Writing women’s lived reality out of the narrative of their death

8 Christina Randall

Hull City Council has recently published a Domestic Homicide Review[i] (DHR) into the murder of Christina Spillane, also known as Christina Randell. The conclusion in the  Executive Summary of the full report stated ‘Nothing has come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’

On 5th December 2013, Christina Spillane had phoned the police and in the course of describing threatening and aggressive behaviour from Deland Allman, her partner of over 20 years, she told them that he was going to kill her. The claim that nothing suggested her murder could have been predicted is not just wrong, it is doing one of the things that DHRs are supposed to avoid: writing the voice of the victim out of her own narrative. Christina had herself predicted that Allman was going to kill her and she told this to the police the first time there was any recorded contact between  her and them. Also, women are more likely to underestimate the risk they face from a violent partner than overestimate it.  Her fears should not have been ignored whilst she was still alive, let alone after she had been killed.

The conclusion of the executive summary of the DHR, contrary to several examples given in the body of the report, states ‘There is nothing to indicate there were any barriers to reporting and advice and information was given to [Christina]  regarding services but these were not taken up.’ This belies any understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and almost 1 in 10 will suffer domestic violence in any given year. Most women will never make any sort of formal report, to the police or any other service, statutory or otherwise, but most of them would be able to explain why they haven’t, exactly because of the multitude of barriers to doing so: shame, feeling it’s your own fault, not wanting to admit there’s a problem, feeling knackered enough and demoralised by the abuse and not being able to face telling a stranger about it, feeling judged, feeling more afraid of the unknown future than the known present or past. These are just a few examples from a much longer list of possibilities. On one occasion that the police were called to respond to Allman’s violence against Christina, their adult child had told the police that their mother, Christina ‘was too scared to call the police.’ That the panel of people assembled for the domestic homicide review panel declined to identify this, or any other significant barriers to reporting in the report’s conclusion, is a shockingly bad omission.

Research published in 2012 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that 95% of women using women’s services preferred to receive them from a women only-organisation.   Another report ‘Islands in the Stream’ by London Metropolitan University also stressed the importance of independent organisations. The domestic violence and abuse service in Hull is provided by Hull Domestic Abuse Partnership, a multi-agency response within the council’s community safety function. This is not an independent woman-only organisation. It is remiss that the DHR report does not consider whether this might be a barrier to reporting. Indeed it only reinforces the suggestion that too many statutory commissioners are happy to ignore what women tell us about the services they most value and furthermore, that independent women’s organisations are often undervalued and their importance side-lined.

For Christina there were additional problems: she had problematic substance use and a long history of involvement in prostitution. The review details that she had a criminal record including  ‘prostitute loitering and prostitute soliciting’ but does not consider even in passing that this may have affected her behaviour, choices, beliefs about herself or relationship with ‘the authorities’. By failing to look at this, the inclusion of this information in the review risks merely inviting judgment of her character, the expectation of which is itself a barrier to accessing support. Indeed a report by nia found that prostitution-specific criminal records have a profound and specific negative impact on women, massively influencing how they expect to be viewed by others. Additionally, involvement in prostitution itself is a homicide risk factor.  The Femicide Census found that of women who were involved in prostitution and killed  between 2009 and 2015, almost 20% had been killed by a current or former partner, suggesting prostitution must be recognised as not just a risk factor for or form of male violence, but also as a risk factor for intimate partner violence including homicide. There is no indication in the DHR that anyone on the review panel had an expertise in understanding the impacts of prostitution upon women and considered this a barrier.

On 1st February 2015, almost two years and two months after telling the police that she feared Allman would kill her, Christina Spillane was found dead. Allman had stabbed her three times and strangled her in an assault of such force that the blade had snapped. She was 51. Far from there being ‘Nothing [that had] come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’ as concluded in the executive summary, there had been a number of indicators of serious risk: escalating violence, threats to kill, reports of strangulation, separation, expression of suicidal thoughts by Allman, and male entitlement/possessiveness indicated by Allman’s belief that Christina was ‘having an affair’. Christina had spoken to the police, her GP, her drugs support agency, a support provider for women offenders and A&E between calling the police in December 2013 and her murder on the eve of 1st February 2015. It is simply incorrect to state that support ‘was not taken up’. Another interpretation is that Christina Spillane was desperately afraid and made multiple disclosures as she sought to find a route to safety, was facing multiple barriers to accessing specialist services and was failed by those that may have been able to help.

