The Domestic Abuse Bill - What Next?
Parliament: Sessions, Sittings and Elections.
We live in a democracy. Parliament is the collective name for this democratic system in the UK which involves Members of Parliament (Commons), Peers (Lords) and the Sovereign (Monarchy). However, it is also the name given to a fixed amount of time between two General Elections i.e. a Parliament is a term fixed at five years which is subdivided up into sessions of approximately one year each and within those sessions (when not in recess) each time the MPs or Lords convene the houses are said to be ‘sitting’.
Due to all the Brexit shenanigans, resulting in their inability to deliver Brexit, the current Government led by Boris Johnson, used a clause in the Fixed-term Parliament Act (FTPA) to enable an election to be called without having to wait for the full five years to pass.
When Parliament is prorogued a draft bill that is making its way through the houses can be carried over by a standing order to the new session because the party in power will continue to be in power in the new session. When Parliament is dissolved for a General Election however the set of sessions end and no one know who will next be in power. The public get to choose who to elect to be their representatives and once decided a new government is formed and a new set of 5 sessions begin again.
Unfortunately, because no one knows, until the public have voted, which party will be in power, yet alone which representatives will be elected to represent each constituency, it is not possible to carry over a bill. Hence at 00.01 tonight (5th/6th Nov) the Domestic Abuse Bill - and all other bills that haven't completed their full stages - will be lost (fall).
It was technically possible to quickly push the DABill through, but in reality it was decided there was simply not enough time as it had still to complete committee stage and be subject to more scrutiny and amendments.
So what happens next? Well we still have a government until the new one is installed (as obviously someone has to keep the wheels of the country turning behind the scenes) so you can contact Ministers and make your feelings clear about the importance of the Domestic Abuse Bill to voters, but they may not get re-elected and it is no good lobbying your MP (unless they are a Cabinet member) because as of tonight they are no longer MPs. The role of Minister is independent of the role of MP but all MPs have to vacate their parliamentary offices and are divested of their powers and privileges at 00.01am.
This confuses people as ordinarily, when Parliament is not sitting, MPs continue to work in their constituencies, holding surgeries and dealing with constituency casework and correspondence. They may also attend party conferences and work on party matters, and attend local events, so there's a tendency to think it is no different now, but when Parliament is dissolved for a General Election they are no longer an MP and can only campaign for re-election (if indeed they are even chosen to stand again). They cannot represent you.
In fact, if you look, over the next few days you will find all of the MPs remove the letters MP from their social media accounts and their websites will advise you they are now a candidate and no longer an MP. (If they don't, they can be fined).
So, what can you do? Well, if ever you have wanted to get more involved in politics and to ensure the DA Bill stands the best chance of being tabled again, the next six weeks is your opportunity. Here are the addresses to contact if you want to get on the campaign trail with your local candidate (or for your party of choice in general) and help them get elected. You can also help influence the issues that they will pledge to work on if they are elected.
If you want to, you can campaign around the country. You can get as involved as you want - 24/7 or just a one off. It's up to you.
So, the links are:
Or Google your local association office
Hopefully you will only be voting for, and supporting, a candidate who understands the importance of bringing in new Domestic Abuse legislation in the next Parliament!
If you can help those people to get elected you will be ensuring Domestic Abuse stays front and centre of party agendas and that it has the maximum parliamentary support in 2020.
Go on #getinvolved
Sir Lindsay Hoyle & his daughter, Natalie
As many of you will have seen from yesterday’s @Coercive_Cntrl tweet or today's news articles, Sir Lindsay Hoyle has been elected as the new Speaker of the House of Commons.
Lindsay and his first wife, Miriam (who is a councillor) are proud parents of a beautiful daughter called Natalie. I first met Miriam when she was still (and always will be) reeling from Natalie’s suicide. Miriam’s raw pain moved me to tears.
Although he was not convicted by a Court, Miriam and her family are of the firm opinion that Natalie took her own life as a result of abuse from her former partner. In later months some of us came to hear the entire story of what Natalie had gone through when Miriam spoke out at an SEA ( Surviving Economic Abuse) event where she was, bravely and movingly, trying to raise awareness to prevent another needless loss of life.
We can’t bring Natalie back but we can all continue to keep her name alive and raise awareness of the absolute devastation that a controlling partner can wreak, not just to the victim, but to the wider family. Terms such as coercive control, economic abuse and gaslighting - and signs that these forms of control are being used - must become commonplace so that no other family ever has to endure such a tragedy.
We can only hope that by Lindsay being elected it has already helped to spread further awareness of these issues in circles where these things have previously been given little air-time. I hope too that some journalists will use it as an opportunity to remind people of all ages about the red flags of abuse and that abuse can happen to anyone from any walk of life.
The one thing coercive control and certain other forms of domestic abuse (ie economic) does is follow a distinct pattern. If you care to re read my homepage written last year and then listen to Rosie Duffield's speech that she famously delivered to the House of Commons in October, you will be struck by how exactly her account matches my description of coercive control and what to watch out for.
Furthermore, I mentioned that often these abusers will target those who have some form of power or position that they admire. In other words abusers can latch onto people who they feel elevate them in some way. This is why you often hear of 'Trophy Wives'. It's not that the women seek out men of means (although, obviously, that can happen - gold diggers can be of both sexes) but rather the man feels an attractive, or famous/powerful-in-some-way, woman on his arm will make him look good by association, but then tries to control her and decimate her self-esteem so that she doesn't leave him for someone else.
These men know they are lacking and therefore try to build themselves up by bringing others down and isolating and controlling them.
Anyway I'm reposting Rosie's speech here as it's so informative. I sincerely hope she gets re-elected in Canterbury as she is a force for good in the Domestic Abuse sector having had lived experience of it. If you want to ensure she does get voted back in, do get out there and campaign for her.
More next time but also watch out for a completely new section on the website - coming soon. Meanwhile, check out The Group Hug. It's run by a DA survivor and is packed full of articles.
One of the highlights for me at the excellent Stand Up To Domestic Abuse (#SUTDA19) conference in Wales the other week was the presentation by Criminologist, Dr Jane Monckton Smith.
