No Woman, No Cry?

Refuge, the single largest provider of safe havens and support to survivors of domestic abuse is facing closure due to a 50% cut in funding. Local authorities have slashed their contribution to services for women at risk of domestic and sexual abuse by over £2 million. The organisation have already shut down two of their culturally sensitive projects providing support to women from ethnic minorities, specialist services that cannot be replaced, placing the most vulnerable women in our society at even greater risk of abuse and/or homicide. My heart is pounding as I write this.

I have worked for Refuge and various other schemes. They provide the backbone to many other services, leading the way with their specialist in-house training and the national 24hr domestic violence helpline. They have helped implement a framework which ensures equality and good practice across the board. Putting it mildly, without Refuge, many women would be forced to remain in abusive relationships, destined to put up and shut up.

2 women a week are murdered by their abusive partners. In the year 2012, spousal homicide is still very much a reality. Whilst this is still an issue, how can this government possibly justify slashing the budget by half? Austerity means cuts, but we’ve all seen what cuts do to the people of this country. They are already dying due to welfare reform, vulnerable people are committing suicide because this government has not listened to them, has not believed that they are genuinely unwell, has withdrawn their support to leave them suffering alone. The campaign to divide and rule the public against the sick and disabled has been malicious. They want people with mental health issues to work for their benefit.

Now, what will they think of our women at risk of or fleeing domestic abuse? Rhetoric around the breakdown of the family, single mothers and their devil spawn, the women that broke Britain by undermining the role of father and breadwinner… Male privilege must be allowed to return and flourish. Hear hear, vote Tory!

As a child, I witnessed domestic abuse in all its forms. In my home, on the street, in the media. Women were not more accepting of it back then, they simply had no choice. The police would not respond as urgently to domestic calls because they were exactly that, issues to be resolved between ‘man and wife’.

My mother remained in an abusive relationship until I was old enough, aged 15 to drag her away from it and into a safe house. She just didn’t have the strength. She couldn’t do it herself because she was afraid to speak the language (my mother spoke fluent English but was too ashamed to having been mocked by father for being illiterate). Culturally sensitive refuges meant that women like my mum could approach a service themselves if they needed to. When I eventually began my career in domestic violence services, I started off in a refuge for women of South Asian origin. The work we did was invaluable. It saddens me that cuts will always affect the most specialist services first.

Vivien Hayes of the Women’s Resource Centre, speaking to the Guardian, says “Government cuts have impacted more negatively on women than men. You have to wonder whether this is a case of institutional sexism.” And by its very nature, institutionalised racism too. The culturally sensitive refuges go first, then services to women in general.

Whether it is cuts to job in the public sector or direct funding to vulnerable women and their children, women have borne the brunt of this government’s policies. They’ve tried to affect the way in which we access family planning services. We’ve seen them mock their female members of parliament, “calm down dear, yada yada.”  It’s easy to imagine the PM as a spotty teenaged boy, pulling on the pigtails of his crush, calling her a slag when she rejects him.

Are we in the slightest bit surprised that the Tories would do this to us and our services?

What comes next? The decriminalization of spousal rape?

Cutting services for women, thereby definitely cutting services to BME women, turning the clock back to the 1970s and all the other privileges that period afforded men. Yes, the country will save money. There’ll be fewer divorces, fewer welfare claims, fewer women to deal with because many more of them will be dead.

The Independent on Sunday places the UK in 16th place for the best place in the world for a woman to be.

SIXTEENTH.

I have a feeling it’s about to get a lot worse.

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