A woman dies every 36 hours from domestic violence

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

Distressing figures have revealed that a woman or girl is killed in Britain every 36 hours due to domestic violence. The number of female deaths from this type of crime is now at its highest since 2006.

Up to March 2019, there were 241 women and girls that were victims of murder or manslaughter during the 12 months previous. This is an increase of 21 from the year before. Of the 214 adult victims, 80 women died at the hands of their partner or former partner, increasing by 17.

The number of baby girls and toddlers killed in the period also reached a ten-year high, with 14 female victims under the age of one and 13 toddlers aged between one and four. The previous high was in the year to March 2009, the earliest available figures, when six babies and eight children aged between one and four were killed.

The figures are revealed at the same time as the Duchess of Cornwall urged victims to speak out about their experiences at the hands of this crime.
She said she had nightmares after hearing accounts of abuse from women at a SafeLives event in 2016.

“I had the privilege of hearing incredibly brave women… standing up to tell their stories. Harrowing stories that reduced many of us listeners to tears,” Camilla said in a speech to guests at Clarence House.

“That memorable day fired my interest in domestic abuse. I did know of people who had suffered from it, but I was both shocked and horrified by just how many thousands of people across the world live with it.”

Camilla described the 2016 event as one of her ‘most harrowing experiences’. “I thought to myself, this is going on, what are we doing about it?,” she said. “You know people, I know people that it has happened to. But I don’t think we ever believed it was that bad.

‘Whoever you are, wherever you are from, there are organisations that can help you,” she added. “Talk to them, just get up and talk about your
experiences. They will help.”

The Government announced additional support for victims of domestic abuse. In a statement, the  Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said:

“Councils are being given a boost to provide  essential, life-saving support in safe housing for survivors of domestic abuse and their children. Seventy-five projects across England will share over £16 million, helping up to 43,000 survivors have access to the help they need as they move towards a safe future, free from domestic abuse. The new funding will enable victims and their children to stay safe, recover from the trauma, and access safe permanent rehousing where needed.”

However, it is not just domestic abuse that has seen an increase in the number of victims. In 2014-15 there were 2,882 recorded offences of stalking according to the Home Office, which has since climbed to 10,214 three years later.

Only a quarter of the 6,702 cases in which a charge could be brought actually led to one.  This is despite the proportion of the population likely to have experienced stalking being far greater nowadays. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, almost one in five women over the age of sixteen have experienced stalking, along with almost one in ten men.

The stories from victims of stalking can be just as harrowing, as demonstrated in a recent court hearing when BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis said she was left ‘scared and let down’ after a man who stalked her for more than 25 years was able to continue harassing her despite being in prison.

The Moorlander continues its campaign by speaking to someone who has been a victim of stalking for a majority of the past decade:

“My stalker was someone I met through a friend of a friend at university. We met once and only once, at a public event in 2010, with a group of friends. Apparently, I made enough of an impression for him to not leave me alone for the next seven years.

‘People assume it’s an ex or a date, or someone from social media. He’s not. I also want to make people aware that stalking doesn’t have to be someone physically following you, hiding in hedges etc… As I said above, I met him once. It was with a group of friends at university and we all spent a maximum of five hours together on a day out.

‘We had nothing in common, we would never  have mixed in a normal situation and I had no interest in being friends with him afterwards as he had made it incredibly clear he used drugs. I made the fact very clear in a blunt manner. After that, the Facebook messages began, the friend requests, the constant barrage of unwanted contact. Thankfully he never had my phone number.

‘He gave up for a few months, then it would start again. Creepy messages full of information that I’d not made publicly available, which led to me
deleting all of our mutual friends. He started fake Twitter accounts sending me abusive, threatening messages for turning down his friendship. He then contacted my friends and family. I blocked  everyone. I had a police reference number at this point as I’d reported him for harassment.

‘It was on and off until summer 2016, when it hit a new high or low, depending on how you look at it. My blog email inbox was full, daily, with messages, threats and abuse as well as phone numbers to call.

‘I ignored every single one, but saved screenshots of every account I’d blocked, every message I’d been sent. I now have 5GB+ of it. His mum
eventually emailed me as he copied her in to one of these, for some unknown reason. I explained everything to her and told her to end it. She apologised wholeheartedly and said she didn’t realise what had been going on. It made no difference. He even contacted one of my friends from that same day out, as he was getting nowhere with contacting me.

‘I thought about deleting my blog a number of times and just disappearing off the face of the earth, but then he’d have won. My blog has got me public speaking engagements and work.

‘It has introduced me to some wonderful people, and the idea when it came from the police to delete everything smacked of victim blaming. Yes, if I vanished offline entirely it would have stopped, but I would have lost so many opportunities.

‘I stopped sleeping, it made me ill, I wouldn’t post where I was going, I didn’t want to go and visit friends in Devon in case he was there, I was paranoid about living on my own and scared he’d turn up at my office. I locked myself in, daily. This wasn’t helped by the Police telling me that he had once discussed wanting to kill me with his doctors. The only relief I found was on holiday in 2016, where I had no phone, no emails, no access with the outside world and I could switch off. Unfortunately, the day I got some phone signal, I turned my phone on to another 27 emails.

‘I got the police involved once more. They contacted him three times (as he kept emailing me his phone number) and he refused to believe it was actually the police. Why would I report him?! He was sectioned in a hospital, and due to a lack of mental capacity, they couldn’t formally charge him. They managed to contact his consultant, interview him formally, but he said it wasn’t him.  He was only allowed online under supervision, until such time as he was deemed well enough to be aware of his actions.

