In our secret family courts, judges still don’t understand what rape means

Louise Tickle The Guardian 5 January 2020

It’s a scandal. Away from scrutiny, courtrooms are failing mothers by not taking evidence of sexual assault seriously

When is rape, you know, real, proper rape? Shockingly, in our family courts, it seems it’s only when you put up a fight and have the injuries to show for it. Never mind that you might clearly not consent to sex but in the end submit, terrified of what might happen if you were to actively resist.

In one recently reported case in the family courts a woman had complained to the court that she was a victim of domestic violence and had been raped.

Judge Robin Tolson ruled that because the woman had taken “no physical steps” to stop the man from raping her, “this did not constitute rape”, and consequently ruled against her.

Legally speaking, this means that when it comes to that same judge deciding whether or not, say, it is safe for a father to have contact with his child, claims of sexual violence will not be taken into account. Because, in the eyes of the court, that rape simply didn’t happen.

The fact that the family law system in this country is hidden behind a veil of secrecy means that these offensively vintage attitudes to rape and domestic violence can persist in courts that tens of thousands of separating couples must pass through every year. And it raises the question: what other outrageously sexist decisions are being made by out-of-touch judges behind closed doors?

The woman in the above case was so horrified at the judge’s finding that she challenged it via appeal. Unlike in a normal family court hearing, appeals are heard in public, and findings can be openly reported.

It is only because of this tiny chink in the family justice system’s protective shield that we are able to glimpse inside Judge Tolson’s courtroom, and see such attitudes for what they are. The usual level of secrecy in the family courts stifles investigation and reporting of what goes on.

I am typically contacted several times a week by women who say family judges have not taken their evidence of domestic abuse seriously. These women, often mothers fearful of the man they say abused and sometimes raped them, are without question retraumatised by a system presided over by some judges who have simply not accepted a modern understanding of what is and is not domestic abuse or sexual assault.

Women point particularly to difficulties in proving coercive control, a dangerous pattern of abusive behaviour that can indicate a risk of homicide. Coercive control is now a criminal offence; but in family courts, I am repeatedly told, judges are reluctant to name it, even if they find that emotional and psychological abuse has occurred.

Not only that. Women say that judges can even agree domestic abuse has occurred but not consider it serious enough to protect the victim and child from what we now know to be its damaging continuing effects: an abusive ex can easily continue their controlling behaviour throughout many years of court-ordered contact with a child.

If it were “just” scores of women telling me that this is happening, then these allegations would be exactly that: allegations. However, I recently sat through days of evidence in a family court case involving claims of domestic abuse and a dispute around child contact arrangements. The judge in that case made it clear he is unlikely to publish a judgment, and it is therefore unlikely at this stage that he will agree to allow the media to publish any part of what went on in court.

But I can say that I emerged from that courtroom astonished, dismayed and alarmed for very similar reasons to those that prompted the woman described above to appeal against a different judge’s findings about what constitutes rape.

In the year ending March 2019, more than 58,000 allegations of rape were made to police in England and Wales. It is an uncomfortable fact that many women are forced to have sex without their consent within relationships. It may be inconvenient for a family law system that operates on the principle that children are better off having contact with both their parents to acknowledge this truth. But surely any judge who grasps the mechanisms and psychological effects of coercive control should understand that you don’t need to be physically forced, there don’t need to be bruises, and you don’t need to scream, in order for it to be rape.

This is 2020, not 1920. Society has moved on. So have the criminal courts, which are open to scrutiny and would be instantly challenged should any barrister or judge articulate such archaic attitudes. Unless you have the courage and the cash to go to appeal, however, the family courts are essentially unaccountable to the public they serve.

Thanks to one of the most senior judges in the land coming firmly down on the side of the woman in the Judge Tolson case, she won her appeal. But it may well feel like a hollow victory. She will now have to relive every aspect of her evidence of domestic abuse and sexual assault at a new fact-finding hearing. This will be in front of a different judge. But that court will, once again, sit in private. How can we – or she – know what attitudes to sexual violence lie in store for her there?

• Louise Tickle is a journalist who specialises in social affairs and family law

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/05/secret-family-courts-judges-rape-evidence-sexual-assault

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Abusive men using child contact as way to carry on subjecting women to domestic abuse

See quotes here and below from WAR SNS, and a mum called Becky who we helped get contact with her (then) baby after she was snatched by her father who she still lives with; Becky is fighting to get her back.

‘We are also aware of instances where women have suffered physical and sexual assault from their abuser when children are being picked up or dropped off,’ says campaigner

Thousands of domestic abusers are preying on their victims during meetings with their children ordered by the family courtsThe Independent can reveal.

Women are being subjected to coercive control, and physical and even sexual assault from their ex-partners when children are being picked up or dropped off. 

Campaigners say abusers also carry on terrorising their victims during child custody battles in the family courts and harassing them via emails, and report the problem is getting worse. 

Julian Watkins, senior research analyst at Safe Lives, said: “We started collecting data on this issue over the last couple of years because domestic abuse services and the survivors they support were increasingly telling us it is a problem.”

The domestic abuse charity has found abusive former partners use childcare arrangements to carry on targeting their victims in around a third of cases where children were cited as the reason for ongoing contact. 

Parents can face fines or even jail sentences if they do not make sure their child sees an ex-partner on a supervised or unsupervised visit when court-ordered contact is in place.

Angela* said the post-separation abuse her ex-husband has subjected her to has been even worse than the actual relationship. 

The 43-year-old domestic abuse survivor, who had one child with her former spouse, said she suffered emotional, financial and online abuse from him while they were together.

