Sisters Uncut

Taking direct action for domestic violence services.

A decade of austerity

Monday, December 2, 2019

As the election looms, we want to draw attention to this moment and what it means to us. Deaths from domestic violence have reached a 5-year high with 173 people killed in 2018 – up from 32 in 2017. 3 people a week are now killed by a partner, ex-partner or family member. Spending on domestic violence refuges has been cut by nearly a quarter (24%) since 2010.

Things are getting worse. We are a group that was born from austerity, born from a desire to resist cuts because we understand that cuts kill. We prioritise the lives of survivors of domestic, sexual, and state violence because they are overlooked by the mainstream: they are killed silently and their stories unheeded. We are living in a state of emergency and a decade of austerity has only exacerbated these dire conditions. We want you to remember the women who have died because of the state’s negligence. We want you to learn how many domestic and sexual violence services were forced to close in the last 10 years. We want this information to stay with you, we want to make it impossible to look away.

Austerity is a regime of devastating cuts to public services, resources and welfare programmes that has systematically ruined the lives of survivors and lessened their ability to escape the violence they experience. Austerity makes our lives miserable. We know that any survivor needs well-funded, free and accessible services that can provide them with the emotional and financial support they need to escape violent situations.

We want to build a world where all kinds of harm are addressed using the principles of transformative justice. Transformative justice holds that instead of relying on the police, prisons, courts and the ‘justice’ system, individuals can be held to account by their communities instead of disappeared by the state. Transformative justice calls on us to build a world where the designation ‘criminal’ becomes impossible. That means free education, free social housing, abolishing the prison industrial complex, fully funded mental health services, an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, an end to capitalism.

In the short term, we know that survivors need access to services that shelters provide without fear of deportation or imprisonment. The Conservative and coalition governments have systematically made this harder. The roll out of Universal Credit under the Tories means that benefits are now paid to the highest earner in a household, straight into the hands of abusers. This means many women are economically trapped in abusive situations. Not only have the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats cut funding for a majority of domestic violence shelters, Theresa May used the language of empowerment to propose increased police powers in instances of domestic violence. This ‘tough on crime’ approach does nothing to improve the lives of survivors. Survivors do not need perpetrators to go to jail, they need to be provided with routes to safety. They need shelters. They need trauma-based therapeutic services. For those women on the breadline, in the queue for jobseekers allowance, who fear their partners, Sisters Uncut sees you, stands with you and is fighting to build the world you deserve.

We believe that feminism is about making the world more liveable for the most oppressed – it is a tool we use to fight back against the government’s attempts to silence survivors. We are abolitionists. We do not believe that our freedom can be granted by the state or that the state has the capacity to grapple with our long-term demands. We want the abolition of all of the structures that put us at risk and increase our proximity to violence. But we know the difference between 5 more years of austerity, increased police presence in the lives of survivors and increased surveillance, and a promise to fund programmes for social care, education and housing.

We do not believe in political parties. We believe that our choice in this moment is simple: more death or less death. We implore you to think about this fact and –if you are choosing to take part in electoral politics – to make sure you vote with this simple choice in mind. Our immediate aim is to protect domestic violence shelters and to extend their services to all those who need them. We know that regardless of the outcome of this election, we will be fighting the government on their failure to protect survivors. We know that fight will be easier under a government that promises to roll back the devastating consequences of austerity.

Do you care about women and non-binary people fleeing domestic violence? Do you think that they should have somewhere to go that doesn’t interrogate, criminalise or deport them? Then join us. Come to a local meeting, get skilled up, and learn how you can contribute to our fight.