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Diahanne Rhiney's picture
Diahanne Rhiney
Domestic Violence: not just a matter of speaking out

FACT: The reality is that one in four women will be abused

DURING THE Christmas season when Domestic Violence (DV) statistics are through the roof, we are surrounded by campaigns and charities centred upon the need for victims to 'speak out'. As I have said many times previously, speaking up and seeking help in a violent relationship is certainly always the right thing to do for the victims of all types of domestic violence.

Seeking a supported route to action is vital to recovery, well-being, safety and healing. However, my priority when it comes to abuse issues is one of accountability. I believe that when it comes to DV, the issue of accountability is far more complex than solely placing the responsibility on the victims of domestic violence to 'speak up'.

On Wednesday December 16, BBC2 will air a courageous film entitled 'Love You To Death: A Year of Domestic Violence'. It is set to once again remind us of the reality of British women. In this film, Vanessa Engle will bravely explore the harrowing story of every single one of the 86 women killed by husbands and partners in 2013.

This shocking figure is just the number of fatalities. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the estimated number of Domestic Violence victims in the UK presently stands at an estimated 1.4 million women and 700,000 men for 2015 alone. The numbers on DV fatalities has severely worsened since Vanessa filmed 'Love You To Death' and some DV charities are already fearing that more than 111 women have been murdered this year so far.

With this in mind, you might think that with such staggeringly increasing statistics and so many women murdered, the government would have acted strategically in 2015. You'd be wrong. A few weeks ago (somewhat ironically on the UN's International Day to End Violence Against Women), George Osborne announced that he had slashed local authority budgets by a further £4.1 billion which equates to a 56% reduction in the grants given by central government to local authorities.

Bearing in mind that DV is a very real pandemic that is claiming the lives of British women of all walks of life and ages, it is shocking that the winter Budget also announced a £12billion increase for the Ministry of Defence to spend on weapons, stealth fighters, warships and tanks.

This isn't the first time DV has been offered the shortest end of the stick. The year before Vanessa Engle's film, The Independent reported that Christmas statistics were increasing and highly concerning. Yet at the very same time, a Freedom of Information request revealed that councils in England and Wales cut annual spending on services aimed at helping vulnerable women by an average of £44,914 each last year. In London alone, the budget for refuges and domestic violence services was slashed by £1.9 million.
S
andra Horley CBE, Refuge's chief executive previously said: "We hold ourselves up as the pinnacle of the developed world and yet, in Britain today, thousands of women and children are brutalised and terrorised in their own homes. And services to support them are vanishing."

I will echo the arguably radical words of many and say austerity is a form of governmental violence against women.
In the days after the post-Winter Budget announcement Sisters Uncut protest, activist Lucy Strange detailed the severity of the situation: "Since austerity began in 2010 over 30 specialist domestic violence services have closed. 30 services that provided a lifeline to women fleeing violence, services that offered specialist knowledge, empathy, hope, a future."

Domestic Violence, like everything, is a matter of financial support. Without a budget, simply telling women to 'speak up' is not enough. Campaigns that encourage victims to 'speak out' and seek help are vital; but they will succeed if the services in place for vulnerable people are funded and supported by our government.

The reality is that one in four women will be abused by a partner next year and it is heartbreaking that I am sitting here saying that I suspect these figures might increase as they have done incrementally for the past few years. So many victims of DV are failed directly by these cuts as it leaves them even more vulnerable and open to more attacks.

'Love You To Death: A Year of Domestic Violence' will air on BBC2 on Wednesday December 16 at 9pm. I believe this groundbreaking film will be a must-watch. However, I urge you to watch it with an open mind. We are all the potential face of DV and without support from the government, this sad reality will remain unchanged and continue to plague each new generation. I say, watch the film on Wednesday and then go about writing to your local MP so that together we can help charities like Refuge continue to save lives.

Follow Diahanne on Twitter: @diahanneuk and www.diahannerhiney.com

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