She said: “He was very aggressive towards me. It was an insidious thing. All of a sudden I realised I had no control over my life. I was basically a slave. Anytime I had an opinion that was different to him, he got angry. if I left a toy out, he went into a rage. I would be back terrified hiding in the flat with the child because he would be on the rampage and skulking around and ready to blow. 

“My money wasn’t my own. My thoughts weren’t my own. I had to check in with him on everything. He was living off me but if I went out and bought a lipstick I was a really bad person. He borrowed thousands of pounds that I never got back. He is very angry with the world. The world is against him. It’s all a conspiracy. Women are out to get him. We are all b*****s. We are all trying to trick the courts. 

“Part of the issue was my ex was using drugs and doing so in proximity of the child. I didn’t know he was taking drugs until very far into the relationship. He would leave lighters strewn around the room and weed out. With a toddler that is unacceptable. He would leave doors and windows open.”

She said her ex would send emails every few days threatening to get the authorities to take her child away after she left him. He was initially only allowed supervised contact with their child due to his drug use but is now allowed to have unsupervised contact.

Read more

Mother and two daughters recount horrors of domestic abuse campaign

“When he was in the home, he didn’t bother with our child but as soon we broke up, access was the most important thing in his life,” Angela recalled. “He would turn up late to contact with our child. He wouldn’t change his nappy. Later, when he was older, he would let him wet himself. He had to do a handover with staff at contact centres when the visits were supervised and he would get aggressive with them.” 

She said they have a contact book where they write notes to each other about practical issues but he has used this to write abusive messages to her. 

Becky*, another woman who was subjected to coercive control by her ex-partner, said he now has custody of their young child and has used childcare arrangements to continue the abuse.

The 47-year-old said: “After I left him, he put her in his car and said he wanted one last bit of time with her on his own and never gave her back. I drove four hours to see her on Mother’s Day for a meeting the court had scheduled, but he said ‘You are not going to see her’ and drove home. He was shouting at me and laughing. He mainly abuses me through emails – mostly he says I am crazy and a bad mum. He doesn’t think that, he says it because he knows it will affect me. She cries when it’s time to go back to him at the end of visits.”

Anne Neale, of Legal Action for Women, said: “Men have been empowered by the family courts being more in their favour to pursue more cases and be more adversarial than they used to be

“This creates a climate in which men feel more emboldened to harass women through the courts and continue exerting controlling behaviour through the courts. It is also linked to the wider fact that women are increasingly speaking out about abuse wherever it takes place, including through the family courts.”

The campaigner, who supports women going through family courts, argued the presumption in law that it is in the best interests of the child to have contact with both parents “enables” the family courts to override a man’s history of violence towards both the mother and children. 

The warning comes after more than 120 MPs wrote to the government in May demanding an inquiry into how family courts in England and Wales deal with victims of domestic abuse.

Lisa Longstaff, a campaigner who is part of the Support Not Separation Coalition, said abusive ex-partners use contact as an opportunity to often verbally and sometimes physically abuse the mother.

She said: “They continue exerting coercive or controlling behaviour with the pretext of making arrangements or cause problems such as making the mother travel long distances, or not returning the child at the agreed time. 

“Violent men also continue to exert control over ex-partners and their children through the family court, enabled by Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), social workers and judges who routinely dismiss rape and domestic violence as either false or irrelevant to a child’s welfare. This is confirmed by official figures: 70 to 90 per cent of cases in the family court involve domestic violence or abuse, yet only one per cent of contact applications from fathers are refused altogether. 

Read more

Tens of thousands of ‘abuse victims at risk over NI number’

“Mothers who report rape or domestic violence are not only disbelieved and their children forced into contact with fathers they may be terrified of, they risk losing the children they are trying to protect. For spelling out the dangers the children face, mothers are accused of ‘parental alienation’ or of causing ‘emotional harm’ by ‘poisoning’ the children against the father.”

Sandra Horley CBE, of national domestic abuse charity Refuge, argued the way family courts deal with child contact cases involving domestic abuse places women and children at risk and called for “urgent reform” to ensure their protection is prioritised.

Refuge, the largest provider of specialist domestic violence services in the UK, is calling for a reversal of the legal presumption child contact in cases of domestic abuse is always in the best interests of a child.

She added: “All too often, violent partners are using child access meetings to continue their abuse. We see cases where violent partners fail to collect or drop off children at the agreed time, causing some women to fear the perpetrator has kidnapped their children, and disrupting women’s lives – causing them to miss work or cancel plans. Shockingly, we are also aware of instances where women have suffered physical and sexual assault from their abuser when children are being picked up or dropped off.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “No child or parent should ever be in danger because of a partner’s access to their child, which is why we are reviewing the family court system to make sure they’re protected.

“We have also introduced legislation to ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts and throughout our review we have engaged survivors across the country to ensure we are doing everything we can to safeguard them further.” 

Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service did not want to comment when approached.

