Our response to Guardian report showing a significant fall in prosecutions in England and Wales

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Revealed: collapse in rape cases that end up in court, 27 July 2019

• It is shocking that after decades of campaigning by women and repeated official claims that scandals like Savile, Worboys and Rotherham are things of the past, we learn that rape charging has collapsed even further. It is not because victims don’t come forward. There is “a sharp rise in reports of rape made to police … from 2015 to 2019, the number of rape claims … rose by 61%, from 35,847 to 57,882”. Two women a week, many of them mothers, are killed by partners or ex-partners – usually after reporting multiple assaults and threats which go unheeded by police. Rape and domestic violence terrorise women daily, yet perpetrators can count on almost complete impunity.

How much does the latest drop in charging have to do with the abolition of specialist rape investigation units and “digital strip search”? We and many others, including the information commissioner and victims commissioner, objected to this indiscriminate download of victims’ social media. Big Brother Watch claims the police powers used against victims are more extensive than those used against crime suspects; lawyers question whether they are even legal.

Boris Johnson, who as London mayor made sweeping cuts to the police service, now wants to recruit 20,000 additional officers. Will any of them be used to police the terrorism of rape and domestic violence? Or will they be deployed to repress us when we protest against lack of action on sexist or racist violence, climate change, or child poverty?
Cristel Amiss Black Women’s Rape Action Project 
Lisa Longstaff Women Against Rape

No Bad Women

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Please help Women Against Rape and the English Collective of Prostitutes raise funds to stage a dramatic production of a rape trial where two sex workers took on their rapist in court.

Make a donation here Go Fund Me

View teaser from rehearsals in 2015, when the play was called ‘Pursuing Justice’. Please support this bold creative project.

It’s 1995.  Two sex workers have been raped separately at knifepoint while visiting a client’s house in suburbia. They report it, but despite continuing threats, the Crown Prosecution Service closed the case claiming ‘insufficient evidence’.

Scared and outraged, the women came to the English Collective of Prostitutes and Women Against Rape. They assembled a legal team to take the rapist to court, and prevent attacks on more women.

This bold imaginative action was the first ever private prosecution for rape in England and Wales.

This play is the moving dramatisation of the trial, drawn from the transcript.

Tension builds towards the final verdict – will the women get protection and justice?

Sold-out pilot shows in 2015 had great reviews: “Challenging . . . uncompromising, everything theatre should be.”  Tribune

Why now?

The case established that every victim is entitled to justice. This principle was picked up by the #MeToo and TimesUp movements and accounts of rape and other violence poured out from women from all walks of life. A play that looks at who is classed as an “unreliable witness” and who a jury will believe is right on time.

Austerity cuts have targeted women. Rising poverty makes it harder for women to resist and escape exploitation and violence. More women, particularly mothers are going into sex work to feed their children. Yet, sex workers are deterred from reporting violence by the fear of arrest and for migrant workers, the fear of deportation.

When and where

31 Oct; 1 to 14 November 2019 (except Sundays 3rd and 10th Nov], 7pm, Clean Break, 2 Patshull Rd, Kentish Town, London NW5 2LB.  

Wheelchair access. Sign-language interpreters at some shows.

Q&As with an original complainant, the cast and campaigners from ECP and WAR will follow six performances. 

Directed by renowned US writer-director, Lesley Delmenico.

To make it happen we need to raise a further £10,000

Your donations will help fund:

  • Nine actors
  • Costumes
  • Lighting and sound
  • Rehearsal space
  • Stage manager fees
  • Travel and expenses for 10 volunteers
  • Graphic design for marketing online and printing
  • Subsidised tickets for refugees, asylum seekers and unwaged people
  • Sign language interpreters

Make a donation here Go Fund Me

Supreme Court today: rape victims vs Theresa May and police

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UPDATE: The Supreme Court upheld the women’s claim – a significant victory for all rape survivors!

Today 21 February, the Supreme Court will give the verdict on a police appeal to overturn a high court decision which protects rape victims.  This shameful appeal was backed by Prime Minister Theresa May.