Frank Mullane, CEO of AAFDA,  a charity set up to support families of victims of domestic homicide in memory of his sister and nephew who were murdered by their husband/father, says that the “victim’s perspective should permeate these reviews throughout”. The DHR in to the murder of Christina Spillane sorely failed to achieve this aim

No-one but the perpetrator, Deland Allman, bears responsibility for killing Christina. It is not the purpose of a DHR to redirect blame from violent killers (usually men) who make choices to end (usually women’s) lives. But if DHRs are to fulfil the functions of contributing to a better understanding and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse, they cannot be a hand-washing exercise. They need to ask big questions, there needs to be a robust challenge to victim blaming and they must endeavour to see things from a victim’s (usually woman’s) perspective. If we want them to be part of what makes a difference, we need to make sure that we hear what victims of violence tell us, rather than use them as a means of absolving us from taking responsibility for the differences that we might have been able to make.

 [i]  Since 2001, local authorities have been required to undertake and usually publish reports on Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) where the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by a relative, household member or someone they have been in an intimate relationship with. The purposes of the reviews, which should be chaired by an independent person with relevant expertise, include establishing and applying  what lessons are to be learned from the ways that agencies work to safeguard victims and also, to contribute to a better understanding of and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse.

 

2017

77 women

January – June 2017: At least 77 UK women killed by men, or where a man is the principal suspect. 77 women in 180 days is one woman dead every 2.3 days.