Jane has put domestic homicide under scientific scrutiny and discovered that there are eight specific stages a killer takes from stalking, violence and coercive control to domestic homicide.
Knowledge of these stages should enable the police, and other professionals involved in risk assessment and safeguarding victims, to intervene and prevent a murder. Increased awareness of the stages will also alert potential victims and their family and friends to the signs/escalation of danger.
Many of you will have seen this report by now, as it garnered over 1 million views in the first few days of publication alone, but I'm linking to it, and to the video, and hope you'll continue to share it widely.
Everyone tends to share things in the same small timeframe then move on quickly to the latest piece of news, so anyone offline for a week or more in those few days or weeks after publication could have missed it. We need to get this out far and wide and keep the conversation going, especially in those corners where little is ever spoken about domestic abuse. It could save lives.
and this from Australia....
Great news that we now seem to have a firm commitment from the Conservative Party that the Domestic Abuse Bill will be reintroduced in the Queen’s Speech on October 14th. We’ll never know how much all of our emails and SM posts helped in bringing about this decision, but I’m sure they did. It shows the power of campaigning.
The Queen’s Speech sets out the legislative agenda for the new session of Parliament but if the Supreme Court determines (ruling expected 10.30am 24 Sept) that it was unlawful to prorogue, then we could see a recall which (as well as severely messing up plans for the Conservative Party Conference) may mean the following:
"If it [Supreme Court] decides against the government it might rule that the prorogation is “a nullity’.
That would mean that, in the eyes of the law, it never happened and parliament would pick up where it left off in July, with no new session and no Queen’s Speech.
Alternatively, the 11 justices could order the government to bring back parliament immediately, which could mean an earlier Queen’s Speech."
There are other decisions that could be made too.
You can read more of the background to what's going on in the Supreme Court and the issue of 'Justiciability' here
It's an understatement to say these are very uncertain times and therefore the passage of the Bill is still uncertain.
What’s been interesting about this UKSC hearing is that the focus has fallen firmly on the subject of separation of powers. I’ve written about this on the website in the sections on the Rule of Law and Family Court but briefly, judges cannot change the law, they can only implement it. The Judiciary can introduce Practice Directions but they can’t tinker with the primary legislation itself.
Therefore it is the MPs and Lords who have to be lobbied for change to the law regarding domestic abuse and coercive control and there has been a really wonderful development on that score...
One MP in particular is keen to help raise awareness about the red flags of abusive behaviour (see quote at top) and specifically, the personality disorder known as NPD: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. To my knowledge no one else in Parliament has specifically mentioned NPD before.
Paul Scully is the MP who has thrown his weight behind a campaign unveiled in the Daily Express last week #UnmasktheNarc. If you’d like to contact Paul his email address is here: You can also contact your own MP. Domestic Abuse is a cross-party issue and the more MPs and Peers who understand the dynamics of abuse and can be enlightened about where and why women are being failed, the better. Many, I'm sure, still think real damage is only caused by physical violence.
I would just add too that I was contacted by someone in parliament back in April about helping Paul Scully learn more about how victims are affected by this disorder. So, for the ultra cynical or Tory-haters amongst you, it’s not that he has seen this as a vote-winning issue because a General Election is on the cards. It's because he genuinely cares about looking at this issue of narcissistic abuse and knows people who have been affected.
A pressure group of domestic abuse survivors are gearing up to hold parliamentarians and the judiciary to task on 26 October with the #TheCourtSaid protest. There is an article about it here and the organiser, Natalie, had this to say:
“The campaign brings together survivors, activists, organisations and allies in condemnation and protest of the family court. The family court routinely puts survivor families in harm’s way through what is effectively a presumption of contact even in cases of domestic abuse, rape and cases with a high risk of homicide.
Children have been harmed in their thousands and in some cases even murdered as a result. Perpetrators of domestic abuse are 62% more likely to harm their children (source: SafeLives) and this risk is not assessed and wilfully ignored by the court and associated agencies, leaving survivor families in an inescapable domestic abuse dynamic, as the behaviour persists beyond the physical separation.
#thecourtsaid was born out of my desire to no longer see another domestic abuse survivor facing the barriers to justice and safety that currently exist.”
You can find out more about this peaceful protest, and about discounted travel to Parliament Square from pick-up points around the country, by contacting Natalie. Click here to email
It starts at 12noon through to around 4pm and anyone can attend.
If we are still edging inexorably towards leaving the EU on 31st October, I imagine this won’t be the only group protesting in the square that day - it will be packed with noisy protestors, so make your banners huge and your outfits bright. I believe you can order t-shirts etc from Natalie.
It's your opportunity to make a difference and stand in solidarity with others who have experienced not being properly seen, heard and believed.
Domestic Abuse Commissioner
In other news the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner has finally been announced. Unfortunately she won't have any formal powers until the DABill is passed but everyone is thrilled that Nicole Jacobs has been chosen.
Here's an article about the appointment and a few words below from the Minister for Women, Victoria Atkins MP, about Nicole's appointment.
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Don't miss this book by two investigative journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey - it's about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, enablers and abuse of power. Highly recommended.
and be sure to listen to this, it's brilliant
CALL TO ACTION!
With the assertion that what follows is written from a Brexit-neutral and party political-neutral position, I’d like to talk about the news that Boris Johnson has sought the Queen’s permission to prorogue (pronounced pro – rowg) parliament.
Firstly a few facts:
So, time is REALLY short. Every September/October Parliament returns after Summer Recess and then just a few weeks later (14 Sep – 9 Oct) goes into Conference Recess - so named because this is when all the parties hold their annual conference. Parliament would have been in Conference Recess anyway and any prorogation will only extend that by six days beforehand, however the big difference is that during Recess the House of Commons does not (normally) sit but parliamentary business like Select Committees and other official business can still be conducted. However in times of crisis MPs can vote to carry on sitting to attend to important business. When Parliament is prorogued though, this can’t be done – absolutely nothing can get done. So, realistically we/you only have this week to lobby your MP to keep the Bill on the table, come what may. Any later than the next few days may be too late.
So here are two templates you can use OR you can write your own letter.