Biased and negligent police investigations are a major reason the conviction rate for reported rape remains a disgraceful 6%.  For decades victims of rape have fought for their right to thorough investigations and for the gathering of evidence that could result in the prosecution of their attackers.  In the John Warboys case (prosecuted in 2009), police hostility to his victims enabled him to sexually assault over 100 women with impunity.  One victim spoke publicly about how the police laughed in her face at her reporting a taxi driver.

In a pathbreaking case in 2014, two of Warboys’ victims used Article 3 of the Human Rights Act to uphold their right to state protection from serious violence (police investigation of crime), and won damages for inhuman and degrading treatment.

Other victims had previously taken similar legal actions. In 2012 Ms X won compensation from the Met after suing the police for breach of policy on the investigation of rape.  Ms X worked with WAR for seven years to uncover what went wrong.  After an in-depth IPCC investigation which spelled out the most horrendous police incompetence and negligence, she took the case through the civil court using this same Article 3 (and Article 8) and was awarded £15,000. The victim’s mother, who worked tirelessly for justice against the systemic police problems on child rape exposed by her daughter’s case said, “When you walk into a police station to report rape you expect the police to investigate thoroughly. I was devastated when they didn’t, because I’d encouraged my daughter to report against her wishes and felt I had let her down.”

May’s support for this legal appeal gives the lie to her pledges to improve laws protecting women from violence.  She also wants to repeal the Human Rights Act, one of the only routes rape survivors have been able to use to hold the police to account, breaking with years of impunity.

May’s blatant hypocrisy is also exposed by her economic policy, slashing women’s escape routes from violence.

Philip Hammond’s budget announcement last year of £30m support for women hides the outrageous financial attacks on women by successive governments, which have increased women and children’s vulnerability to rape and domestic violence, and cut our protection and escape routes:

·       86% of austerity cuts have fallen on women, cutting helplines, refuges, legal aid and criminal injuries compensation;

·       17% of refuges have closed since 2010; 2 in 3 women, and 4 in 5 BME women are turned away from a refuge every day; refuges must compete for dwindling council funds against housing, roads, libraries, etc.; many will close under new proposals to cut housing benefit on which 50 % of refuges depend;

·       the children of mothers who report domestic violence and/or have been impoverished are taken from their mothers who are denied the support and protection they are entitled to; the number of children in care is the highest it’s been for 35 years; the UK has the highest adoption rate in Europe, 90% of it without the family’s consent; this amounts to punishment for mothers reporting rape;

·       victims of domestic violence are denied legal aid and forced to defend themselves against violent ex-partners in the family court; evidence of violence is dismissed and children are forced into contact or even to live with violent fathers, endangering and in some cases ending their lives;

·       women and children seeking asylum from rape and other torture have been refused entry, detained, made destitute and deported;

·       slashed benefits and punitive sanctions have forced mothers into low-waged zero hours jobs or prostitution to feed their kids;

·       sold off public housing has given free reign to profiteering landlords, forcing poor families away from their support networks.

We hope the Supreme Court, now headed by a distinguished woman, will support the rights of rape victims.

 

 

New Website!

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Welcome to Againstrape.net

We’re in the process of moving everything from womenagainstrape.net over to this site, which will take some time. To find old posts and articles, please go to the old site until this has been updated and we’ll keep you updated.

Self Help Guides for Survivors

Link

This is a collective effort based on decades of experience of survivors and campaigners. It offers ways to tackle obstacles to justice you many face when reporting violence.

This online version of the Self-Help Guide is a PDF file, to access it you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download free from the internet.

To order a paper copy, please send a cheque to ‘Women Against Rape’, PO Box 287, London NW6 5QU.
Prices: individuals £3; unfunded organisations £5; professionals or solidarity price £10. Free to women in prison.

This online version of the Self-Help Guide is a PDF file, to access it you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download free from the internet.

Click justiceguidejune2016website to download the Self-Help Guide.

