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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

The 'right to ask' Clares Law will be availible in some parts of England and Wales.

20 replies

Archemedes · 05/03/2012 12:14

I saw this on The BBC news homepage, had a little inner hurray!

OP posts:
Dworkin · 05/03/2012 12:26

Well those who work within domestic violence settings seem to disagree:

"Ms [Sandra] Horley said the majority of abusers were not known to the police and it was completely unclear whether the scheme would benefit anyone.

She added: "It is an absolute tragedy that Clare Wood was murdered by her ex-partner, but it is highly unlikely that she died because the police didn't inform her about her ex-partner's previous conviction.

"It is more likely she died because the police did not respond to her emergency 999 call for help."

Sandra Horley is Chief Executive of Refuge. This at a time also when Refuge are considering closing some houses due to lack of funds.

There have been lots of posts over on relationships where the man was released without charge because it was the first offense; one in particular in which the woman was knocked out in front of her children!

The Police response is what is important I think.

Dworkin · 05/03/2012 12:28

Sorry my bad. Refuge has had its funding cut by 50% and may close its doors altogether! So awful.

Archemedes · 05/03/2012 12:43

True there are still lots of problems but surely this is a step in the right direction.

OP posts:
Dworkin · 05/03/2012 12:46

The right direction to what exactly?

I don't mean to be obtuse and I symphatise greatly with Clare Woods father. However deflection from the real issue sometimes means that those who should sharpen up their practises, i.e. in this case the police response, are let off the hook.

TunipTheVegemal · 05/03/2012 12:51

It's not a bad thing in itself but it's a trivial and incredibly cheap measure compared with other issues surrounding dv at the moment - the fact that the police still can't be relied on to take it seriously, and the fact that funding is being cut which is leading to a crisis in the number of refuge places available.

I am also a bit cynical that it is aimed at putting the onus more on the victim - 'we've got Clare's Law, you should have found out he had a conviction, why didn't you bother to ask?' A huge number of people still believe that women who get involved with violent men have only themselves to blame, and this will make it worse, I'm afraid.

So - IMO a babystep in the right direction but one which risks distracting from bigger problems and causing new ones.

Archemedes · 05/03/2012 12:52

Well suppose if someone had an iclining something may be 'up' with a new partner could find out the relevant info and leave, before ending so entrenched in an abusive relationship its hard to leave. And we all know abusers can take years to show their true colours and by that time the damage is often done.

OP posts:
TunipTheVegemal · 05/03/2012 12:58

yes, I don't think it's a stupid idea, it's more the fact that it is happening now in the context of all the other things that makes me cynical.

FrillyMilly · 05/03/2012 13:01

I think it (yet again) puts blame on the victim. In my opinion the right direction would be for there to be more powers to step in and convict those who are charged with domestic violence, stalking or similar crimes.

Many abusers won't have a criminal record which could give a partner a false sense of security. Many abusers will talk themselves out of it with 'my ex was a bitch' excuses. I know someone who was a victim of domestic violence. She was barely allowed out the house, he would watch her go the shop and controlled her financially. How would she go the police station and request information? Would it be her fault for not getting him checked out sooner. I'd rather the resources go to refuge than criminal record checks.

FrillyMilly · 05/03/2012 13:34

I'm just watching the news and it is talking about this. I don't understand how this law would have helped Clare. It says she reported him to police several times before he killed her. Presumably she had realised what he was like and tried to end things. If she had checked him out after the first date and tried to end it would he have gone 'ok bye' or would the outcome have remained the same?

msrisotto · 05/03/2012 17:31

Exactly what FrillyMilly said.

No one on the news has mentioned how this is supposed to help really. Plenty of women stay with abusive men for a million reasons but none of them are that they didn't know they were abusive...This wasn't her fault! That's kind of the mentality behind this (I'm sure her father only has the best of intentions at heart but I still believe this is a victim blaming kind of law). The police failed Clare.

sunshineandbooks · 05/03/2012 17:54

It's the law and the courts that need to change most.

Most police forces now have what is known as a positive action policy regarding domestic abuse. This basically means that they can no longer turn up, treat it as 'just a domestic' and leave without doing anything. They also have to run a risk assessment on the victim as well as any children who are present or who normally reside in the house even if they aren't present at the time of the incident. This is all entered into a database so that repeated calls will end up flagging a particular victim as particularly high risk and ensure a greater priority for that person, as well as potentially triggering a child protection case. The police have made huge strides in this area. Obviously, this didn't happen in the case of Claire Wood, which is desperately sad and should be made accountable, but responses like this are reducing, and as more of the old misogynistic dinosaurs leave the police and the newer recruits who have received the better training move up, it will become even less prevalent. None of this will be any comfort to Claire Wood's family of course. Sad

But even assuming that every police officer abhors abuse and takes it seriously, beyond arresting the offender and running the risk assessment the police can do nothing. Injunctions are civil law, not criminal law and the law does not allow the police to hold anyone longer than a certain number of hours nor can it prevent them from returning to their home unless some very specific criteria are met. The police can only operate within the law, so if we want a better police response, we need to change the law and the perceptions of magistrates and judges.

Given that most victims will experience between 35 and 40 instances of abuse before they ever contact the police, I don't think Clare's Law will make a blind bit of difference either way TBH.

NatLipstick · 05/03/2012 21:15

At least this is getting people talking about violence against women, it's great to have the debate open and on fire! Especially during Women's Week and nearing V-Day. Hopefully we won't stop talking about it next week though... On that note, heard of a great show at the end of the month and got my tickets today.. looks good.. 'A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer' on at the Lyric on Shaftesbury avenue on March 26th. Eve Ensler is in it! (author of The Vagina Monologues) and Rosario Dawson, Meera Syal and Trudie Styler!! Can't wait. All for charity too!

maybenow · 05/03/2012 22:17

I don't understand this law at all... surely if a partner or potential partner does ANYTHING that might make you wonder if they had a conviction for assault you should be LEAVING IMMEDIATELY, not asking the police if he's been caught before?