*The names of the women in this article have been changed to protect their identity

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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

To Woman’s Hour: parental alienation interview, 26 April 2019

30 April 2019
Dear Woman’s Hour
We object in the strongest possible terms to Woman’s Hour’s sexist broadcast on 26 April about ‘parental alienation’.
Woman’s Hour’s website says it is ‘the programme that offers a female perspective of the world’. This interview offered the perspective of a men’s organisation which attacks women, represented by two female professionals – a lawyer and a psychotherapist.
‘Parental alienation’ is the discredited theory of Dr Richard A. Gardner, an American misogynist psychiatrist who dismissed domestic violence as lies, defended paedophilia, and argued that children who objected to seeing violent fathers should be forced to have contact anyway. Soon after a family case where he gave such ‘expert’ evidence, one of the two teenage sons forced to visit his dad committed suicide.
(See https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/dr-richard-a-gardner-36582.html)
As organisations that have worked with victims of rape and domestic violence for decades, we are horrified that a programme for women would promote such views. Jenni Murray didn’t pursue them on the facts that rape and domestic violence are a key issue in many marriage break-ups, that two women a week are murdered by partners or ex-partners (often despite multiple calls to police for help), or that over 50% of rapes reported to the Met Police are committed by a partner.
We are sickened by seeing violent men repeatedly attack their partners with impunity while women are denied help, protection and resources to escape. And if they manage to escape, they are often pursued by their violent ex through the family courts, and men take the children as the ultimate act of punishment and control.
Working on family law cases for several years, we’ve have seen how ‘parental alienation’ is increasingly invoked by aggrieved fathers who suddenly became interested in their children when their wives left them.
We have witnessed domestic violence repeatedly dismissed by judges (men and women) in ways that are blatantly sexist. Judges could no longer express such views in the criminal courts. Family courts operate in secret and so escape the discipline of public scrutiny, and this has protected them from having to change in response to women’s pressure to take men’s sexual and domestic violence as the violent crimes they are.
A single judge makes a factual ruling on whether or not they believe you suffered violence, and if they choose not to believe you, as they often do, they can take your children and forbid your raising the violence again under threat of cutting all contact with your children.
We see mothers’ efforts to protect their children from a violent father dismissed as ‘parental alienation’ even when the man has a criminal record for violence. Family courts assume contact with any father is better than no contact and often ignore or breech protective measures laid down by other courts or by the police who advise no contact for safety’s sake. At least 19 children have been murdered by fathers as a result (Women’s Aid).
The overwhelming majority of mothers who come to us because their children have been or are at risk of being taken by Social Services, are women of colour escaping rape and domestic violence (including asylum seekers).
Family courts remove children from their mother who is blamed for causing the child ‘emotional harm’ by witnessing domestic violence, while the father who committed the violence is considered a good enough parent to get residence. Now they are using ‘parental alienation’ as a pretext to give him the children – ’parental alienation’ is considered abuse from the mother, while domestic violence is not abuse from the father.
Is Woman’s Hour not aware of the public campaign by Rotherham rape survivor Sammy Woodhouse just before Xmas whose convicted rapist-torturer was invited (while in prison) to be a party to proceedings over their child born of rape when she was 15? This was not an isolated case, but part of a national pattern. There are hundreds if not thousands of mothers who are trying to defend their children from violent men, not only children born of rape.
Is Woman’s Hour not aware that there is a mass movement of mothers and children traumatised by unjust separation and forced into contact or residency with violent fathers?
These Woman’s Hour guests were invited onto the programme a day after a Families Need Fathers (FNF) march promoting ‘parental alienation’. Why is WH inviting guests who echo the FNF agenda that mothers are often hostile to fathers for spurious reasons, and that such hostility is abusive to the child?
FNF is a notoriously sexist men’s organisation hiding behind respectability as a charity. They campaign for fathers’ rights to trump mothers’ and children’s rights. As long ago as 1994, during a debate on the Child Support Agency, MP Glenda Jackson reported in Parliament that FNF advised fathers who were not allowed access to their children to ‘kidnap them. If that failed and nothing else could succeed, it advocated the murder of the mother.’
FNF dismiss domestic violence as false allegations. They claim that ‘False and unfounded allegations poison proceedings when a non-resident parent is seeking parenting time with his children. Judges need to make findings of fact as soon as possible and to take false allegations into account when determining the best interests of the child.’ FNF claim that ‘there is widespread abuse of men and boys in the context of the family courts’ and accuse women of ‘making allegations’ as ‘a motorway to obtaining legal aid’.
What on earth is Woman’s Hour doing airing this blatant misogyny? We must have the right to reply to such bias.
Yours sincerely,
Cristel Amiss, Lisa Longstaff,
Black Women’s Rape Action Project Women Against Rape
bwrap@rapeaction.net war@womenagainstrape.net

See other complaints to the programme from others at supportnotseparation.blog

London women tell UN poverty envoy about impact of welfare cuts

Residents of deprived Newham describe domestic abuse and hunger to Philip Alston

Women in London have told the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty they are bearing the brunt of government welfare cuts, and described how austerity has left infants homeless and exacerbated problems including overcrowded housing and domestic violence.

More than a dozen women addressed Philip Alston at a highly charged meeting in Newham, east London, and urged him to tackle British ministers over the disproportionate effects on women of eight years of spending cuts.

A group including many immigrants told the human rights lawyer that as a result of austerity measures, some had been driven to sell sex, some had faced increased domestic abuse and others had been denied the ability to bring up their children properly.

One woman with a baby strapped to her back spoke through tears about how she fled domestic violence only to be made to wait for 20 hours at a social security office where she became so hungry she had to drink her child’s milk.

Alston arrived in one of the poorest boroughs in the capital on the eighth day of his tour of the UK, in which he has been examining extreme poverty, austerity, welfare changes and the impact of Brexit.

Reducing poverty was one of the specific legacy goals of the 2012 Olympic Games, which Newham helped host. Between 2010 and 2015, the borough rose out of the 20 most deprived neighbourhoods in England, but local activists say this improvement was not spread evenly across the borough, with areas directly around the sporting venues enjoying increased prosperity while others suffered.

Last year, child poverty in the borough was the third worst in the UK behind Tower Hamlets and Manchester. After housing costs, 43% of children were living below the poverty line, according to analysis of official figures by the charity End Child Poverty.