To order a paper copy, please send a cheque to ‘Women Against Rape’, PO Box 287, London NW6 5QU.
Prices: inidividuals £3; unfunded organisations £5; professionals or solidarity price £10. Free to women in prison.

This is a collective effort based on decades of experience of survivors and campaigners. It offers ways to tackle obstacles to justice you many face when reporting violence.

From a user: I wanted to write to say thank you for the brilliant self-help guide that you have on your website. It was only once I had read it, that I could fully come to terms with the fact that what happened to me was rape. Before this, I was denying the truth, hoping I suppose that if I didn’t use this awful, difficult word ‘rape’ that it would mean it didn’t really happen. I am so grateful to you for providing this information for me, and that I found it when I needed it. Thank you again, and I wish you all the strength and determination in this continuing battle.

Contents   (in order to view the different sections of the book you have to download it)
Page

A self-help guide                                                             2

Some basics of self-help                                                   4

Domestic violence                                                             5

  1. How the law defines rape. What is consent?           6
  2. I’ve just been raped                                                  7
  3. Should I report the rape?                                          8
  4.   I’m worried about being arrested or deported         8
  5. Reporting to the police                                              9
  6. Who will I deal with during the investigation?          10
  7. The Medical                                                             13
  8. Giving a statement                                                   17
  9. Written statement or video?                                     18
  10. What if they discourage me, press me to
    withdraw, or drop the case?                                     22
  11. The police investigation                                            24
  12. What if the police close the case against my
    will? (‘No crime.’)                                                      27
  1. Keeping informed (bail, etc.)                                    28
  2. Consent, drink and drugs                                         30
  3. Can I see the police record of my case?                  32
  4. The Crown Prosecution Service                               33
  5. What are the charges?                                             36
  6. If the case goes to court                                           38
  7. Will I get protection?                                                44
  8. Compensation – applying to the Criminal  Injuries
    Compensation Authority (CICA)                               45
  9. Complaining about the police                                   49
  10. Complaining to the CPS                                           52
  11. Complaining about the judge                                   55
  12. Can I sue my attacker?                                            56
  13. Resources                                                                56
  14. Glossary of term                                                       57
  15. Sample summary of a case                                      58
  16. Sample diary                                                             59
  17. About Women Against Rape                                     60

What people say about the Guide:

“Lucid, to the point. I recommend it.” Ian Madonald QC.

“People will grow in confidence and feel less intimidated by the authorities.” Sally Freeman, mother of rape survivor.

“I’ve learnt I am not alone challenging corruption, lies, bias, and incompetance.” Anoushka Arabella, rape survivor.

“All who work with survivors should have this Guide.” Annie Rose, Independent Sexual Violence Advocate, Respond.

“An incredibly useful tool.” Debaleena Dasgupta, solicitor.

“Can make the difference between winning and losing.” Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project.

“For men supporting partners and friends, women and men, surviving rape.” Giorgio Riva, Payday men’s network.

For Asylum Seekers and their Supporters: A Self-Help Guide Against detention & removal by Legal Action for Women: This new and updated step-by-step guide comes out of intensive work over many years with women (and some men) seeking asylum. BWRAP and WAR have contributed to the pool of practical knowledge which is an invaluable and essential tool for victims of rape and other torture.  An online version of the Self-Help Guide is available here. To order a paper copy go to Crossroads Books online . Other Self-Help Tools are also available too.

Assange: UN Rapporteur on Torture is right to be alarmed at the manipulation of rape allegations

For over four decades we have campaigned to get rapists convicted. But the pursuit of Julian Assange is not driven by any concerns about rape but by US government pressure to punish him for his Wikileaks exposes on war crimes. Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel and Degrading Treatment, is right to be alarmed.  

At the time of the original allegations against Julian Assange, we pointed to the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued. (Guardian 19 Dec 2010 and 23 August 2012). It is unlike any other rape investigation we have seen anywhere.

