Clare’s Law: the domestic violence disclosure scheme

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.

7 thoughts on “Clare’s Law: the domestic violence disclosure scheme

  1. I’m sorry hear about your daughters experience at that school. No child (or parent) should have to go through that. I agree that general indifference to sexism and violence against women is a massive problem in Britain. I also believe it’s part of a much wider issue. For example – indifference to exploitation in developing nations, indifference to illegal invasions, indifference to rampant police corruption, indifference to-organised paedophila in the corridors of power….

    Eventually, the consequences of all of this indifference “trickles down”, and lands square on our doorstep.

    If the British government doesn’t care about the innocent children they bomb and place sanctions on, what makes people in this country think OUR children are high up on the governments priority list? For those of us who genuinely care about these issues, all we can do is share our experiences, show solidarity, and organise. On the other hand, the worst thing we can do as a nation, is allow ourselves to be divided by media/government xenophobia, classism, and sexism.

    • Totally agree, i wonder if we could travel back in time whether the run up to french revolution, the first and second world wars, the russian revolution would feel something like it does in the world today. The indifference to human suffering shown by political elite all over and corruption is not the first time weve been down this road. It doesnt smell good …

  2. Considering how many women have been murdered by seemingly innocent men, I think Clare’s law is a step in the right direction. After all, men who perpetrate violence against women, and are convicted for it, should live with the consequences – even after they’ve served their sentence.

    But its obvious that this isn’t enough. The murder rate of women in the UK at the hands of men is shocking. More finances need to put in place to offer safe places for women to seek help. Schools should be better resourced to address what is clearly a widely experienced problem. Etc, etc.

    Raising awareness on this issue is the best start, but practical resources to protect women need funding. The government’s position is shameful. I doubt the average person in Britain would be as indifferent as the media is if they knew the true extent of violence against women in this country.

    • Im afraid I think that people in Britain are indifferent to the amount of violence perpetrated against females by males. Currently 1 in 3 girls experiences sexist violence in school with neither teachers nor parents seemingly particularly bothered enough to protest or stop this. I’ve just moved my 6 year old daughter following 4 months of sexist violence including a sexual assault, concusion and her being put into a special needs therapy class as a way of stigmatising her. Having been to all the child safeguarding authorities I have been appalled at how disinterested they are in holding the governors and teachers to account at all. The sheer volume of sexist abuse in schools is a really good reflection of how saturated our society is in gender driven hatred.

  3. Hecuba -thank you for your concise summing up of male supremacy, dominance and femicide. In reality the latest legislation Clare’s Law may help some women but Hecuba’s important points highlight the fact that this latest legislation will not alter men’s attitudes or their violence against women and children.She is correct when she states that Clare’s Law fails to put the spotlight on the perpetrators of violence against women & children-MEN.
    I agree Hecuba, this is a quick fix measure which may in fact work against women and give a false sense of security. Once again the onus of responsibility for men’s behaviour is placed on women. This law is yet another strategy which invisibilises male perpetrators.What is urgently needed in order to begin to tackle male violence against women is not only must the perpetrators be named
    we have to examine and acknowledge the structures which support male domination. so they can be broken down.

  4. My concern is when a woman finds out about the mans abusive past.She may distort/minimise it depending on her own relational needs and therefore create a trauma bond (stockholme syndrome) which may not have occured if the disclosure had not been

  5. I too have considerable concerns about this latest male initiated ‘window dressing’ in respect of mens’ pandemic violence against women. I too believe male perpetrators’ defence counsel will use the claim that because the woman knew her male partner/ex male partner was a violent man, this in itself absolves him of any accountability whatsoever. The woman once again, not the man will be held accountable for supposedly ‘causing her own death because she knew male had a history of violence against women.’ That male created word ‘choice’ will be used to blame the woman because she supposedly ‘chose’ to form a relationship with a violent male and therefore his violence perpetrated against was not his fault but the woman’s! Bingo – how to blame women and ensure male accountability is always erased.

    Male dominated government once again avoids going to root of the issue which is how and why innumerable men have their excuses/denials accepted as ‘justified’ because men must never be held accountable for their choice and agency to commit violence against women and girls.

    Indeed the causes of male violence are complex but one central issue men and their male supremacist system always refuse to accept is the fact men have always accorded themselves the power and right to subject women and girls to male domination and male control. Once this fact is accepted then we can begin to dismantle mens’ structures and systems which enable them to commit violence against women and girls with impunity.

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