Surely this law is obscuring and complicating the simple fact that if somebody scares you or treats you with disrespect, you do not have to stand it for one more moment?

Also, i see it as putting more responsibility onto the victim rather than empowering them. Women (and men) should leave ANY PARTNER who treats them badly in any way, not just convicted abusers.

KRITIQ · 05/03/2012 22:41

I think it's a sop. I don't doubt that the family of Clare Wood genuinely believe that promoting this kind of access to information will genuinely help, but I agree it's unlikely to have any genuine impact on women's safety or welfare.

I think it's a sop so the Government can "look" like they are doing something big and important to protect women and tackle violent men. It will be cheap as chips because the onus will be on individual women to access the information and they know that most probably won't bother. We already know most abuse is not reported to authorities, so a "clean" report could give a false sense of security, or make a woman doubt her instinct if she starts to get niggling feelings something isn't right.

And, of course, even if a man hasn't been abusive in previous relationships, it's no indication that he might not become abusive in a new one.

Nope, I don't think it will make a whit of difference to women's safety or in any way serve as a deterrent for men who seek to abuse women.

What is needed is genuine, consistent messages that domestic abuse is not tolerable, starting from the first years of primary school, through high school, outside school in youth and community work, through women's safety being upheld in law and appropriate sanctions/punishment for those who violate it, by having sufficient, safe spaces for women and their children to go but also the genuine legal power to make an abusive man leave the home, and leave the woman alone. It's a combination of practical steps and support and major culture change. I'm not the least bit confident that we'll get either in the short term. All the indications are that both are moving swiftly backwards.

PlumpDogPillionaire · 05/03/2012 22:58

KRITIQ has already said it - it's a sop.
And even if people do check existing information on partners, where is this actually going to get them?
Are people expected to abandon relationships on the basis of this information? Would this knowledge be seen to function as a form of 'consent' if there's then violence within that relationship? At what point would it be 'useful' for people to investigate their partners in this way?

Yes, it might help someone somewhere - possibly.

But it's already been outlined in this thread what would be more reliably useful in preventing and ending DV and it seems that the possibility of developing and maintaining those is in fact being abandoned - very frightening, wrong and irresponsible.

Dworkin · 05/03/2012 23:23

Many women are already deeply involved in the relationship, with children, less job prospects, before the violence starts. ANYTHING? Are you serious? Anything could be a simple evil eye look as you are laughing and smiling at a joke, a simple put down that starts the whole process that could eventually lead to death.

I'm being serious here. Violence exposes itself after many long years of emotional and financial abuse. Then it escalates quickly. Very rarely does it mean a kiss, a fumble and a fist on the jaw.

KRITIQ · 05/03/2012 23:56

Missed maybenow's post earlier, but at the risk of sounding like there's an echo in here, agree with Dworkin completely. The dynamics of control and abuse in a relationship are rarely straightforward and by the time you start to recognise you are in a dangerous place, you're probably in so deep that there are as many risks in leaving as in staying.

Perhaps we'd all like to believe it's really simple, one nasty glance, one swear word, even one shove and we'd be out like a shot, but it ain't like that.

sunshineandbooks · 06/03/2012 00:12

The trouble with maybenow's solution is that if you put it into practice, very few women would ever get in a relationship again.

Just as women are socialised to be compliant, our culture socialises men to be 'masculine' - dominant, take control, wear the trousers, have the final say, be the man of the household, man-up, male bonding over football and the pub, etc. Anything else and his 'manhood' becomes questionable and he is often considered emasculated. Cleaning, child-caring, anything traditionally female is still ridiculed by a large proportion of society. But without those 'feminine' traits being embraced by men, you will always have a situation where most domestic relationships have a power imbalance and the woman is being treated with respect. Isn't the figure some 80% of households in which women STILL do about 80% of the housework and childcare even when both partners work full-time. That's disrespectful. Do you leave then or wait for the first punch? It's a relevant question because if abuse is about entitlement rather than anger, then abuse is also about lack of respect and that starts with simple things like not pulling your weight around the house confident in the knowledge that your partner will pick up the slack.

maybenow · 06/03/2012 19:07

I agree with all the past three posters about the insidious and creeping nature of abuse, the way it escalates gradually and slowly and erodes self-esteem and any idea of what is 'normal'...

... and so i see no point in this new law because i don't think that the people at most risk will be going to the police to ask about their partner's history, anymore than they will be leaving their partners.

But that doesn't change my opinion that the message has to be LEAVE any relationship that causes fear or misery, nobody deserves to live in fear. I know it's easier said than done but that doesn't change how often that needs to be said..

BasilRathbone · 06/03/2012 19:54

sunshineandbooks raises a really good point. A man who leaves his socks on the floor every day expecting you to pick them up, is displaying a disturbing sense of entitlement.

Both women and men are socialised to believe that this sort of disrespect, is unimportant and actually means nothing

So how is a woman supposed to know, when a man's actions are unimportant nothings and when they are a sign that he has a sense of entitlement that might one day extend to physical abuse of her?

DV happens in the context of a whole culture which pre-supposes and supports male entitlement. It is far too common (25% of women experience it) to dismiss as something that only a few women suffer so they and their abusers can be marginalised as in some way different to the rest of us. We need so much less tolerance of male entitlement and so much more education about it and its links with violence and abuse and that would be more effective than this gimmick.

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