The low UK rate of charging men for reported rape (figures just published show it has dropped even further from 14% to 2.5% in four years) – resulting largely from negligent and biased investigations and prosecutions, speaks volumes about how rape is generally dealt with.  Only one in 65 reports result in a summons or charge.  The police excuse for this is that they are overwhelmed and understaffed.

But every resource has been thrown at the Assange case, at great cost to the taxpayer for which he has then been blamed.  

It is not for us to decide whether or not any allegation made against Mr Assange is true and whether what happened amounts to rape or sexual violence – we don’t have all the facts and what has been said has not been tested. But we do know that rape victims’ right to anonymity and defendants’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty are both crucial to a just judicial process.

In this case the judicial process was corrupted from the beginning and justice denied both to accusers and accused. On the one hand, the names of the women were circulated on the internet; they were trashed, accused of setting a “honey trap”, their allegations dismissed as “not real rape”. On the other hand, Mr Assange has been treated by much of the media as if he were guilty, though he has not even been charged.

Swedish and British prosecutors are responsible for how the women’s allegations have been handled. As with every rape prosecution, the women are not in charge of the case, the state is.

Julian Assange has always made clear that he was available for any investigation into the allegations, and he was in Sweden during the first investigation which cleared him. He also made clear that his only concern was not to be extradited to the US from Sweden if he returned there, and that’s why he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy. Sweden refused to give guarantees on the grounds that no such request from the US had been made.   

But as soon as Julian Assange was taken out of the Ecuadorian embassy after a change of government, the US initiated extradition proceedings and laid 17 charges including for ‘espionage’.

Nils Melzer warns of the implications of the witch-hunt against Mr Assange in the course of documenting the effects of his forced confinement, now imprisonment. Mr Melzer wrote in his Op Ed:

…Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus a legal precedent is being set…

We are glad Mr Melzer revised some of his comments on the women’s allegations, but his overall point remains. Mr Assange is being publicly vilified in order to divert attention from the state’s revenge and silencing. We are alarmed by the precedent this sets for journalists and whistle-blowers everywhere. We oppose torture and the death penalty. We cannot condone the way rape allegations against an individual continue to be used to pursue a political agenda intent on hiding rape, torture and murder committed by the state.

Having worked with thousands of rape victims who are seeking asylum from rape and other forms of torture, we have met nothing but obstruction from British governments. Time after time, they have accused women of lying and deported them with no concern for their safety. So don’t tell us they are concerned about victims of rape.

Where is the campaign demanding justice for the rapes and murders Wikileaks exposed? Who will speak up for these victims if whistle-blowers are silenced?

In 2004, together with Black Women’s Rape Action Project, we wrote to women MPs about the war crimes and torture, including rape, under US-UK occupation, that were being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We received no reply.

Chelsea Manning (currently re-imprisoned despite President Obama having commuted her sentence) was able to use Wikileaks to expose the extensive cover up of rape, other sexual violence and murder, including of women and children, by the US military in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq. Do these victims not count?

Both Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning have already suffered years of isolation, confinement, imprisonment, public vilification and humiliation, longer and more shaming than many men convicted of rape.

Once again women’s fury and frustration at the injustices we face, is being manipulated by governments for their own purposes. Sending someone to their death or life imprisonment and torture in the US for ‘espionage’ isn’t justice for rape.

More than 1,000 reports of sexual abuse and harassment at UK McDonald’s, campaigners say

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/mcdonalds-sexual-harassment-protests-abuse-workers-a8937186.html

Exclusive: ‘He texted me to say he was at home alone with just the kids. I just blocked his number. That resulted in him pulling his pants down in the stockroom where there were no cameras,’ says McDonald’s employee

The president of the UK’s largest independent trade union in the food sector says workers in McDonald’s across the UK had told them sexual harassment is commonplace ( Getty )

McDonald’s workers in the UK are being subjected to a “toxic culture” of sexual harassment which has seen at least 1,000 women abused and predatory employees moved to different stores rather than sacked, campaigners have told The Independent.