By the way, ultimately, all the above applies to the Family Court Review too as Ministers cannot act during prorogation and if we go to a forced General Election or a new session (due to prorogation) it could well be abandoned entirely. All the effort and campaigning work would come to naught and would all have to start again with the government (whoever that might be if a General Election is called) setting the new agenda.
INTIMATE PARTNER DECEIT & DECEPTION
Professor Jill Elaine Hasday
ASK & TAKE ACTION REPORT
Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, is working to build a society where women and girls are able to live their lives free from inequality, poverty and violence. They campaign for women and girls facing abuse, poverty, poor mental health, addiction and homelessness to get the support and protection they need.
Agenda’s #AskAndTakeAction report is supported by a broad range of charities including: Women’s Aid, SafeLives, Safer London and AVA.
The new report found mental health services are failing women by not asking about domestic abuse.
The report calls for the Government to amend the Domestic Abuse Bill to put a duty on all public authorities to ensure staff across the public sector are making trained enquiries into domestic abuse.
You can also visit the Resources section which is continually updated, browse the books or go back to the main menu. There's also a new section coming shortly on Recovery, so do check the drop-down menu in coming days.
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Domestic Abuse APPG
At the risk of this news page morphing into more of a blog than just a basic news page, this week I want to begin by telling you a little about the last Domestic Abuse APPG which I attended.
This took place just ahead of both the appointment of the new Prime Minister and the end of this Parliamentary session (known as Recess which lasts through to 3 September).
Jess Phillips MP chairs the APPG and I attend in my role as a Survivor Ambassador for Women’s Aid. I think in the last three + years I have only missed one. These meetings have (amongst other things) helped to drive and shape the Domestic Abuse Bill and so it was an absolute thrill for us all to see the Bill finally introduced into Parliament on 16th July. It's been quite a journey.
Whatever your political persuasion, every victim of Coercive Control and Domestic Abuse really does have a lot to thank Theresa May for in ensuring this Bill was presented before her departure as PM. It could have bitten the dust, never to see the light of day again. Now we just have to ensure it goes through in the Autumn and gets the amendments required along the way.
So, at the APPG I had the pleasure of meeting the new Victims' Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird for the first time and I was hugely impressed by her forthright nature and determination. Dame Vera is a tremendous asset. She has her finger right on the pulse, having been a former Labour MP, former Police and Crime Commissioner and she once held the office of Solicitor- General too. What a woman!
If you need to contact Dame Vera, here are her details:
At the APPG we also heard a very moving account from a victim/survivor. Her story was highlighting an area of abuse which needs a lot more public attention – that of Reproductive Abuse. This is where perpetrators use sex and pregnancy (basically use a woman's body) to coercively control women.
If you’ve experienced this, please get in touch so I can signpost you to the speaker or someone who can help to get you some support. One particular memory I retain from the tear-jerking account that we were witness to, was when she said, 'I eventually left him but he has never left me'- referring to the way abuse and control continues post-separation.
It's clear we still have a lot of work to do to prevent these stories ever having to be told. This survivor has not seen her children for years.
Did you know that you can check on the progress of the Domestic Abuse Bill as it makes its way through Parliament? Simply go to the Parliament.UK website - address in Resources and search for Public Bills
Women's Aid Conference
The day after the APPG I drove across-country to Leicester University for the annual Women’s Aid Conference. Here I joined the team from SEA, Harriet Wistrich and too many names to mention (close to a few hundred other fabulous people) who are working hard to tackle all the issues that arise in the DA sector.
In her guest-spot speech, and later in her workshop, Harriet (Centre for Women's Justice) was stressing the importance of a collaborative approach to tackling injustice.
This approach involves close co-operation between all of the sectors listed above, including survivors.
It was therefore timely to hear, just a few days later, that the MoJ have announced (as part of their review of the Family Court) a public call for evidence on how the Family Courts protect children and parents in private law children cases concerning domestic abuse and other serious offences.
Until August 26th 2019, victims can submit their lived experience of where they believe the system is failing them - or otherwise. The panel would not only like to hear from people who have direct experience as parties in private law children cases, but also from those who provide support services to parents involved in such cases, and from professionals who practise such cases.
The call for evidence will specifically focus on the application of Practice Direction 12J, Practice Direction 3AA, The Family Procedure Rules Part 3A, and s.91(14) orders, and will build a more detailed understanding of any harm caused to parents and/or children during or following private law children proceedings.
You can read the questions and guidance and reply by letter here: Call For Evidence
The same digital form is here for online applications
It may be of interest to you that the MoJ team has just changed and the Justice Secretary is no longer David Gauke MP but is now Robert Buckland QC MP. The Minister for State is now Lucy Frazer QC MP and the Under Secretary is no longer Paul Maynard MP but Wendy Morton MP has now been apppointed. Edward Argar MP remains in role. All but Edward Argar do have Twitter handles.
There is no doubt that this review came about, at least in part, due to the intense pressure applied by mothers/victims/DA campaigners, supported by women like Louise Haigh MP and the London Victims' Commissioner. It's also true that a tipping point was reached when the journalist and broadcaster, Victoria Derbyshire, widely publicised the need for greater scrutiny of Family Court child arrangement practices and procedures.
Victoria invited a series of guests to discuss and debate present safeguarding procedures (or lack of them ...depending on your viewpoint) on her popular daytime TV programme.
Even though the programme appeared to cause an outcry, at first the government seemed reluctant to conduct such a review, citing costs as the main reason. Shortly afterwards though, they bowed to public and political pressure (which surely shows the efficacy of campaigning) and the good news was they announced a review would go ahead.
The bad news was that the review would be short in length (3 months) and not independent.
That said, in the interests of balance and fairness, I have read in some tweets that campaigners feel they had to twist the arm of the government to get them to include public responses - and then declared a victory last week when they did. Credit where credit is due though, this is actually not true.
Right from the get-go, back in May when they announced the review, the MoJ (Paul Maynard infact) did say that the public would be consulted - as evidenced in this tweet from Victoria Derbyshire a couple of months ago
I think some confusion arose because when the panel in charge of conducting the review was announced, it did not include anyone with 'lived experience' on it, so people assumed that the voices of those affected would not be heard.
