The basic principle of allowing women to find out if a partner/prospective partner has a violent history is sound. I’ve spoken to several women who have had violent relationships who have told me that they think it would have made a difference to them, to have what we might call ‘warning signs’ confirmed.
But I have a number of concerns:
- Most domestic violence is not reported to the police, estimates vary but it is thought that only 24-40% of domestic violence is reported to the police, so the possibility of false negatives is high, “no history on record” is not the same as “no history” or “no risk”. Women are psychologically undermined through domestic violence, they learn to question and doubt themselves, being told that a man who is showing signs of coercive/aggressive/violent behaviour has no record, may make a woman more likely to doubt what is happening or to blame herself.
- Will there be sufficient specialist help available if a woman finds out a man has a violent history? We know that specialist services are facing unprecedented cuts. Women’s Aid research has shown that in 2013 there are 21 fewer specialist refuge providers in 2013 than there were in 2010.
- What if she has children? (By him or a previous partner) Will there be pressure on her to leave from social services or face child safeguarding enquiries?
- If she doesn’t leave and is killed, will agencies use the fact that she knew as a way of absolving themselves of any responsibility?
- What happens to the man? Presumably, if the woman chooses to leave him, he will simply move on to another relationship. Are perpetrator programmes available?
- Will a woman be pressured to report a crime if she wants to use the scheme? Not all women want to and pressurising a woman to take action before she is ready could put her at further risk.
Clare’s Law needs to be resourced and that means investment in, not cuts to, specialist women’s services.
I’m concerned that the government is going for quick fixes and potential headlines. The number of women killed though domestic has remained consistent for over 10 years. Yet that’s not the whole story. It’s being reported today that 88 women were killed through domestic violence last year, but I’ve counted 120 women killed through men’s violence, including 16 women who were killed by their sons. Clare’s Law would not have helped them. We’re not being told the whole story about men’s fatal violence against women. A long term, wide reaching approach is needed. Men’s violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. Quick fixes are not the solution. Clare’s Law, may make a difference to some women who request information, but it’s not enough.