THE NEWSDESK: There is nothing domestic about violence
HOME Secretary Theresa May has this week ordered a review into the way police in England and Wales deal with cases of 'domestic violence'.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) will look at forces' performances and identify where improvements need to be made, whether victims thought to be at risk are being given the appropriate help, and it will report back to the Home Office in April 2014.
Two women a week die from domestic violence in England and Wales, a rate which has remained fairly steady for more than a decade, official statistics show.
This is despite everything which has happened in the last ten years, and despite pilot schemes for Clare's Law, where police can inform partners of those with a criminal record for domestic abuse of their past history.
Here's one, simple way of changing things.
Stop using the word domestic.
There is nothing domestic about the vicious attacks which victims are suffering on a regular basis.
If you or I saw one of them in the street we would characterise it as brutal, mindless, terrifying and, often, controlling. Bullying.
The word domestic when tagged onto such appalling violence makes me angry.
Domestic is home and hearth and chintz pinnies and home-cooked meals and cocoa at bedtime.
Domestic is a belittling word.
Oh, that situation is just 'domestic' - a nasty little hark back to the days when police forces did not intervene in appalling acts of violence because they were 'domestic incidents'.
When women, and by and large most of the victims in this situation are women because of social and physical and economic factors, are killed by the people who are supposed to love them the most, we betray them by calling them 'domestic murders'.
A murder is a murder is a murder. There are no categories for me. A woman who dies at the hand of her partner is just as murdered as someone who is killed by a stranger. No less shocking.
Britain has, thankfully, moved on since the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s - and police forces now have extensive training in how to deal with such cases.
But women are still dying and being seriously injured and living in fear.
Clare's Law, which is being piloted in Gwent, was set up after 36-year-old Clare Wood was murdered by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton at her Salford home in February 2009.
She had met him on Facebook and was unaware of his history of violence against women. He later hanged himself.
Maria Stubbings, 50, was murdered by Marc Chivers at her home in Chelmsford,in December 2008, after Essex Police were called over a number of prior incidents.
A year earlier Chivers had been freed from a German prison where he had served 15 years for murdering his then girlfriend, Sabine Rappold.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Chelmsford Crown Court in December 2010.
A report by the Independent Police Complaints Committee said while UK authorities were aware of Chivers’ deportation from Germany in 1993, and the reason behind it, it was not legally possible to place on him the normal restrictions those serving life sentences in the UK are subject to. Had Chivers committed the first murder offence in the UK he would have been on life licence following his release, and on his conviction for assault on Maria in July 2008 he could have been recalled to prison.
IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: “In my opinion, Maria’s death was both predictable and preventable, but she was badly let down by a serious gap in the law."
Mrs May quoted both cases and said the government is "serious" about keeping women and girls safe.
"We have seen improvements over the past year - domestic violence, rape and sexual offence prosecutions have reached their highest ever conviction rate for the second year running - so the systems in place to protect women are working better," she said.
"But sadly there are still too many cases, like those of Clare Wood and Maria Stubbings, where victims have lost their lives because warning signs were missed.
"We have a duty to provide vulnerable people with the best possible protection, which is why I have commissioned Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to review current practices and recommend where further improvements can be made."
Javed Khan, from Victim Support, said: "We believe that identifying those at the most risk of harm is critical to protecting victims, as is early identification to stop domestic abuse before it escalates."
Quite right. But let's call it what it is - abuse. Not 'domestic' abuse.
Comments are closed on this article.