However, although it would be far better to have a longer review - and one which was wholly independent - I have a lot of faith that this particular panel will do an excellent job. It is not beyond the realms of possibility either that with a new Chancellor of the Exchequer and Robert Buckland in charge of the MoJ that the remit of the review is extended. Let's see. We can only hope for the best.
The National Rural Crime Network (NRCN) have recently released a fascinating report. It details findings of a major research project across seven police force areas in England. It was commissioned by the NRCN and Police and Crime Commissioners of: Durham, Derbyshire, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.
The key findings were:
Abuse lasts, on average, 25 per cent longer in the most rural areas
The policing response is largely inadequate
The more rural the setting, the higher the risk of harm
Rurality and isolation are deliberately used as weapons by abusers
Close-knit rural communities facilitate abuse
Traditional, patriarchal communities control and subjugate women
Support services are scarce – less available, less visible and less effective
Retreating rural resources make help and escape harder. The short-term, often hand-to-mouth funding model has created competing and fragmented service provision
An endemic data bias against rural communities leads to serious gaps in response and support
To read the key findings in full click here or to download the full report (recommended) go to the Resources section. If you are on Twitter use #RuralAbuse (and/or follow me on @coercive_cntrl).
Personally, I would be really keen to see this research expanded upon. I think it could look into areas which might not neccessarily be classed as remote or rural, but where there is a certain degree of affluence that places many women up long drives or behind gates in busy urban counties like Berkshire, Surrey , Manchester (Alderley Edge) etc etc.
There are undoubtedly many women who feel similarly isolated and forgotten, as sadly the stereotyping and urban myths still endure that domestic abuse only happens to a certain type of person - and certainly not to anyone whose partner has plenty of money or status. See #NotTooPoshToPunch #AffluentAbuse and in the USA #UpscaleAbuse
End Economic Abuse
Please be sure to visit the Books page and the Resources page and fully utilise the drop-down menu too.
At the moment, although plenty of campaigning is going on, there is no nationwide coercive control law in America. However, even though we do have one enacted in the UK, and the law covers psychological and emotional abuse, there are many incidences of economic abuse and other deceptions that are still not covered by this law - as many women are finding to their cost.
This book (to be published on 8 August 2019 and available as an ebook too) is of particular interest to me as one of the main areas of campaigning I am involved in is around highlighting legal abuses i.e. to help (with my colleagues, see below) to raise awareness about the rise in ‘legal warfare’ where perpetrators try to coercively control and abuse former partners, post-separation, using the court system. This obviously applies to women over divorce settlements and child arrangements but it also applies to those who find themselves lured into relationships under false pretences, where the perpetrator knowingly uses and abuses their ‘target’ (often someone they have met on a dating site) knowing there is no law to stop them – and indeed in some cases the perpetrator can use the law to his benefit to evade accountablity, or even turn the law on the victim to exert further control.
Prior to the publication of the book, you can read more about the different forms of Intimate Deception and where the law fails victims, in this great blogpost by the book's author, Jill Elaine Hasday: Why The Law Protects Liars, Cheats and Thieves in Personal Relationships
In the Resources section you will find a great article on Gaslighting and it's a highly unusual one as it's written by a man, for men.
In the article it says:
"As far as I am concerned, the epidemic of gaslighting is part of the struggle against the obstacles of inequality that women constantly face. Acts of gaslighting steal their most powerful tool: their voice. This is something we do to women every day, in many different ways."
One woman who not only found her voice, but used it in the most powerful of ways, is the actress and writer Rebecca Humphries (pictured above).
Rebecca knocked the ball out of the park last year and had women cheering and punching the air at her bravery when she issued a statement online regarding the very public break- up of her five and a half year relationship. The statement was the epitome of female empowerment and quickly went viral, but since that time Rebecca has steadfastly refused to say anymore.
Last week though, Rebecca truly found her voice when she addressed a meeting held on Coercive Control in the House of Commons (more on that in next news feature) and spoke out verbally for the first time since the release of that statement nine months ago.
In case you missed the furore her statement had caused at the time, you can read all about it here.
Gaslighting gave me my voice
In Parliament Rebecca said that when the pictures of her long term partner kissing someone else had surfaced in the Sunday newspapers, "it wasn't the cheating that hurt it was the fact that for months, years actually, he had been dismissing my confrontations about this kind of stuff to him by calling me a psycho and subtly calling into question my sanity throughout our day-to-day lives. This was something that had really chipped away at me, so that towards the end of our relationship I was incapable of making decisions and voicing my feelings and I was sort of living in a low-level panic"
Rebecca spoke about how she sees her story as one of "empowerment through consciousness" because hearing there was an actual term (gaslighting) for how she had been treated, not only gave her her voice back and directly led to her writing that initial statement calling it out, but her decision to release that statement has been instrumental in thousands of women coming forward and highlighting just how common gaslighting, coercive control and emotional manipulation actually is.
Rebecca is now on a mission to use her platform to continue to empower others and urge them to speak out (if safe to do so).
We should all be most grateful when someone in the public eye, decides to use that power for the good of other women, so thank you Rebecca - you truly are 'the phoenix who rose from the bin-fire of all break-ups'!
You can download and share other posters via this link
COERCIVE CONTROL PANEL MEETING
When Sally Challen had her sentence commuted (after appeal) at the Old Bailey last month, sitting next to her at the Press conference afterwards was the lawyer from the Centre for Women’s Justice, who had helped secure her early release, Harriet Wistrich.
Rather than resting on her laurels, Harriet is only too aware that, although Sally is now free, there are many other women and families who have been victims of controlling and coercive behaviour who have also suffered gross miscarriages of justice and require her legal help.
One such family is that of the British citizen, Jane Matthew.
On Wednesday in the House of Commons, Harriet accompanied Jane’s brother Peter Manning OBE, to support him while he spoke to us of his family’s fight for justice following the brutal murder of his sister. You can read about Jane here and follow Peter via this twitter feed.
Jane was a British citizen living in Dubai with her British husband who was editor-at-large of Gulf News. Dubai is still a country where men are still legally allowed to beat their wives, women do not have equal rights and coercive control is certainly not recognised.
Peter is campaigning for his sister’s death, at the hands of her husband Francis, to be recognised as murder rather than the manslaughter sentence which it was later reduced to, a ruling that could result in Francis’ sentence being reduced to just a few years in prison. Peter wants justice and a fair sentence for Jane’s murder and the suffering the family has endured.