‘I was told that before he was released, the Police would contact me beforehand. They did not. Nor did his mental health team monitor his internet use as requested by the Police.

‘In 2018 I had a number of messages once more. All reported and nothing was done except logging them. In March 2019 another account messaged me, I blocked and reported. In August 2019, on the day I returned from holiday, a friend who had also been on that day out, sent me a screenshot of him telling her to apologise to me.

‘I knew it was starting again and spent the night crying on the phone to the police, who didn’t believe it needed to be reported and wouldn’t log it as it was a single occurrence. Ignoring the previous nine years of this harassment.

‘My paranoia started again and I dreaded logging into any accounts. I was stressed about walking to work but it went quiet – until November.

‘I woke up one morning to three Facebook accounts messaging me, one of which was using photos of me. He’s not the brightest spark as he always uses his own name, but this time he was posting photos of me, saying he loved me and even making a Facebook group about it.

‘It was scary, people all too easily tell you to shrug it off as it’s just online but when you’re dealing with someone who, it transpires, has severe mental health issues, then it makes you wonder if it will escalate.  I rang the police once more in hysterical tears in November. This time there were six different things over two days and so they were able to action it.

‘The police in my local area took it seriously and the officer in charge was mortified that this had been going on for almost ten years and more so that Devon and Cornwall Police had failed to take it seriously on previous occasions.

‘They also contacted the mental health team responsible for him and made them acutely aware that part of the reason this had been going on for so long was a lack of duty of care to the victim on their behalf. Also, by
allowing the behaviour to continue with unsupervised internet usage. My local force took a statement and put me in touch with a stalking advocacy programme, who have been superb to date with help and advice.

‘My local force continued with their work and enquiries and then sent everything, including a video interview in the event it goes to court, in an evidence pack to Devon and Cornwall Police.

‘The crime was upgraded from harassment to stalking. Unfortunately, Devon and Cornwall Police don’t take stalking as seriously as my local force, and so it has taken a couple of months to get everything to the point we are now at.

‘All that is left is to conduct a formal interview with him, before everything goes off to the Crown Prosecution Service. It has not yet taken place as he has not attended for a variety of reasons. My officer was applying for the new Stalking Protection Order to go alongside anything the CPS can do. Alas, a new officer has taken over and two weeks later I have heard nothing, though am told he remains with no smartphone or internet access. People say ‘you must be so relieved it’s over’ because I’ve had nothing from him. I’ve heard nothing because his doctors won’t allow him internet. I will believe it’s over when I have an order in place meaning he gets arrested for trying to contact me.

‘Honestly? I still have a sick feeling  in my stomach whenever I log-on to my social media channels, or check my emails, in case today is the day he pops up again. I’ve had nightmares where he turned up at my office. I’m still very cautious about posting when I’m visiting friends and family in Devon just in case I see him or he’s been released. These are the things people don’t consider. One day I’m sure I won’t give it a second thought, but after ten years and multiple police delays, I am cynical.

‘To date, there are over fifty Facebook,  Twitter or Instagram accounts blocked, as well as over ten email addresses. Now I’m waiting for an update on the police, before it all goes to the CPS. The Police gave me the following information, which is what I would advise anyone in a similar situation to follow.

‘Make No Contact
–     People harassing you want a reaction. By
   not giving it to them, eventually they
   should get bored (if only)
–     The Police should be the only ones to
   make contact, though I’m forever grateful
   to all the lads from work who offered to
   ‘have a word’ (not so helpful)
‘Keep Thorough Records
–     Make a timeline.
–     Keep screenshots of messages, label them
   by date, make sure the date is showing if
   you can.
‘Tell Other People
–     Most people are reluctant to do this, but
   support is needed.
–     As well as this network, if people close to
   you are contacted, they know how to react/
   to keep the messages for the police.
–     It also provides extra evidence in case it
   needs to go to court.
‘Increase Your Protection
–     Whilst all of the harassment I received
   was over the internet, I was so paranoid
   that I would keep the details of my local
   police station on me at all times.
–     I have all the relevant numbers still stored
   in my phone, including my liaison officer.
–     Always make sure your personal social
   media settings are set to private.
–     Don’t post where you are until after the
   event, unless you’re with a group of
   friends or relative safety.”

Speaking to The Moorlander about the
issue of stalking and domestic abuse,
PCC Alison Hernandez said:
“The introduction of measures such as
Stalking Prevention Orders, proper
identification and recording and suitable training for police officers, have given
victims more faith that their complaints
will be taken seriously. Devon and Cornwall Police have made great strides in
identifying stalking cases giving victims a realistic chance of securing a conviction, however, it is clear that there is still room
for improvement.

‘As a victim of stalking myself, it is vital that police listen to the voice of the victim, allowing the whole story to be heard and immediate action is taken to protect them and deal with the perpetrator. In many cases, the behaviour of the perpetrator can escalate over a period of time, so it is important that there is also help available to offenders allowing them to recognise they have a problem.

‘Sometimes, victims do not realise they have become the centre of someone’s obsessive behaviour, whether that be through face to face contact or via communications like social media.

‘Once reported, police forces have sometimes struggled to realise that several seemingly minor incidents can add up to an alarming overall picture, and stalking cases can
escalate quickly.

‘Fortunately, there is evidence that more victims are feeling confident that their cases will be taken seriously by police and they are coming forward with complaints. Since changes were made to the recording of
stalking and harassment as a crime, in the last three years reporting has increased by 153% in the Devon and Cornwall Force area.

‘This increase is welcome because it indicates that victims are feeling more empowered and developing trust that their complaints will be taken seriously by the police.”

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