Among those who addressed Alston was Jane Williams of the Magpie Project. Her organisation has helped 215 of the estimated 2,000 homeless families with children under five who live in the borough. Williams said children had nowhere to play or be potty-trained, mothers could not sleep as several children shared a room, and some were spending one-third of their incomes on milk formula.

She read out testimony from one of the projects’ clients: “They have taken everything from me but my body. What do they want me to do? Do they want me to sell my body?”

Trinity*, a mother of a nine-year-old, told Alston: “A lot of women are forced into poverty and into prostitution. I have been destitute and homeless from one place to another.” She said she survived an attempted rape and had boiling water poured on her when she resisted.

Paula Peters, from Disabled People Against Cuts, described the difficulty of a a 54-year-old carer in accessing universal credit, including seven attempts to fill out online forms, as well as needing to borrow money to eat and at one point not eating for a week.

Another woman’s benefits were sanctioned, Peters said, “because she didn’t look happy” at a meeting with the welfare officer.

Another woman unfurled a banner in front of Alston with the names and photos of dozens of people said to have died as a result of benefit sanctions and austerity.

Alston told the group: “It will be interesting to me to ascertain the extent to which the authorities are really aware of the sort of issues you presented, the extent to which they have tracked those impacts of those policies.”

Alston will spend the rest of this week in London having meetings with Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, and John Glen, the economic secretary to the Treasury, as well as officials at departments including the Department for Exiting the European Union.

He will then draft a report to be delivered at a press conference on Friday. It will examine how the UK government, councils and devolved assemblies have been handling extreme poverty, the impacts of austerity policies and the roll-out of universal credit.

Alston is also expected to address Brexit and whether it might deepen poverty in some areas of the country, and will look at how the increasing reliance on computers to deliver welfare and even make judgments about benefit decisions using algorithms will affect people.

Several women described how universal credit could “facilitate economic abuse” between men and women, because it is normally paid in a single payment. Requesting split payments in violent households could escalate abuse, one woman said.

A mother of two who gave her name as Doris said she had lived in 40 places in the past decade as a result of welfare insecurity. “I have said to my sons: if you could come back as a woman, would you? They said no way, not the way you’ve been been treated,” she said.

*Trinity was one of the women from our centre at the hearing, she is a member of the All African Women’s Group.

Sammy Woodhouse: Rotherham ‘rapist offered role in child’s life’

A victim of child sexual exploitation has called for a change in the law amid claims a man who raped her was offered a role in her son’s life.

It is understood Arshid Hussain, who was jailed for 35 years in 2016, was contacted by Rotherham Council about care proceedings heard last year.

His victim Sammy Woodhouse told the BBC she was “shocked” when she was informed of the council’s approach.

The authority said it had “no intention” of putting a child at risk.

Urgent efforts would be taken to “address the failings in this case”, The MoJ said.

Ms Woodhouse described Hussain as “a danger to myself and to other children”.

In a video posted on Twitter she urged the government “to change the law to ensure rapists can’t gain access to children conceived through rape”.

‘What about my rights?’

Hussain, known around Rotherham as Mad Ash, was one of three brothers behind the grooming and sexual abuse of more than 50 girls, including Ms Woodhouse.

She was just 14 when she met him.

Read more and see video, where Sammy says that mothers are forced to face their rapists all over the country in family courts, at

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-46368991

RESPONSE to the Home Affairs Committee Report on DOMESTIC ABUSE

Press release

from Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Women Against Rape

 We welcome the Committee’s recognition of many of the issues raised in the evidence we and other women’s groups submitted. But they should have gone much further, especially in the following areas:

1.      Welfare cuts & financial dependence on violent men.

We welcome the Committee’s acknowledgement that welfare cuts have made women vulnerable to Domestic Violence (DV) and made it harder for victims to flee violent partners. The Committee noted that Universal Credit is a disaster for women as it will be paid to the head of household, usually assumed to be the man, making women and children financially dependent on men. As the Committee noted, this reverses the principle established in 1945 by independent MP Eleanor Rathbone who after decades of campaigning won Family Allowance as part of the Welfare State, paid to the mother – the primary carer.

They should have supported the widespread call for Universal Credit to be scrapped along with the discriminatory and degrading two child tax credit limit (which denies money to any further children unless the mother can prove they were the product of rape) and the benefit cap. They should also have called for welfare benefits to be reinstated.

2.      Other austerity cuts that cut off women’s escape routes.

Lack of provisions such as refuge space, social housing and legal aid have left women at the mercy of violent men, especially where the couple have young children. We welcome the Committee’s call for refuge funding to be a legal obligation nationally.

They should also have recommended changes to address the social housing crisis which traps women and children in violent relationships.

3.      Family courts and DV.

DV has become a key pretext for local authorities to remove children from their mothers with the excuse that they are ‘at risk of future emotional harm’. The Committee acknowledges that family courts don’t treat DV as seriously as criminal courts, prioritising child contact for fathers even when they have criminal convictions for violence or a history of DV. Forced contact with fathers has resulted in violence, even murder, of children and their mothers. The Committee falls short of recommending that children should stay with their mother, who is usually the child’s first carer and protector, rather than be forcibly separated from her. But they do mention that happens in Edinburgh and could be a useful model.

The forthcoming Domestic Violence Bill must go much further than stopping a man cross-examining his victim in court. It must stop fathers’ ‘right’ to contact being prioritised over women and children’s right to safety and protection, and provide support for victims rather than take their children.

4.      Immigrant and BAME women face DV.

We welcome the Committee criticising the ‘hostile environment’ as making immigrant women more vulnerable to violent men, and particularly the police for reporting immigrant victims of DV to the Home Office. But they do not acknowledge that racism results in women of colour and immigrant women having lower incomes and therefore being more vulnerable to DV.