Another person who has fallen foul of the archaic and misogynistic laws of the UAE Courts is Afsana Lachaux, who is fighting to get her son Louis back. You can read about Afsana’s plight in the image further down this page.
This meeting in Parliament brought together a number of victims of coercive and controlling behaviour (including Rebecca Humphries, see previous) and those who have experience of tackling domestic abuse of British citizens in Muslim countries and communities.
The panel discussion was hosted by by the Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, who has vowed to help raise awareness of coercive control and abuses against women and families in general. It was chaired by the women's rights campaigner, Aisha Ali Khan, who will be holding a follow-up session looking specifically at post-separation coercive control. Watch this space for details.
We also heard from Fatima Mourad of the Al Hasaniya charity, Huda Jawad from the EVAW coalition and a number of other campaigners in the sector.
A WHOLE SYSTEM APPROACH
On June 24th 2019, Dame Vera Baird DBE QC became the new Victims' Commissioner. Dame Vera is the former Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria (and a former Solicitor General) and during her tenure was instrumental in setting up a new initative to tackle Domestic Abuse.
Dame Vera says...
"Protecting the vulnerable is an absolute priority for me and the Multi-Agency Tasking and Coordination (MATAC) process is about doing just that. Back in 2015, I secured Police Innovation Funding for the roll-out of this approach to tackle serial and harmful domestic abuse perpetrators in Northumbria. Since then, the scheme has gone from strength to strength. I further secured Police Transformation funding in 2016 to roll this out across the rest of the North East region through our fantastic new project ‘Domestic Abuse: A Whole System Approach’. "
"The scheme centres on using intelligent data analysis to proactively target and engage with serial perpetrators and ensure we are doing everything within our power to stop their abusive behaviour and prevent future harm; breaking the cycle of abuse, hopefully for good. Through effective targeting and multi-agency commitment we have had some very positive results and long may this continue."
The great news is that Dame Vera has now announced that the UK Home Office have given funding to roll out this scheme across the nation.
You can read all about Project DAWSA (Domestic Abuse Whole System Approach) here
You can also read the outgoing Victims' Commissioner, Baroness Helen Newlove's Annual Report for 2018/2019 below. It's full of really interesting updates relating to giving victims a voice.
WOMEN'S AID CONFERENCE
The date of the Women's Aid National Conference is fast approaching. This year the focus is on strengthening services for women everywhere.
The two-day conference takes place at the University of Leicester on 16/17 July 2019. It's sure to be a not-to-miss event with many excellent speakers.
Women's Aid say:
This event brings together our entire federation – women who have spent their lives on the Feminist Frontline gaining an unrivalled understanding of domestic abuse, developing a huge range of pioneering specialist services, and advocating passionately for survivors. It’s a real opportunity for everyone who attends to debate policy, share best practice and celebrate this life saving work carried out by our members.
Other News of Interest
Twitter @Coercive_Cntrl Coercive underscore Cntrl
Older news below. Scroll down, right to the bottom, as much is still current
This week (thanks to a tip off from Min Grob of Coercive Control ) I came across the work of Dr Susan Weitzman. Susan and I are clearly aligned in our mission/desire to spread awareness that abuse and control happens right across the socioeconomic spectrum and that those from the higher income brackets, or who were born into more affluent families, are equally as at risk of abuse and can suffer just as badly.
Watch Susan's video above.
On her website it says: Dr. Weitzman’s research in her book Not to People like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages sheds light on an under-identified and under-served population of highly educated and/or upper-income people struggling with physical and emotional abuse in their marriages.
I'm definitely going to be giving that book a read this week. I would imagine it is going to point out that while abuse happens across the board there are certain forms of abuse and post-separation control that are more likely to happen to those in this demographic - mainly the hiding of wealth and assets - see my article on that here - (because if there is very little income or wealth then it simply won't be a factor) but also having money and power at your disposal means an abuser from this sector of society is more able to engage in longer, lengthier, more costly legal battles and be able to use the very best calibre legal representatives.
Also, sadly, the abusers who are more powerful and wealthy are more likely to be assisted, protected and enabled by others by virtue of their power and position they wield. This was the whole basis of the #METOO movement.
Sometimes the enabling can be deliberate, as in people helping to cover up abuse because their own salary or job depends on the abuser keeping their position, or it can be because others simply will not accept that anyone such as a Judge or a lawyer, politician or businessman of high social and professional standing could possibly ever be abusive!
However, although Susan and I obviously share a common mission, there are some words in use in American English which are just not recognised over here in the UK. One of those is the word 'upscale'. Having lived in America for a while myself I was familiar with this term (it basically means upmarket) but I think that to the British ear, upscale is a word that is not really in our everyday vocabulary and might even sound slightly 'superior' in tone.
I was therefore wondering how we could better refer, in the UK, to the particular types of abuse that are peculiar to this demographic? Affluent Abusers or High Net Worth Abusers perhaps? I'd really welcome your feedback. DM me on Twitter or use the contact form.
I trust too that it goes without saying, this is no criticism of Susan's choice of words and that while the specific way in which abuse is perpetrated may change when there are more funds available, the emotional fall out is identical - abuse is always devastating to its victims, whatever the level of wealth of the abuser.
BREAK THE SILENCE
In the wake of this week's furore about whether or not anyone should 'call out' private arguments that they might overhear (and yes they should -see below) in neighbouring properties in case abuse is occurring, I think we should take advantage of this window of time where people who might not normally hear anything about abuse are currently reading and talking about it. Let's keep the conversation going and continue to shine a spotlight on Domestic Violence and Abuse.
Please watch this powerful and moving testimony from a survivor (above) and retweet or share it widely.
As Leslie points out in her TED Talk, statistics dictate that right now abuse is happening to someone you know. It might be a neighbour , a son or daughter, a friend or other loved one. By raising awareness you can help to stamp it out and may even help to save a life.
Jess refers in her comments to this announcement below...
With hundreds of links on the website, it was inevitable that one or two would prove to be 'dud' - please do let me know if you find any broken links. One document which appears to have a broken link is the one above so I'm linking to it here and will fix the original.