Allegations range from managers making repeated sexual comments, brushing up against staff and discussing sexual desires, to abusing their access to workers’ contact details in order to send texts and explicit photos, and even offering better hours and promotion in return for sex.

Workers at branches across the UK have detailed a catalogue of abuse and harassment to the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the country’s largest independent trade union in the food sector.

Ian Hodson, president of the union, alleged complaints were “swept under the carpet”, workers were “victimised” for complaining, and added that some had been paid compensation on the condition they sign non-disclosure agreements.

A spokesperson for UK McDonald’s responded by urging anyone with any concerns around sexual harassment to speak to their manager or contact their confidential employee helpline to allow them to “investigate immediately”.

A spokesperson for the BFAWU said: “Sexual harassment is very prevalent. There is a toxic culture. Predatory employees operate with impunity. I would not say sexual harassment and sexual assault is happening in every store, but where a predatory manager or culture arises then McDonald’s is doing far too little to address it. 

“Workers are dependent on their hours to survive so it creates a power imbalance when a staff or senior staff or manager is a predator. There are very little checks and balances on them because of that power structure. When people make a complaint, managers do not deal with the procedure as they should. They often brush it off rather than say, ‘That should not be happening, we need to start an investigation into this’. We have heard of several situations where managers accused of sexual harassment have been moved.”

The union spokesperson estimated that over 1,000 female workers had experienced sexual harassment at McDonald’s in the UK – explaining this figure is based on conversations the union has had with workers across the country.

“It is rare for McDonald’s workers to file grievances about sexual harassment,” he added. “This might be because they do not recognise the behaviour of sexual harassment or they might not know the process for filing a grievance. They might also feel shame or are often concerned that they will not be believed.”

The spokesperson noted victims of sexual harassment might also be put off reporting abuse due to fear of retaliation or being bullied, worries about being isolated or further isolated in the workplace and concerns around the perpetrator being a friend of the manager. They will often try and manage the situation themselves by avoiding the perpetrator or asking colleagues to keep an eye out for them, he added. 

He noted that a very small proportion of McDonald’s workers are union members – explaining that McDonald’s does not recognise the union.

The union organised the first McDonald’s strikes in British history back in September 2017. It is calling for a £10-per-hour minimum wage and guaranteed work hours, as well as for McDonald’s to recognise their union.

A female McDonald’s employee from London said she had endured sexual harassment from a more senior colleague at a store where she has worked at for a number of years. 

She said: “I got approached by a manager to me who would make sly comments like asking if I was up for any fun while his wife was going to be away. He would say that in the workplace. He eventually got hold of my phone number from the system or from another employee. He text me to say he was at home alone with just the kids. I just blocked his number. That resulted in him pulling his pants down in the stockroom where there were no cameras. He held his penis and said, ‘Is this worth waiting for?’ 

“After I complained, a manager said I better have proof of what I’m saying he did because if I was saying this about her, she would use her life savings on getting me done for slander.”

The employee added that she walked out in the middle of a shift after learning that her harasser had been sending inappropriate texts to another female member of staff. 

The union said her attempts to seek help over many months were not taken seriously – explaining that she had asked colleagues for help and approached senior colleagues, but was largely left to manage the situation herself.

This culminated in her writing a formal letter about what was happening to human resources – with it leading to what the union described as an inadequate “investigation” meeting being carried out months later. Following the initial “investigation” she was expected to continue working alongside her harasser.

She subsequently had a panic attack at work for which she was taken to hospital, the BFAWU said, adding that she has been unable to return to work since.

The employee said there was one manager there who had been moved to another store after being accused of sexually harassing girls – adding that it “got to the point” where there were no more stores for him to go to and he got sacked.

“He would make inappropriate comments, make girls feel uncomfortable and try breaking relationships between crew members up,” she added. “What I hope happens is McDonald’s and my managers listen. We need a zero sexual harassment policy. McDonald’s care if you give out one too many sauces or one too many napkins in the drive-through but they need to address harassment. There are a lot more women suffering sexual harassment than any of us can imagine.”