We welcome their call for care ad support for all victims of DV regardless of their immigration status. They should also call for an end to policies of detention, destitution and ‘voluntary returns’.

5.      THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.

The Committee acknowledges that police and courts sometimes let violent men off the hook with catastrophic consequences for women and children – even murder.

 Key actions that need prioritising are: early arrest and conviction of violent men before they are allowed to attack again; robustly enforcing and financing the protection of victims; ending the criminalisation of women and children who report violent men.

6.      WOMEN THE MAIN VICTIMS.

 We welcome the Committee’s call for DV to be treated as affecting mainly women. We have seen too many examples of men making counter accusations against women who report DV in order to avoid arrest and prosecution, and to gain access to the children and/or to keep exerting control over the mother.

 Dealing with DV must be integral to all economic and social policies.

See our evidence to the Committee here[1]

Black Women’s Rape Action Project         bwrap@rapeaction.net

Women Against Rape        war@womenagainstrape.net

Tel: 020 7482 2496

 

[1] http://againstrape.net/evidence-to-home-affairs-committee-on-domestic-violence-from-black-womens-rape-action-project-and-women-against-rape-5-july-2018

 

Do No Harm – Seminar 11 Sept 6-8pm

For a video of the event, photos and written speeches see: supportnotseparation.blog

Join us tomorrow for this important seminar 6-8pm at the House of Commoms committee room 14 which will gather evidence of the harm caused by separating mothers from their children and forced adoption. WAR is on the speakers panel.

Evidence to Home Affairs Committee on Domestic Violence from Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape, 5 July 2018

Summary: This evidence covers five key policy areas that result in increased vulnerability to domestic violence and lack of resources to escape violent men:

  1. Family courts and domestic violence
  2. Austerity cuts and domestic violence
  3. Destitution – a recipe for domestic violence
  4. The hostile environment for victims of domestic violence in immigration and asylum procedures
  5. Improving the police and CPS response to domestic violence, and victims’ experience of the Criminal Justice System

 1. Family courts and domestic violence (DV)

1.1 We are part of the Support Not Separation Coalition – a national network of mothers, grandmothers and other kinship carers, campaigners, psychologists, social workers, academics and other professionals. Reporting DV has become a major reason children are removed from their mothers often with the excuse that they are ‘at risk of future emotional harm’.  It is contrary to the welfare of the child and the mother, who is usually the child’s protector, for the child to be removed from her care.

1.2 Mothers’ experience of family courts is that domestic violence is often not believed, they are not given the protection they need, and are in every way disadvantaged – from legal aid to cross-examination by their attacker. Their trauma as a victim of a controlling relationship is not taken into account by judges who are often sexist and expect unrealistic standards of evidence while often excluding evidence such as reports from support organisations like ourselves or refuge workers.

1.3 In our experience the relevant Practice Directions (3AA and 12J) to assist vulnerable witnesses in the family court are often not implemented, and it is too soon to know whether recent changes to 12J (2018) are helping.

1.4 Family courts cannot fundamentally improve the treatment of vulnerable witnesses until they address the shocking disbelief commonly expressed by judges and other professionals when mothers or their children report that they have been victims of rape or other violence, including coercive and controlling behaviour by the father.  This bias against mothers and children has been well-documented: see Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers by Legal Action for Women 2017, and Domestic Abuse, Family Courts and Routine Failure to Protect Children by Mothers Unite UK 2017, Courts (Abuse of process) Bill 2018 presented by Liz Saville Roberts MP, Women’s Aid research (May 2018).  These all show that mothers still face routine disbelief and even questioning by their abuser in family courts.

1.5 In general, our experience is also that children’s wishes are often disregarded and mothers’ warnings about safety are disbelieved or ignored.

1.6 The family court (eg in Practice Direction 12J) recognizes that children suffer harm from witnessing DV to their mother, but in deciding to remove the child from the mother, they take no account of the harm that they will cause with that separation. In New York, the separation from the mother has been recognized in a 2002 precedent case as more traumatic to the child than witnessing DV, and courts are no longer allowed to take children from their mothers on that basis. The same principle needs to be applied in the UK.

1.7 Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act instructs local authorities to use their resources to support families so that children can stay within the family instead of being removed.  But it is rarely used, especially to support mothers who are DV survivors. It’s implementation must be prioritized.

1.8 Instead of support and protection, women victims of DV and children are punished.  We have been involved in a number of cases where children were taken from the mother when she reported DV or when it was discovered that she was a victim, traumatizing the child who was then placed with strangers.

1.9 Women are damned if they report DV and damned if they don’t. Either way, the father’s violence is blamed on the mother who is accused of failing to protect the child. Why isn’t the State instead acting against violent men?

1.10 Mothers who are particularly vulnerable to injustice in family courts include those who are victims of repeated rape and DV, BME mothers, migrant and immigrant mothers, those who are mentally disabled, single mothers especially those who are working class and/or on benefits, and all those who are denied legal aid.

1.11 It is outrageous that a family court judge has the power to rule in a Finding of Fact hearing whether or not a woman was raped or suffered violence.  These judges are sometimes more sexist than the rape-ticketed judges in the criminal courts.  Family courts have not kept pace with changes in other courts.  This is largely because criminal courts are public while family courts are not, what goes on there is little known and family court judges are not publicly accountable.  Some of them don’t know the law on rape or DV, and others have belittled rape as insignificant and repeated DV as unlikely to have happened.  The secrecy of family legal proceedings also cuts off the mother’s opportunities to seek support, keeping her isolated and increasinging her vulnerability.