It's timely to repost this report because this week the popular daytime television programme, This Morning ran a feature on Economic Abuse. In this segment the resident money advisor, Martin Lewis, spoke about Financial/Economic Abuse and followed it up with a brilliant blog on the subject... See the blog here
It was great to hear them referencing the charity Surviving Economic Abuse led by Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs. Do not hesitate to get in touch with the charity if you have suffered any financial abuse and need advice or support.
As usual, please visit the Twitter feed for more topical updates.
DA BILL REPORT
On 14 June 2019 the Joint Select Committee which had been tasked with scrutinising the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill released its report and made its recommendations to government.
You can read a summary of the report here and the entire 105 page report here.
You can read the response from Women's Aid here.
The general feeling is that we just need to get this Bill on its journey through the parliamentary system asap so that it can become enshrined in law. At the moment with a leadership contest, and therefore an imminent change of government, many of the people who head up committees or departments that have been working on this Bill may well suddenly be replaced and/or find themselves thrust into new roles where their focus may be diverted.
It's vital this Bill is not allowed to be pushed out into the long grass and is kept on the agenda, so be sure to lobby your MP with letters reminding them how important it is to vote on it when it does pass through the Commons and you can ask them to raise any objections you may have about what it still doesn't cover or address.
There was an excellent debate held in Westminster Hall last week. You can watch it in full below and gain a thorough understanding of the specific probems facing women who have been rendered homeless due to Domestic Abuse.
WATCH THE DEBATE
A former Chief Executive of Women's Aid. Polly Neate, is now the CE of Shelter, the homeless charity, and so great strides are being made towards raising awareness of the needs of women who are experiencing abuse and post-separation control. It is not just violence that leaves women and their families homeless.
Please follow Shelter and help campaign with them where you can to support victims and to build more social housing.
One great ruling that came out of the Supreme Court this last week was this one This ruling will positively impact many women and children. See below...
Unfortunately the news out of the Supreme Court was not so good for Independent Print and others last week when the Court did not allow their appeal in the case brought by Lachaux (see last week's news below for the story). The press report and ruling is here
On 6th June there was a debate in the House of Lords on Domestic Violence and Abuse. You can read the full transcript of this excellent session here
Baroness Newlove opened the debate by saying: "Power and control are at the centre of domestic abuse. Insidious controlling behaviour, which may appear innocuous, slowly and surely removes the victim’s ability to think for themselves and erodes their feeling of self-worth. It can encompass physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or financial violence or abuse. Domestic abuse is a complex and hideous crime which knows no social bounds. It affects people from all walks of life, in all our communities. Often, those living at the end of a long gravel drive are the most isolated and the most reluctant to report it.
We must also do more about the economic abuse that is suffered on a daily basis. Surviving Economic Abuse, which I thank for its excellent briefing, has highlighted just how severe economic abuse is, whether it comes from a current or former partner—in intimate relationships, it is just unbelievable. Of those reporting economic abuse, 86% also experience other forms of abuse, and 45% are in debt because of the abuse."
You can read more about the Surviving Economic Abuse charity here or by scolling down the page
Women's Aid National Conference
16/17 July 2019
THE SUPREME COURT
Lachaux vs Independent Print
At 09.45 on 12 June 2019, a very important judgment will be handed down which will have consequences for the future of defamation proceedings. This case concerns the proper interpretation of the "serious harm" test in s.1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013.
The facts are: In 2014, Bruno Lachaux, became aware of several articles in British newspapers which he contends were defamatory of him. The articles reported allegations made by his former wife and her family that, during the course of an acrimonious divorce, he had, amongst other things, continued a campaign of intimidation and harassment against his wife, obtained a travel ban against her which trapped her in Dubai and snatched their young son from her when he found out where she was hiding from him.
He commenced proceedings against Independent Print Ltd (and another) on 2 December 2014. On 30 July 2015, Warby J held that the articles had caused serious harm to the respondent’s reputation. This was appealed and after wending its way through various court hearings now, almost 4 and a half years later, the Supreme Court judgment will be handed down on Wednesday.
The hand-down will be streamed on Supreme Court Live and will then be made available on the Supreme Court's video on demand service.
FREEDOM FOR SALLY CHALLEN
Channel 4 Interview
I featured this case last week, so scroll down if you are unaware of the background, but the wonderful news from the Old Bailey on Friday was that, not only did the Crown accept Sally Challen's plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter, on the grounds of diminished responsibility, meaning she had served her time in prison and has been been freed, but the subject of Coercive Control is now reaching a far, far wider audience.
Sally's case was the lead story on almost all of the TV channels, even usurping the news that the Prime Minister, Theresa May had officially resigned as Conservative Party Leader on that day (she stays on as Prime Minister until a new one is selected in late July).
Sally Challen's case is a landmark one but it's not just important for women in the UK, or those currently in prison convicted of murdering their abusive partner, but also for those in other countries where psychologically controlling behaviour is not yet properly recognised.
I'm including links to just three news articles from the myriad that have been published this weekend:
Sky News - Hope for other women
but I really wanted to draw your attention to the excellent 5-minute interview on Channel 4 with Sally's son, David Challen. Click on the image at the top to watch.
It's also important to recognise that those of us who already take a personal or professional interest in the subject of coercive control tend to exist in a bit of an echo chamber, in that we will follow social media accounts that regularly reference or report on it. We even tend to have our own language about some of the behaviours and red flags. However, for many women, who may have almost given up hope of any relief from the abuse they are suffering and have felt incredibly isolated, they may be hearing about it for the very first time. They will now be searching the internet, so please make sure you use the words or hashtag #CoerciveControl in your posts so these women can easily find you and readily gain more awareness.
Last week I effused about an interview with a diagnosed narcissist called H. G. Tudor. I personally found the interview riveting and so did many of the people who I had shared it with, so I could hardly wait to tell you about it.
It created lots of lightbulb moments for me and I hoped it would for any of you who have also suffered the trauma of being the recipient of narcissistic abuse.
Then something unexpected occurred.
