Sisters Uncut

Taking direct action for domestic violence services.

Growing Up With Domestic Violence

Sunday, October 11, 2015

This week, Sisters Uncut made headlines storming the red carpet of the ‘Suffragette’ premiere in Leicester Square to highlight the government’s devastating cuts to domestic violence services. Here, a Sister explains her experience of growing up with domestic violence, and why she’s fighting with us against the cuts.

When I was young my mum taught me a secret code: when I needed her to drop everything and come get me, I had to ring and ask her to buy me some sweets from the shops; when I needed her to call the police I had to ask her to buy me some chocolate.

1 in 7 children and young people under the age of 18 will have experienced living with domestic violence (1), and yet time and time again we are failing both single women and those with families by a lack of refuges and resources to help them escape the cycle of fear and violence. Domestic violence and associated abuse, both sexual and emotional, are often complex issues that require specialised, long-term interventions to ensure that we are getting women and women with families to safety as soon as possible, and supporting those not yet ready to leave their partners. Yet on just one day in 2014 112 women and 84 children were turned away from refuges because they could not be accommodated (2).

I was never one of those children, and my mother was never one of those women: we are not included in any statistics – we are a proportion of the population that women’s rights campaigners and charities can only guess at: the number of women subjected to domestic violence and abuse who never report it, or whose reports go unheard.

The Crime Survey of England and Wales caps the number that each person can be counted as a victim at 5. In a world where, on average, a women will be assaulted 35 times before going to the police (3), this cap means that not only is domestic violence under-reported, when it is reported government statistics have placed an arbitrary limit on recurring violence. Professor Sylvia Walby, of Lancaster University, took the 2011/12 CSEW and calculated that the capped number of estimated violence against women at 839,000 would increase to 1,417,000 if the cap was removed, a rise of just over 68% (4). Add to this the estimated 65% of domestic violence that isn’t reported5, and the numbers start to become so high as to be unimaginable: a silent epidemic of gender-based violence.

Despite the millions of women and children suffering at the hands of their partners or ex-partners, despite the 61 acts of violence against women that have occurred in the time it has taken for you to read this article (6), the current government continues to push a political ideology that has a disproportionate affect on women (7), and to cut services that save lives. Since 2010, 32 refuges have been shut-down; charities that provide vital services to LGBTQ+ and Black and Minority Ethnic women, such as Apna Haq, are in danger as councils move towards cheaper, non-specialist services; and those services which do remain do not have long-term funding, as budgets are not nationally ring-fenced.

1 in 3 women will experience violence within their lifetime: we are women you work with and your next-door neighbours; we are children you smile at in the street and those you pass sat in classrooms; we are friends, acquaintances and strangers. We are sat next to you right now.

I never used my sweet-sounding code: I knew he’d kill her if I did.

  1. Radford, L; Aitken, R; Miller, P; Ellis, J; Robert, J & Firkic, A, (2011)
  6. based on an average of 12.9 million acts of violence against women a year, Walby & Allen (2004)