1.12 Many social workers are also biased against mothers – blaming the woman is easier than confronting a violent and bullish man.  Budget cuts to local authorities have certainly contributed to harsher uncompassionate decision-making but merely increasing funding will not address the institutional bias in the system.  Sexism, racism and class bias needs to be addressed so that mothers and kinship carers are not treated as disposable or irrelevant in their child’s life, to be replaced by a foster carer, a children’s home or adopted by a better off family.

1.13 We are opposed to the privatisation of children’s homes and adoption services, which introduce a profit motive.  There is clearly a conflict of interest if agencies which are reporting to the court on what is best for the child are making money from children being taken into care.  The motivation should instead be the child’s welfare, and putting resources into helping women and children escaping domestic violence, not separating them.

1.14 In some cases the children are given to the father and the mother is banned from seeing them if she continues to raise that he is a danger to them.  The bias in favour of fathers even when they have a record for violence is extraordinary.  Even men with previous convictions or non-molestation orders can be concealed during the family case.

1.15 We can only conclude that the courts want men – even the most violent – to have access to their children and to their former partners, whatever they may say and whatever the consequences for safety.

1.16 The hostile fathers’ lobby, led by Families Need Fathers, has the support of the NSPCC and CAFCASS, and their recent campaign to get the authorities to recognize that they are victims of parental alienation is a worrying step towards misogyny.

1.17 It is well-known among mothers’ networks throughout the UK that men use the family court as a vehicle through which to continue to coerce and control a female partner who has left them.

1.18 Men are using the family court to get investigations of rape and DV dropped.  We know of cases where the police stopped investigating after a judge decided he didn’t believe the mother.  We also know of a number of cases where abusive men dared their victims to call the police as social services would come and take their children into care.  The mothers were petrified and didn’t report the violence as a result. Violent men are very confident – after all, they generally have the power of higher wages over women, and also the backing of the authorities which are more likely to believe them than women.

1.19 Mothers whose immigration status is dependent on staying with a violent partner are at particular risk.  Women in these situations have also experienced bullying and intimidation including terrifying threats to report them as “illegal overstayers” to the Home Office if they dare report the violence.  Family courts are far more likely to believe men and deport women causing untold harm to mothers and their children.

1.20 The State has to stop assuming that a man who is violent to his child or to his female partner is a good father.  Children are being forced into unwanted contact with violent uncaring fathers against their will.  Some children’s reports are dismissed as the result of manipulation or coaching by their mother.  On the other hand, we have seen cases where a child said their mum has once slap them and the child was removed from that mother, a totally disproportionate response.

1.21 None of this is in the interests of the child – a key principle that family professionals are supposed to uphold.

1.22 The government is proposing to train a wide range of professionals to spot domestic abuse.  But what are they supposed to do about that abuse?  Every state agency has become more intrusive and punitive while offering very little help as a result of wide-ranging funding cuts.  Does spotting abuse result in more children of DV victims being taken into care?  Does a mother lose her housing after DV?  If she lost her job, what welfare benefits are left to support her?

1.23 Action points – We strongly recommend that the family courts should:

  • End the secrecy of family court proceedings. They must be open to public scrutiny in a way that protects the child’s identity (eg call the parents A and B).
  • Stop forcing children into unwanted contact with violent uncaring fathers.
  • Stop men using the family courts as a vehicle through which to continue to control a female partner who has left them.
  • Use Section 17 to provide resources to families who are poor, rather than take their kids away.
  • Reverse the privatisation of children’s homes and adoption services.
  • Stop taking children from mothers who report or are victims of domestic violence. They need protection not separation.

 2. Austerity cuts and Domestic Violence

2.1 DV has to be viewed in the context of the life conditions of women and children and the policies that help or hinder their conditions.  The government has cut women’s escape routes out of DV by massively cutting benefits, social housing, legal aid, advice lines, and funding to refuges.  Of the austerity cuts 86% have fallen on women.[1]  Many already cannot get appropriate mental health treatments on the depleted NHS.  Merely training officials to spot violence is not going to address any of this; it will instead increase state powers against women and children.  In the absence of resources and help, state agents such as social workers tend to prioritise policing mothers and punitively removing their children.

2.2 Research shows that low income Black and Asian women are the poorest and pay the highest price for austerity. Camden where we are based is ranked the 15th most deprived borough in London and has one of the highest rates of child poverty – 60% of children live in low income families. Mothers risk their children being taken into care when their poverty is equated with “neglect”. In 2011, 56% of Camden’s residents described being of Black minority ethnic origin or non-white. The overwhelming majority of rape and DV victims who come to us for help are working class and disproportionately affected by poverty, racism and other discrimination compared to the general population.

2.3 We refer you to recent evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee by WinVisible – Women with visible and invisible disabilities, to which we contributed. Universal Credit paid to the man in the household is a recipe for DV, as is the benefit cap:

https://winvisibleblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/winvisible-submission-on-assessments-with-quotes-updated.pdf

2.4      ‘The single monthly payment when paid to violent men is as dangerous as the total benefit cap, which is condemned by Women Against Rape for trapping women and children with violent men, and for penalising single mothers fleeing violence who rely on benefits to pay the rent in their safe accommodation. When the total benefit cap was first challenged at the Supreme Court in 2015, although the overall appeal failed, Lady Hale, currently President, stated: “The prejudicial effect of the cap is obvious and stark… This prejudicial effect has a disproportionate impact upon lone parents, the great majority of whom are women, and is also said to have such an impact upon victims of domestic violence, most of whom are also women”’(para 180, see http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2015/16.html

2.5 Action points

  • We support WinVisible’s demands to Stop and scrap Universal Credit, to reinstate disability benefits (including for women with mental ill-health caused by the trauma of domestic rape and other violence).
  • Reinstate welfare and housing benefits and end benefit sanctions
  • Reinstate legal aid.
  • Fund emergency and permanent housing for women fleeing violence beginning with the established network of refuges. Housing benefit is essential for refuges to survive.
  1. Destitution – a recipe for domestic violence

3.1 Destitution puts women at grave risk of domestic violence.  Women left with no money or resources are prey to every predatory, violent, exploitative man who takes advantage of the fact that she is desperate and has no routes to escape. This includes violent and abusive husbands, boyfriends and partners. For the government to deliberately make women destitute is to encourage and promote this abuse.