I was surfing around on YouTube and came across a seminar that included a segment with Sam Vaknin PhD. Now I was well aware of Sam, he's an off-the-scale-intelligent Narcissist/Psychopath with a big web presence; he's authored a plethora of articles and books but up until now, he hadn't really resonated with me or fully kept my attention.
I'm not normally fickle but this video I stumbled across was so brilliant and enlightening that I have no hesitation in saying, if you can only listen to one or the other (hopefully you can listen to both though) pick Sam's!
I've shared this with lots of people this week and the feedback has been unanimous - it's the best thing on narcissism any of us have seen.
Sam divides his talk into two parts the second part - as he confesses, is brutal, so be warned, but it's so accurate and informative.
The entire video is well worth a watch as divorce coach, Sara Davison has some great advice but the video link above will start at Sam's talk.
By the way, I personally do not like the term Narcissist, however technically correct it may be. I think it conjures up images of medallion-wearing, obviously caddish-type men who gaze longingly in mirrors all the time. I particularly dislike terms like 'hoovering' (hoovering is when a narcissist will deliberately seek out someone he has abused and parted from, solely in order to gain an ego advantage from seeing if he can easily suck her back in again - hence the term).
I believe these terms - which, by the way, Sam Vaknin invented - hinder the ability of any rational, perhaps more traditionally-minded persons - like Judges for example! (or anyone who has not personally experienced narcissistic abuse) to take the subject, and the trauma it causes, as seriously as they should.
I think the terms controlling and coercive behaviour adequately cover all of the manipulations, so I'll just leave that thought/observation to percolate with you. I definitely don't recommend if you are going into Court that you start mentioning how your ex love-bombed you and has been using you as his supply and hoovering you! Language and choice of words is a very powerful tool, for good or ill.
Twitter @Coercive_Cntrl Coercive underscore Cntrl
THE DIRTY DIVORCE
Is Narcissism on the increase, or is it just that we are learning more about it? This week a one-day telesummit took place to mark World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day 2019. One of the guests interviewed by the host, Psychotherapist Bree Bonchay, was a diagnosed male narcissist who goes by the psuedonym of H.G. Tudor.
The interview was fascinating. H.G. admits that Narcissism is all about one thing - Control. He refers to his fellow narcissists as 'people of my kind' and subdivides them into three categories, Lesser Narcissists, Mid-range and Greater Narcissists. He has written prolifically about his condition and mindset in order to try and help victims/survivors (who he terms empaths) understand it and break free of the abuse.
To see H.G's website and read his article on divorcing a narcissist please visit this page. Also check out his extensive YouTube videos, including one about The Narcissist in Court. I could do without his faux 'dark and foreboding' voiceovers on the videos but the content is fascinating.
In 2011, after suffering years of coercive and controlling behaviour, Sally Challen was convicted of murdering her husband, Richard. She was sentenced to 22 years imprisonment, which was reduced to 18 years on appeal.
In February 2019 three judges of the England and Wales’ appeal court quashed Challen’s 2011 conviction but ordered a retrial. The decision was made on fresh evidence provided by a psychiatrist which showed Sally was suffering from two mental disorders at the time of the killing.
You can read about why its impossible to overstate the significance of this case and what happens next.
Sally was freed on bail on April but this Friday, 7 June, she returns to court for a plea hearing.
Campaigners will be gathering at the Old Bailey to support Sally and her family as she returns to court. Sally's son is on Twitter at David_Challen
5 June. 10am White Ribbon Conference. See here for details
5 June: The Charity Awards 2019
Just like a game of Chinese Whispers - where a small misconception can end up making a huge difference - quite a few things have been transmitted about the way the Family Courts operate which have morphed into misinformation over time. One of these is about secrecy.
It is not true to say that the public cannot know anything about what goes on in a Family Court when it is dealing with Child Arrangements. What is true is that it is of enormous importance that the identity of a child or children, or their parents, going through the Court process is never disclosed, at the time or afterwards.
Why? Well, can you imagine if everyone at the schoolgates had read about the acrimonious court proceedings between John and Jackie Brown (hypothetical names) and what John, who was also a School Governor, was alleging Jackie had done and how he's told the court she drinks, takes drugs and is wholly unfit to be a mother. What if, say, the mother denies this and says it's part of a smear campaign and she says CAFCASS have been duped, so the proceedings are still in dispute.
Can you imagine the emotional damage to that child? Or, what about if the allegations are far worse and the case is about child abuse and the conversation went something like this: "Hey, I hear your dad is a kiddie-fiddler. Did you enjoy it?" Or "I heard your dad raped your mum".
I don't know about you but for me it's traumatising to even think about this possibility.
The consequences of a lack of secrecy over the names of children involved in Court proceeding doesn't bear thinking about. That's why the courts anonymise cases and put strict warnings in place that anyone disclosing the name of the children or the parents will be in immediate contempt of court (which means a prison sentence).
Likewise with the sharing of details of your own case, it must not be shared because the potential for gossip to spread and emotional and psychological harm to be done to the children is enormous. Never underestimate people's propensity to gossip - especially if they only have the bare skeleton of facts or indeed, no facts at all, just hearsay.
This may cause you to say, 'well all the more reason for transparency and reporting facts then'. Yes, but what one newspaper editor may think is a good story to pique his/her readership's interest is not the same as another. How does one ensure that facts are correctly reported everytime and not sub-edited into oblivion to fit the available column inches or salaciously reported? How do we ensure that no one can extrapolate from any story who the children, or family, might be? RRO's (Reporting Restriction Orders) are there for good reason but it's a minefield - treading between public interest and secrecy - but one which journalist Louise Tickle and the Transparency Project are currently trying to navigate so that everyone's best interests are served.
The ban applies for life because can you imagine if you were the child of a sexual abuser and you go on to consign it to history, heal and carve out a great life for yourself. Then one day someone happens to come across the case, brought by the local authority, decades before, and decides to reprint it on social media. Your whole life and that of any children you may have gone on to have, could be blown apart. These matters also have a significant emotional effect on grandparents and wider family members too.
Greater transparency in what the courts do, and how they do it, is needed. We cannot allow abusers to manipulate the system and be given contact when it is not safe. Mandatory training in Domestic Abuse and Narcisstic traits is vital but secrecy around most court cases involving the welfare of children must remain.