She said she was in touch with people from a number of different McDonald’s stores and came across many people in her own store who said they had been sexually harassed at other stores.

She added: “I know 20 or 30 specific incidents of sexual harassments across different stores in the UK that people have told me. After a while you see a pattern – people say, ‘The manager pulled me in the freezer, in the toilets, stock room.’ Basically, wherever there is no camera, and obviously a manager is going to know exactly where all the cameras are, rather than a crew member who has been working there for three days. It gets to the point when people get so upset and furious with it they end up walking out and losing their jobs or lashing out and getting fired. Imagine if it was your daughter or your son.”

Another female McDonald’s worker who worked at a store from 2011 to 2013 said the “banter” was “quite pervy and flirtatious”.

“There was someone in the kitchen who smacked my bum,” she said. “He was persistent with other girls. I was not aware of any protocol if sexual harassment were to happen. I would have been careful who I reported it to as they were keen to cut corners there. I would have queried who would have dealt with it correctly. I would not have gone to the managers and would have gone to head office.”

The former worker, who worked there from the ages of 16 to 18, said one of her colleagues was sexually assaulted by a male colleague, who was in his early thirties, on a night out. Her friend, who was just 17, was “groped” by him.

“She did not tell management,” she said. ”She felt ashamed. She was so young she might not have even had the wherewithal to think she could report something like this.”

A survey by Unite union from January of last year found sexual harassment was rampant in the hospitality industry – discovering nine out of 10 hospitality staff have experienced sexual harassment at work. Of those who reported they were sexually harassed at work, more than half said the perpetrators were members of the public and another 22 per cent said they were harassed at the hands of a manager. A further eight out of 10 surveyed said they witnessed others being sexually harassed at work.

When asked whether their work had an anti-sexual harassment policy in place, 77 per cent said no or they did not know. Some 60 per cent said they were unsure or lacked faith in their management to deal with a sexual harassment complaint.

Dr Hannah Bows, of the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse at Durham University, said: “Lots of studies have shown sexual harassment is a huge problem. The majority of women will experience it at some point. If you are on a zero-hour contract or in temporary work, it is harder to report as you may face losing your job. Women are often blamed or a common response is getting rid of them.

“Also, sometimes women normalise sexual harassment because we know they experience it in every part of life – from on the way to work on the Tube to sexual harassment at work to at the gym after work. It can be difficult to pinpoint whether or not what you are experiencing is sexual harassment because it is part of everyday intrusions.” 

McDonald’s employs more than 120,000 people, according to its website. Its gender pay gap report from 2018 states there are 1,290 restaurants across the country that are owned and operated by either McDonald’s or their franchisees – as well as explaining women account for over half of the total workforce.

McDonald’s response to the “Migration Advisory Committee – Call for Evidence” states over 80 per cent of their employees are UK nationals. Most of the remainder (around 12 per cent) are EU nationals. 

More than two dozen current and former McDonald’s workers filed sexual harassment complaints in the US last month to challenge what they claim is widespread misconduct at the fast food giant. The allegations include indecent exposure, groping, propositions for sex and lewd comments – behaviour that reportedly took place at both corporate and franchise stores in 20 cities.

A spokesperson for McDonald’s in the UK said: “There is absolutely no place for harassment or discrimination of any kind in society or at McDonald’s. We deeply regret that the employee’s case was not treated with the sensitivity and gravity it warrants. This is not acceptable and our investigation into the case is ongoing.

“We have long-standing policies, procedures and training in place specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment – we regularly review and evolve these and we’ve recently rolled out a new training programme and guidance.

“We have an ongoing commitment to educating and raising awareness at all levels of our organisation – encouraging open conversations and communication – and we will continue to prioritise this. We take any allegations extremely seriously.”

They said the company has always strived to create a positive experience in its restaurants and create an environment where everyone feels respected and valued – adding that McDonald’s is committed to a culture that is respectful to all of its employees and customers. 