3.2 Destitution was first deliberately deployed against women seeking asylum (and with other immigration applications) whose legal cases had failed and been closed.   Many have already suffered domestic violence before coming to the UK. Our own and other research has found that over 70% of asylum-seeking women have fled rape in their country of origin. With the introduction of Section 55 (of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002) asylum-seekers who did not make a claim immediately on arrival in the UK were denied any support. Literally hundreds of women came to the door of the women’s centre where we are based. Some were sleeping in parks, in hospital A&E units, on night buses.

3.3 The deliberate policy of destitution against asylum-seekers and other immigrants has since been rolled out against many other women, making them also more vulnerable to domestic violence. For example, benefit sanctions and the delays in paying Universal Credit, have left many women with absolutely no income, or living below the poverty line, sometimes for months on end.  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s 2018 report found 1.5 million people destitute in the UK.

3.4 Destitution among women is particularly hidden, as they are less likely to be “street homeless” because of the fear of violence. In one study, 35% of destitute homeless women asylum seekers in the UK reported being raped.[2]  Instead women tend to rely on family, friends, acquaintances and strangers for a roof over their head and the basic necessities. This makes them vulnerable to sexual and domestic violence. For example, one woman in our network described fighting off attempted rape by the husband of the woman she was staying with.  She couldn’t risk telling his wife for fear she would end up in an even more dangerous situation on the street.  Nor could she tell the authorities, for fear she would be detained and removed because she had no immigration status. Another mother who was given shelter in exchange for childcare and housework became homeless when her son was physically attacked by the male head of the household.

3.5 Even when women win their legal cases, some are denied access to public funds and remain victims of or become vulnerable to domestic violence.

3.6 A government that makes women and girls deliberately destitute cannot claim to be taking action to protect women from domestic violence.

3.7 Action points:

  • Ending destitution is essential in tackling domestic violence. No-one should be left without the means to survive, least of all some of the most vulnerable women in the community – many of whom are already victims of domestic violence.
  • End the No Recourse to Public Funds policy.
  • The government should provide women who had fled from domestic violence to the UK with resources and protection in order to meet its Istanbul Convention obligations towards victims “irrespective of immigration status”.
  1. The hostile environment for victims of domestic violence in immigration and asylum procedures

4.1 Women are made destitute when their immigration applications are turned down, but in our experience cases fail unjustly because women do not get the legal and other help they need.  The hostile environment is deeply embedded in how asylum and immigration cases are considered.

4.2 To our knowledge no investigation or account has been taken of the impact on women’s vulnerability to domestic violence by how the Home Office treats asylum and immigration cases. A callous, hostile and frequently unjust system results in women being unable to report domestic violence and rape, and uses their difficulties in speaking about these horrific experiences to disbelieve them when they do. WAR’s Refuge from Rape and Destitution Campaign is highlighting how the Home Office and judges routinely flout case law and their own guidelines on how women should be treated, so that no consideration is given to the traumatic impact of rape and domestic violence.

4.3 Policies are being employed that deliberately disrupt women’s ability to pursue their legal cases: the Chapter 60 policy which sets a three month “window” within which women get no further notice of removal; certification which denies the right to an in country appeal, including by holding women at fault for not reporting rape and domestic violence earlier; fast-track decisions by the enforcement team charged with meeting targets for removals rather than a fair and thorough consideration of the evidence presented. The legal aid cuts compound the injustice, leaving many victims going to appeal hearings unrepresented or in the hands of inept or even corrupt private lawyers.

4.4 Action points:

  • Restore the right to legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases
  • End the “deport now appeal later” procedures so all appeals can be heard in the UK.
  • Withdraw the Chapter 60 “windows” policy and allow people time to access lawyers and the courts to challenge removals/deportation.
  • All Home Office and Tribunal hearings must adhere to their guidance about the treatment of vulnerable victims.
  • The government must recognise that severe and prolonged domestic violence is torture and that under the Convention Against Torture victims are entitled to resources and support to recover in the UK even if this took place in another country.
  • The UK should ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention to help protect vulnerable immigrant women in the UK, who otherwise have little protection and may be deported if they try to report violent men.
  1. Improving the police & CPS response, and victims’ experience of the justice system
  •  We do not call for any more powers to the police, as they are not using them accountably but are instead abusing them to intimidate and even arrest the women reporting violence.
  • The police and CPS do not implement the existing laws against domestic violence. They must be made to do so or be sacked.

5.3 The police can’t be relied on to investigate domestic violence, including domestic rape and even murder.  Nothing in your paper seriously addresses the current problems in how existing domestic violence laws are applied and the appallingly low conviction rate of 6.5% (Women’s Aid website 2014).  Two women are still being killed every week – often after many calls to the police and police inaction.  Yet no officer has ever been prosecuted or properly held to account for the bias or negligence that resulted in such deaths.  Even when the police were found guilty of failing in their duty of care to victims, we are not aware that the officers responsible were demoted, sacked or prosecuted.  If any have been, we would like to know.