It is not true to say there is no transparency whatsoever. You can read some anonymised cases about all manner of child protection cases and child arrangements on Bailii
Saturday, 1 June 2019 is World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day so we can expect a flurry of interesting social media posts focusing on the topic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Narcissism. Be sure to check out the hashtag ~#IfMyWoundsWereVisible and #WNAAD on the day and in the days following. Meanwhile on the resources page of this site and in the books section you can find lots of reading material about this personality disorder.
If you visit this link you can register for a free world Telesummit taking place on June 1st and 2nd.
Also check out the Netflix series called 'Dirty John'. The title is a bit misleading but it's a true-life story about narcissistic and economic abuse.
On YouTube you can find many videos posted by US Attorney's talking you through the steps to take to file for a divorce or apply for order to do with child arrangements. Unfortunately while interesting, these videos are not helpful to anyone in the UK.
Now, however, thanks to one former survivor of domestic abuse - who also happens to be a practicing Family Solicitor in England - you can watch videos that will talk you through the court processes and forms used in England and Wales when leaving an abusive partner.
The series explores the many different types of abuse (inc. physical, emotional, sexual etc) and the ways victims can protect themselves and access support.
To see the videos click here and you can follow Carol on Twitter here The law firm Carol works for is listed in the Resources section.
Our social security (benefits) system should provide a safety net enabling women to leave violent or abusive relationships and supporting them after they have left. But does this happen in practice?
The Women’s Budget Group, Surviving Economic Abuse and the End Violence Against Women Coalition are hosting an event to launch their new report into the social security needs of survivors of violence and abuse.
Date: 12th June 2019
Location: The Grimond Room, Portcullis House, 1 Parliament St, Westminster, London SW1A 2JR
To read full details go here
Also new on the site this week, see Anita's Story
Ministry of Justice
This is a welcome first-step as any independent inquiry (which may still follow) could take us into 2020 before a final report is delivered, yet alone acted upon. With this development, some important changes may come much sooner, plus it will give those affected a chance to get their views heard within the next few weeks. When further details of the public call for evidence are released, the details will be posted here but in the meantime, well done to all of those who pushed for greater scrutiny and thank you to Louise Haigh MP and Victoria Derbyshire, in particular. Let's hope this leads to mandatory training of the Judiciary about all forms of domestic abuse, and a thorough review of current CAFCASS policies and procedures, so that no more women or children have to suffer.
A topic that everyone in the Domestic Abuse sector has been talking about for many years is that of the failings of the Family Court system, with regard to child contact arrangements in situations involving domestic abuse and coercive or controlling behaviour. Thankfully, it has now finally exploded into the public consciousness.
This week, the popular daytime television discussion programme, The Victoria Derbyshire Show, tackled the topic of unsafe contact i.e cases where known perpetrators of domestic abuse are still granted unsupervised contact with their children.
Tragically, we know that four children have been killed as a result of these decisions in the last five years.
The former head of the Family Court, Sir James Munby, exclusively told the Victoria Derbyshire programme that things are 'far from as they should be' in the family justice system and that independent research is 'desperately needed' into the 'profoundly troubling' weight of anecdotal evidence that the programme discovered. You can watch the programme, which ran for two days, here and here Campaigners are calling on the Government to conduct an urgent public inquiry. At present that request has been denied.
You can read further comments from Sir James Munby on this topic here
There's much more chat on Twitter on this subject. Use the #FamilyCourt #FamilyCourts #VictoriaLIVE and #ChildFirst You can also read this blog entitled 'Why Do People Hate The Family Court' and an article from the Transparency Project who 'welcome the call for more scrutiny of family courts'. Read that here
Economic Abuse - a new service
On 15 May 2019, the charity Surviving Economic Abuse, in partnership with Money Advice Plus and with funding from the UK Home Office, launched a new national advice service.
The service aims to build the capacity of banks and building societies to better respond to the needs of victim/survivors. It will also help those who have been affected by economic abuse to understand how these organisations can support them through any difficulties they may be experiencing.
This fabulous charity just continues to move from strength to strength - find out more about them further down this page.
To keep up to date with news as it happens, please don't forget to follow this handle:
Twitter @Coercive_Cntrl Coercive underscore Cntrl
This week was Mental Health Awareness Week #MHAW19 To mark this year's event the charity SafeLives published their Safe and Well report.
SafeLives is a UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. Their research has found that health services are failing many victims and survivors of domestic abuse with mental health needs, therefore missing opportunities to ensure people are safe, sooner.
You can read the full report here (it's a great read) and see their Spotlight information below.
New Crisis Text Line
Looking for Support in a Safe and Anonymous Forum?
MP Calls for Greater Scrutiny of Family Courts.
On April 10, 2019 Louise Haigh MP (Labour) introduced a Bill in Parliament. In this Bill she is calling for greater scrutiny of the Family Court system.
Ms Haigh insisted that it was important for the judicial system to continue having independence, but said an independent inquiry was needed to expose the issues within the system.
“While secrecy in institutions prevails, it is the very health of our democracy and the rights of our citizens that are at risk,” she said.
Watch her speech here
A new campaign has been launched by the Institute for Police Conduct in conjunction with Women's Aid and the NPCC (National Police Chief's Council). It raises awareness of the #SilentSolution. This is a technique which can be used to silently alert an emergency operator to the fact that you are (or someone nearby) is in danger from an abuser.
Simply dial 999, then cough or tap the phone when answered. This will cause the operator to ask the caller to dial 55 on the handset (to confirm you need assistance and to check that it is a genuine emergency).
This silent code will become the industry standard to ensure that no call is missed because the caller is unable to speak freely.
Please share this information widely. It could save a life.
Min Grob, host of the popular Twitter feed Coercive Control @CCCBuryStEd, holds regular conferences on Coercive Control. The next conference planned is a training day for professionals on 2nd July 2019
To find out more visit: Min's Facebook Page
Rachel Williams is also hosting a Conference on Friday, 13 September 2019 at The Celtic Manor Hotel in Wales. See @DontLookBack198 on Twitter for info. SOLD OUT
BTW, Min has a fantastic pinned tweet on her feed. It's a thread about Coercive Control - do check it out at the link above and watch this space for other conference updates.