MORE ABOUT

SEXUAL HARASSMENT |  MCDONALD’S |  BAKERS |  FOOD AND ALLIED WORKERS UNION

New report on military abuse

On Monday 15 July, the World at One on BBC Radio 4, considered a newly published official report They also interview Donna, a survivor of serious sexual assault in the British Army who has worked with WAR for several years. Listen to the report by logging onto BBC Iplayer, find the programme and then skip to the particular segment at 16’06”.

Government announces Same Roof victims can re-apply for compensation

See government press release here. Congratulations everyone who campaigned for this change – what a wonderful if very belated victory for grassroots claimants /campaigners! It seems that the government has decided not to make people wait for the end of their Review of the Compensation Scheme after all. That’s good as the uncertainty has been terribly traumatic.

WAR addressing Baker’s Union annual conference 2019

The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union has been working with WAR on an inspirational campaign to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. They invited Lisa to speak at their annual conference in Southport on 10 June 2019, about the campaign. Watch the film here on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_50u7Ay-3I

After the speech there was a standing ovation. The BFAWU represent workers in fast food and hospitality industries and is a leading campaign taking strike actions against precarious contracts and low pay. We know that benefit cuts and poverty wages make women and girls more vulnerable to sexual violence, including abuse of power by employers. Read more about their amazing campaigns and strikes at https://www.bfawu.org/blog and https://www.bfawu.org/

Petition vs sexual harassment at McDonalds

https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/mcdonald-s-end-harassment-in-your-stores

This is an important petition taking off, part of the Bakers Union campaign which WAR has been helping with. It’s an international campaign to protest how women in fast food and hospitality are suffering harassment with no recourse from the company. Please sign and circulate. Nobody should have to suffer this when they go to work – it’s not part of anyone’s job description!

Re: Government Review into domestic abuse and family courts

Paul Maynard MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary (Ministry of Justice)
c/o office@paulmaynard.co.uk

28 May 2019

Dear Paul Maynard,

We write regarding the government review on “how the family courts protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse and other serious offences” called in response to the investigation by Victoria Derbyshire and the letter from over 120 MPs. We welcome this about-turn following the Prime Minister’s initial refusal during PMQ. 

For this review to be effective it must take evidence from mothers, children and family members with direct experience of domestic violence and those organisations supporting and/or campaigning with DV survivors.  The Panel conducting it should include grassroots organisations which have a long track record and much experience of working in this area, such as our own; it should not be dominated by ‘experts’ intent on proving that the issue is ‘complicated’ or needs further ‘research’ which would have the effect of delaying change and maintaining the status quo.    

As you will know, mothers interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire spoke bravely and articulately: from Clare Throssell describing the murder of her children by their father during unsupervised contact ordered by the courts, to the woman who said that ‘the family court abused me way more than my ex ever did’ – and he was a repeated rapist!  For years mothers and their supporters have been raising the alarm, risking their lives and their liberty.  Some have been jailed for refusing to be silenced and to hand over their children to violent men; others have gathered almost 200,000 signatures petitioning for change.

As anti-rape/DV organizations, which are members of the Support not Separation Coalition of (mainly women’s) organisations and concerned individuals, we confront such injustices all the time.  We have been raising them in Parliament, where we launched the dossier Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers (January 2017) documenting many cases of rape and DV where children were forced into contact or given residence to violent fathers.  In September 2018, SnS’s seminar in Parliament, Do No Harm, heard evidence from a distinguished panel of speakers who highlighted the trauma inflicted by the family court process on children and their mothers.

We know from our casework that rape and DV are not being treated as crimes of violence.  All the evidence is there.  Official figures show that 70-90% of cases in the family court involve domestic violence/abuse, yet only 1% of contact applications are refused altogether.[1]  

We attend SnS’s monthly self-help meetings at the Crossroads Women’s Centre where we are based. Through great collective effort we are enabling some mothers to keep their children and others to win them back, giving hope to all who come to us.

