Sunday, 22 July 2007

No justice

I've been thinking a lot about domestic violence - because there seems to be a lot of it about. I'm thinking of some especially nasty incidents here, all recent - a throttling, a stab to the chest, and broken face bones.

So, imagine you are one of these women, and you have a young child.

You have been seriously assaulted and now you are being threatened.

How does the system work to protect you?

About as well as a sieve'll keep the rain off you, if you put it over your head.

Try this.

You apply for an injunction, but your ex-partner, the aggressor, has no fixed address now so the injunction cannot be served. That means he can, quite legally, come up to your front door or hang around your block of flats.

Your child is anxious, angry, disturbed, going up the wall. Social services however won't do anything to help.

So (and this is true, honestly) someone loses it and smacks their four year old. Once. A referral is made to social services, a social worker is allocated, and help is offered. Along with some advice about appropriate ways to discipline a child.

But your child has seen your face punched, bones broken, police and ambulance called, not just once. Your child is going crazy. But social services won't help - say they can't help. Unless you start to harm your child. Then they can get involved.

You want to move to a different address.

Perhaps you waited on the queue for years and now you have a council flat.

You can be moved, urgently, because of violence or harassment. But you will be moved from your flat into one-room accommodation, with shared washing and toilet facilities.

The law says you can only be left in this emergency accommodation for 6 weeks.

That means that 6 weeks later you will probably be in a slightly bigger room with a Baby Belling stove and your own toilet.

There is no limit on how long you will be in that accommodation. Could be years.

Could you manage all that time, in one room, with a disturbed and angry child?

I couldn't.

So, ladies and gentlemen, that's how it goes for women who are beaten up by their husbands, boyfriends, partners.

The system beats them up, too. Or lets them down.

They lose everything.