Sisters Uncut

Taking direct action for domestic violence services.

PRESS RELEASE: Sisters Uncut hack tube poems to amplify voices silenced by the state

Friday, March 8, 2019

  • North London Sisters Uncut hack London tube lines, replacing adverts with poems from women & non-binary people who have been silenced by the state.
  • The poems share real stories of how government cuts and ‘hostile environment’ policies have left survivors locked up in prison, locked out of refuges, and locked in violent relationships.
  • The group believes the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill will further criminalise survivors of domestic violence and are instead calling for fully-funded specialist services.

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North London Sisters Uncut took to the tubes last night, replacing poster adverts with poems by survivors of domestic and state violence to mark International Women’s Day.

The collection of 14 original poems, written by survivors, domestic violence sector workers and their allies, document the real stories of women and non-binary people who have found themselves locked up in prison, locked out of refuges, and locked in violent relationships, due to government cuts and hostile environment policies.

The group distributed 300 copies of the poems, designed to mimic the famous ‘Poems of the Underground’ posters, across the Central, Northern, Victoria and Piccadilly lines.

In the poems, authors describe how they fear fleeing violent relationships because of their insecure immigration status, while others share experiences of being imprisoned in detention centres after reporting the domestic abuse they suffered to police.

The Government’s ‘hostile environment’ towards migration means that women and non-binary people with an insecure immigration status are barred from accessing domestic violence services and also risk being arrested, detained and deported when reporting abuse to police and public services.

BME women’s groups have raised concern at how the threat of immigration removal is being “used by abusers against women – to scare them into not seeking help.” Last summer, Southeast London Sisters Uncut exposed the practice of covert immigration officers being embedded in local-authority run domestic violence services, in an attempt to catch those with unstable immigration status when they attempted to seek help.

Nadia Bell, Sisters Uncut activist said: “We hope to show Londoners how Theresa May’s government is really treating women and non-binary people who are trying to escape domestic violence.”

“This International Women’s Day, it is important to recognise the work that still needs to be done to guarantee safety for ALL survivors, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or immigration status.”

Some of the poems also focus on the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill, which places a large focus on expanding police powers. Sisters Uncut are concerned that this will further criminalise survivors of domestic violence, as in the USA, similar policies have led to an increase in the number of survivors being arrested. Testimonies from sector workers and case studies in the media show that survivors are often arrested following interactions with police, despite their partners being the primary aggressors.

The draft bill has also been criticised by women’s groups for its failure to guarantee access to services for migrant survivors. A very limited opportunity to access support has been included in the bill, but in order to qualify for it, migrant survivors must meet certain conditions, such as having a partner with British citizenship.

Grace Chan, domestic violence sector worker said: “The DV Bill is intended to ‘deliver more convictions’ for domestic violence, which we fear will further criminalise survivors of abuse. The solution doesn’t lie in giving the police more power – Theresa May needs to give power and options back to survivors by funding specialist services.”

The violence perpetrated against women and non-binary people may go ignored by the Government, but Sisters Uncut hope to bring these life-or-death issues into sharp focus for those on their daily commute.

Notes for Editors:

North London Sisters Uncut is part of Sisters Uncut, a direct action group known for using bold tactics to protest cuts to domestic violence services. The North London group is well-known for reclaiming Holloway Prison’s Visitor Centre as a Women’s Building (inclusive of trans women and non-binary people).

Sisters Uncut is formed of non-binary people and women. Non-binary people are usually ignored when it comes to compiling official statistics on DV, but they still disproportionately experience gendered violence research shows that 39% have experienced domestic violence.