For years organisations of men who deny domestic violence have been allowed to set the agenda, and have had the support of many judges and of CAFCASS – the very service whose job it is to ensure the welfare of children.  On 14 October 2017 CAFCASS was advertised by Families Need Fathers as the keynote speaker of its conference on ‘parental alienation’.  CAFCASS has accepted and promoted ‘parental alienation’, the discredited theory of Dr Richard A Gardner,[2] a US misogynist psychiatrist who dismissed domestic violence, defended paedophilia, and argued that children who objected to seeing violent fathers should be forced to have contact.  Soon after he gave ‘expert’ evidence in a family case where the children were forced to have contact with their father, one of the two teenage sons committed suicide.  

Organisations of DV deniers should not be part of this review.  Their purpose is not the welfare of children and their primary carer and protector, almost always the mother, but the imposition of the patriarchal order with the violent father in charge. 

The remit of the review is too narrow.  It should include the following glaring injustices.

  1. Mothers who report rape or DV are not only disbelieved and their children forced into contact, they risk losing their children altogether as the family court may give residence to the father despite evidence of his violence, or blame the mother for ‘parental alienation’ which they claim without grounds, then say it may cause ‘emotional harm’ and take the children into care.  Research published in 2017 in the US where mothers are facing similar injustices, found that the family courts only believe a mother’s claim of a child’s sexual abuse 1 out of 51 times (2%) and lose custody more than half the time (56%) when ‘parental alienation’ is mentioned!  This is the most scandalous attack on women and children by violent men through the use of a state institution.
  2. The court’s bias against women is compounded by discrimination based on disability, race, nationality, age and of course income.  Mothers are generally on lower incomes than fathers, including because we do much more unwaged caring work for children and others.  Our economic disadvantage and/or poverty are at the heart of the sexism with which women are treated.  Most of the women who come to us for help are single mums, many are women of colour, immigrant, have a disability, a mental health issue or a learning difficulty, or have a child with a disability, or were in care themselves and are assumed to be ‘unfit’ because of the traumatic experiences they suffered.
  3. Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 which should provide support for mothers and children to stay together, and additional support for disabled mothers under the Care Act 2014 are not being implemented.  Instead millions are being spent taking children into care and profiteering by an increasingly privatised ‘child protection’ industry.  The cruel and dangerous treatment of children by the family courts is being replicated by institutions across the board, especially against disabled children. 
  4. The reason children who have not been harmed can be removed from their mothers, and thus subjected to the harm and trauma of separation, is that their relationship with their primary carer and protector, their mother, is devalued and even disregarded.  There is an assumption that mothers are dispensable so that in taking the child there is no loss despite the bond of love between them.  This attitude makes it possible to assert that any father, even a violent one, or even a ‘corporate parent’, is ‘good enough’ to replace the mother.  A court in New York (2004, Nicholson v Williams) after hearing evidence from reputable trauma experts concluded that taking children from their mother causes more trauma to the child than witnessing DV.  It is time the UK courts acknowledged that.  Princes William and Harry have spoken of their unbearable pain as children when their mother died – children go through similar pain when they are wrenched from their mother by family court decisions.
  5. The biased conduct of ‘fact finding’ hearings by judges would not be tolerated in criminal courts.  It has been hidden by the secrecy of the family courts which prevents public scrutiny.
  6. Controversial algorithms to be used for ‘child protection’ are being developed.  This threatens to automate inequality, which a number of professionals and IT experts are beginning to raise.  SnS’s open letter spells out the reasons for our grave concerns.

We look forward to your reply about the issues we raise.  We are very anxious to let women in our network know how they can contribute their experiences to the review. It is urgent that this information as well as the names and qualifications of those who will be on the Panel conducting the review are made public. 

Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project bwrap@rapeaction.net
Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape war@womenagainstrape.net
on behalf of the Support not Separation Coalition, Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX

cc Shadow Policing Minister, Louise Haigh MP


[1] All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence Parliamentary Briefing, April 2016

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/dr-richard-a-gardner-36582.html