced marriage and violence against women. Sometimes ranty but always right…..

 

Self-Care or Speaking Out? A Black Feminist Dilemma by @ClaireShrugged

Cross-posted from: Sister Outrider
Originally published: 08.08.16

On the personal and political implications of misogynoir.


THE PERSONAL

I should be writing my dissertation. I should be writing the abstract for that conference paper. I should be preparing the workshop on feminist voice I am to deliver. There are a hundred and one things I should be doing – things essential to my life that I am not doing, because I am curled under my desk having a panic attack.  The abuse I receive online has reached new heights. For the first time (and probably not the last) I feel physically unsafe because of it. Along with the persistent misogyny, the overt racism, the steady drip drip drip of “shut up nigger”, there is something new: the threat of violence.

A white man told me that he wanted to hit me with his car. He wanted to hit me with his car and reverse over my body to make sure that I was dead. The scenario was so specific, the regard for my humanity so little, that it felt more real somehow than any of the other abuse I have received. It shocked me in a way that nothing on Twitter ever had before. I could hear my bones crack. He believed I deserved to die for being Black and having an opinion different to his own, that endorsing Black Lives Matter made me a legitimate target of violence. Seconds later, another white man appeared in my mentions with a chilling casualness to say that my being ran over would be “fair enough.”

It is not ‘just the internet’. This abuse does not fade from the mind when I close my laptop, when I put down my phone. It is a part of my life. It has altered my way of being. It is, at points, debilitating. There is a clear pattern: it is when I am most vocal, most visible as a Black feminist woman, that the abuse occurs most frequently, is the most vitriolic. Not a single one of the accounts I have reported in the week (for calling me nigger, for threatening me, for telling me to go back to Africa, etc.) has been suspended. Twitter Support’s failure to penalise accounts spreading racist threats and harassment creates the impression that people are free to abuse others with impunity – and Black women are so often the targets of that abuse. 
Read more Self-Care or Speaking Out? A Black Feminist Dilemma by @ClaireShrugged

I’VE HAD ENOUGH. AND SO SHOULD YOU

Cross-posted from: Michelle Solomon
Originally published: 14.02.14

In 2008, proud racist David Bullard was fired from the Sunday Times  for a column wherein he denigrated black South Africans. In seems that, after the failure of his many legal matters against the Sunday Times and its owning company Avusa, Bullard found a new hobby. And that hobby is harassing and bullying rape survivors  – and I get the special honour of being his target of choice.

Six months ago, Bullard wrote the following as a footnote to a column published by Politicsweb. In short, Bullard accused me of planning to blackmail my rapist; that I made up having being raped due a “fevered imagination”; and, therefore, was preventing the proverbial “we” from taking rape seriously.
Read more I’VE HAD ENOUGH. AND SO SHOULD YOU

Washing out my shoes by @God_loves_women

(Washing out my Shoes by God Loves Women)

Yesterday I experienced an onslaught of online abuse. I’ve been called names before, insulted for my faith and/or my feminism on various occasions. Mocked for suggesting it could be possible to be a Christian and feminist, but yesterday was something else. I tweeted a comment on the comedian Jim Norton’s recent article advocating for prostitution to be legalised so his sex addiction could be supported and apparently so as to keep women safer. He then proceeded to reply to me using .@ which invited his 350,000 followers to join in with mocking me and my faith, calling me names and generally engaging in misogyny.

You can read the Storify of what happened here:https://storify.com/God_loves_women/onslaught.

The impact of this was interesting. For a while I engaged with a few people, in fact with one person we had a really interested conversation and my faith and their atheism, which concluded pleasantly as they went to watch cricket. The tweets continued, with images of male violence towards women and pornography punctuating the comments that I must be unattractive, needed sex, should be making sandwiches and laughing at my stupidity in thinking God was real. And I began to be subdued. Not horrified, not even angry. Just subdued. I had a load of work to get done and two children to look after and actual life to live and in the end I deleted Twitter off my phone and got on with doing actual work.