5.4 The police already have laws and resources at their disposal if they choose to use them to protect women from rape and domestic violence.  They often choose not to.  In relation to rape – they seem to make up their own version of the law.  The Met was sued successfully this year for refusing to investigate serial rapist John Warboys –upheld by the Supreme Court despite a £1m legal appeal by the Met and government support.

5.5 When will they be held similarly accountable for refusing to investigate DV?

5.6 We know from extensive experience over four decades that in response to reports of domestic violence, the police and CPS do not always record them properly; in many cases they don’t gather, don’t test, or lose forensic and witness evidence; and they do not charge appropriately.

5.7 They put pressure on women to retract, and in some cases investigate the woman for committing some kind of crime, including accusing her of lying.  This has been evidenced by whistleblower PC James Patrick and other officers to the Public Administration Select Committee in November 2013, who testified that many women are bullied by police into retracting their allegations of rape.

5.8 Also, the 2014 HMIC report ‘A Matter of Fact’ said: “We are seriously concerned about the picture that is emerging – one of weak or absent management or supervision of crime recording and serious sexual offences not being recorded (14 rapes).  Some offenders have been issued with out of court disposals where their offending history could not justify it.  In some cases they should have been prosecuted.”  [HMIC REPORT]  Little has changed according to more recent reports.

5.9 The issue of rape as a serious and common form of DV, and the additional disbelief/suspicion that comes from many professionals/officials rarely receives official acknowledgement.  Every woman who ‘cries rape’ is suspected of lying, particularly if they have ever suffered violence before.  Yet it is well known that DV is a recurrent crime and that most victims suffer many attacks before they report.

5.10 The police also need to stop investigating rape and domestic violence separately when they are committed by the same perpetrator.  Rape is part of the definition of domestic violence; when they are investigated together more evidence will become available to build a case, get the CPS to charge appropriately, and more violent perpetrators can be convicted.

5.11 The CPS legal guidance on domestic violence says:

“Where a summary only offence has been committed, such as common assault, any charge(s) or information must be laid within 6 months of the date of the alleged incident.  This time limit may prevent some previous cases being joined with those involving later complainants.  However, the earlier victim(s)/complainant(s) may still be able to support the more recent case through the use of bad character evidence.”  https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/domestic-abuse-guidelines-prosecutors

5.12 This time limit of six months is a major problem in many cases and in practice results in many cases being dropped as out of time or the number of charges heavily reduced.  In court the woman victims find the history of domestic violence has been reduced to a single incident, and isolated from the pattern of other violence and threats to kill – such a representation is much less serious and convincing and less likely to result in the conviction and sentencing the crimes deserve.  Domestic violence incidents such as common assault, threats to kill, or threats to harm the children, should not be prosecuted as a summary only offence.

5.13 We strongly disagree with the government’s proposed new statutory definition of domestic violence which would make the law gender-neutral.  The current definition does not exclude men and boys.  But the proposed definition would take out gender completely thus hiding that the overwhelming majority of DV victims are women.  We have found that removing gender from violence which is very gendered further reduces women’s power to get protection and justice.  Men who are violent and controlling feel ‘entitled’ to exercise power over women and are adept at portraying themselves as ‘victims’ when they don’t get their way.  A gender neutral definition would play into their hands and should not be introduced.

5.14 We have seen many cases where men call the police on their victim in order to discredit her and cast doubt on what she has to say; tragically they are often successful.  Institutional sexism within the police and the criminal justice system as a whole results in women being disbelieved more than men, and facing harsher treatment.

5.15 Research by Prof Marianne Hester in 2009 ‘Who Does What to Whom?’ found that women are disproportionally arrested for DV compared to men.  Women are 3 times more likely to be arrested for DV – they are arrested every 3 incidents out of 10, whereas men are arrested every 1 incident out of 10.

5.16 More women victims of DV will be arrested and even charged if their violent partner can use this new definition as leverage to deflect blame away from themselves.  This already happens and will happen even more often.  More disbelief and prosecutions of women will follow, deterring even more women from reporting and seeking justice.

5.17 There is no better encouragement to women to engage with the criminal justice system than to improve the conviction rate and to robustly enforce the restrictions of movement on their attacker.

5.18 The victim should not be forced to prosecute or testify.  She is in the best position to judge whether a prosecution of her attacker will protect or endanger her, or her children.

5.19 Women must be given the power, protection, resources and support to follow through with a prosecution, rather than take it out of their hands and prosecute their attacker behind their back and without their consent.  It is punitive and heavy handed to prosecute a perpetrator of DV without giving his victim any police protection, and without changing the economic and other conditions in which she has been living so her and her children’s survival and safety are assured.

5.20 There are too many cases where women’s sexual history is still allowed in court.  Evidence found sexual history to have been used in a quarter to a third of rape trials (Vera Baird: Seeing is Believing: The Northumbria Court Observers Panel. Report on 30 rape trials 2015-16., and Application of Section 41 Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999: A Survey of Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs), by Lime Culture 2017.)

5.21 We are glad to see that Vera Baird and Harriet Harman are finally pressing for what we demanded during the formulation of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill in 1999, where we made it clear that evidence of sexual history with men other than the defendant should be excluded from trials.  Worryingly, Vera Baird’s evidence of breaching the current restrictions on evidence was totally dismissed by the Attorney General recently.

Contact: Black Women’s Rape Action Project bwrap@rapeaction.net
Women Against Rape war@womenagainstrape.net
tel 0207 482 2496

[1] Women’s Budget Group

[2] Underground Lives, PAFRAS Report March 2009