But I was distracted, drained, subdued.

That’s how this stuff works. It subdues women, wears us down until we can’t take it anymore and we just exit the space, quieter, exhausted and lonely. Whether it’s a partner using put downs, isolation or violation; harrassment and sexual comments on public transport and in the street; being turned down for promotions and pay rises in favour of less qualified men; or perhaps the constant images of almost naked, digitally altered, underweight young women that leave us feeling totally abnormal, we women are being subdued.

Over the last couple of months I’ve spent some time with God reflecting on how jaded I had become. Hearing the stories of those who have been hurt so badly by the church, watching those colluding with people like Mark Driscoll, seeing the pain of violence and abuse day in and day out, it’s impossible to un-know the pain carried in so many people’s hearts. And God spoke to me.

Firstly through the story of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. You can read it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snow_Queen. In the story, Satan creates a mirror that distorts all that it reflects, the bad is magnified and the good is reduced. The demons plan to corrupt heaven by lifting the mirror to it, but as the fly to heaven, their excitement leads them to drop it and the mirror smashes into tiny pieces which fall into peoples’ eyes and hearts, corrupting how they see the world.

The story is then told of little boy and girl. The boy ends up with a shard of mirror in his heart and is taken by the Snow Queen. The little girl goes in search of him and has many adventures. She then is told that her power to save her friend “is in her sweet and innocent child’s heart”. The little girl finds the boy almost frozen to death. She weeps over him and her tears melt him and warms him. The little boy then begins to cry also and the mirror shard is dislodged from his eye also.

The story ends with this verse: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Women, it is so easy to be subdued by the world, or to be infected by the mirror shards which distort everything we look at, leaving us seeing no Hope, just death and destruction.

Secondly, God spoke to me through walking along a stony beach. I had been praying about how negative I was feeling about the Church. Though my own experience of God has been of liberation and love, of a life restored, of gaining more than I ever lost, I see the pain. The lack of healings, the loss of hope, the many feminists who speak the Truth but know God only as an oppressor. And I asked God to help me with holding onto the Light. God said to me to walk by the shore, in the water. I had on some old school jelly shoes and sploshed along in the waves. Yet quickly my shoes became filled with jagged stones, my walk impeded I had to stop, washing out my shoes before continuing on.

Every few minutes I would have to stop, wash out my shoes and then carry on. Yet that wasn’t easy. I kept almost over balancing as I attempted to stay upright while taking off a shoe, washing it and then putting it back on, all while on one leg. Over and over I had to do this as I walked the way God had asked me to.

As I did this, God spoke to me. The stones were the pain, the bitterness, the anger, the hurt. Jagged little stone after jagged little stone, piling up in my shoes, impeding my steps as I walk where God tells me. “Stop regularly and wash them out.” Says God. “Be vigilant and rest when it gets too much.” As He puts His arm around my shoulder, “Don’t do this on your own, you need people to lean on, while you wash out your shoes, so you don’t overbalance.”

After my walk along the beach, with the shoe washing out ritual, my knee began to ache (an old injury gained while running without any training). I began to limp as I walked. Jacob came to mind, the man who wrestled God and was left with a limp.

We are told that it is Faith, Hope and Love that will remain. And that the greatest of these is love.

The little girl saved the boy through her tears and her love. This reminds me of a line in a song by Kevin Prosch, “Whoever heard of an army of God, who conquered the earth with their weeping and mourning and brokenness?” It is easy to become subdued by the world or to be infected by the mirror shards until all we see is distorted and the stories of Hope are drowned by the darkness and the pain. Yet, even the smallest light cannot be chased away by the darkness.

Thank you to those of you who offer your arm for me to lean on while I wash out my shoes every few steps. And to those whose words have been used as weapons, for whom freedom of speech justifies all manner of evil words, I will wash your words from my shoes and continue on the journey God has called me to.

 

God loves women: A blog sharing my love of God, the love He has for women and my frustration that the Church often doesn’t realise this (@God_loves_women)