  1. 7 January 2017: Nicola Beck, 52, was found dead along with her husband Michael Beck, 62. Police have described their deaths as ‘domestic related murder and suicide.’
  2. 8 January 2017: Kerri McCauley, 32, was found dead. A post-mortem was inconclusive but Norfolk Police said there was evidence that Kerri was subjected to a severe blunt force assault. Her former partner, Joe Storey, 26, has been charged with her murder.
  3. 10 January 2017: Eulin Hastings, 74, was killed in a house fire. A 26-year-old man was arrested and bailed.
  4. 11 January 2017: Victoria Shorrock, 45, was found dead having suffered ‘a number of injuries’. Lee Grime, 35, has been charged with her murder.
  5. 16 January 2017: Leone Weeks, 16, was found stabbed to death on a footbath close to her home. 18-year-old Shea Heeley, has been charged with her murder.
  6. 16 January 2017: Kiran Daudia, 46, ‘s remains were found in a suitcase by a member of the public. Her 50-year-old ex-husband, Ashwin Daudia, has been charged with her murder.
  7. 18 January 2017: Kulwinder Kaur, 40, was killed by a stab wound to her neck. Her husband, Azad Singh, 46, has been charged with her murder.
  8. 19 January 2017: Anne Forneaux, 70, was found dead at home and is believed to have been killed by her husband, Edward Forneaux, 74, who is thought to have killed himself by driving in to a tree.
  9. 20 January 2017: Anita Downey, 51, is thought to have been stabbed to death. David Lymess, 51, has been charged with her murder.
  10. 28 January 2017: Chrissy Kendall, 46, was found dead with multipole stab wounds. Her husband James Neary, 46, has been charged with her murder.
  11. 30 January 2017: Gillian Zvomuya, 42, also known as Nyasha Kahari, dies from head injuries and also suffered injuries from a ‘bladed item’. Her husband Norbery Chikerema, 42, has been charged with her murder.
  12. 3 February 2017: Amandeep Kaur, 35, was found dead with significant injuries. Baldeep Singh, 38, has been charged with her murder.
  13. 6 February 2017: Tina Billingham, 54, was taken to a doctor’s surgery with stab wounds but later died in hospital. Her partner Ronald Cook, 54, has been charged with her murder.
  14. 11 February 2017: Hannah Dorans, 21, was found dead. Frazer Neil, 23, has been charged in relation to her death.
  15. 11 February 2017: Catherine Kelly, 71, was killed in a fire which was thought to have been started deliberately.
  16. 11 February 2017: Hang Yin Leung, 64, was killed when a group of men posing as cold callers entered and robbed her home.
  17. 13 February 2017: Karina Batista, 40, was found dead with multiple injuries to her upper body. Jaici Rocha, 36, has been charged with her murder.
  18. 15 February 2017: Humara Khan, 42, was found to have a serious head injury when police were called to her home. She later died in hospital. Her husband Jamal Khan, 52, has been charged with her murder.
  19. 19 February 2017: Hazel Wilson Briant, 27, was stabbed to death by her partner Olumide Orimoloye, 42, who also killed himself.
  20. 19 February 2017: Margaret Stenning, 79, was stabbed to death. Her husband, Ronald Stenning, who claimed she slit her own throat, has been charged with her murder.
  21. 22 February 2017: Avis Addison, 88, was found dead at home after police were called to the property. Her husband Douglas Addison, 88, has been charged with her murder.
  22. 26 February 2016: Julie McCash, 43, was stabbed to death at a vigil being held for her missing nephew. Robert Stratton, 42, has been charged with her murder.
  23. 26 February 2017: Sarah Pitkin, 58, is believed to have been stabbed to death by her husband Richard Pitkin, , 65, who then hanged himself.
  24. 28 February 2017: Lea Adri-Soejoko, 80, was found dead in an allotment lock-up store. She had been strangled. Rahim Mohammadi, 40, has been charged with her murder.
  25. In February 2015, Justene Reece, 46, killed herself by hanging following a period of sustained stalking and coercive control. In a landmark legal case, Nicolas Allen, who had formerly been Justene’s partner, admitted manslaughter.
  26. 8 March 2017: Anne-Marie James, 33, was stabbed to death by her brother Melvin James,36, who then killed himself. He also badly injured their mother.
  27. 13 March 2017: Sabrina Mullings, 38, was stabbed to death. Her partner Ivan Griffin, 23, has been charged with her murder.
  28. 22 March 2017: Aysha Frade, 43, was killed when Adrian Ajao/Elms, also known as Khalid Massod, drove a car in to pedestrians in a terrorist attack in London.
  29. 25 March 2017: Tracey Wilkinson, 50, and her son Pierce, 13, were stabbed to death by Aaron Bailey who was known to the family. Her husband was also badly hurt in the attack.
  30. 25 March 2017: Kanwal/Bernice Williams was last seen alive. Her body was found on 9th of April, two days after the discovery of the body of her husband Lawrence Williams, 50. He is thought to have killed himself.
  31. 6 April 2017: Andreea Christea, 31, died after falling in to the river Thames when Adrian Ajao/Elms, also known as Khalid Massod, drove a car in to pedestrians in a terrorist attack in London on 22 March.
  32. 9 April 2017: Vicki Hull, 31, was found strangled. Mark Mahoney, 31, has been charged with her murder.
  33. 14 April 2017: Hannah Bladon, 20, a student from Derby , was stabbed to death in Jerusalem by Jamil Tamimi, 57.
  34. 17 April 2017: Carolyn Hill, 51, died of a head injury. Skye Page, 37, has been charged with her murder.
  35. 19 April 2017: Karina Evemy, 19, died in hospital of injuries sustained on 13th Her boyfriend Dylan Harries, 21, had previously been charged with attempted murder.
  36. Between 16 April and May 2017: Megan Bills, 17, was killed. She was found decomposing and wrapped in cling film in May. Ashley Foster, 24, was initially charged with preventing a proper burial and later charged with her murder.
  37. 4 May 2017: Karolina Chwiluk, 20, died after being stabbed in an incident in which two other people were injured. Grzesiek Kosiec, 23, said to have been her boyfriend, has been chared with her murder and two counts of GBH.
  38. 7 May 2017: Tracy Kearns, 43, was last seen alive. Her body was found on 11 May.  She had been strangled. Her partner Anthony Bird has been charged with her murder.
  39. 15 May 2017: Concepta Leonard, 51, was stabbed to death by her ex-partner Peadar Phair, who and killed himself and tried to kill her son.
  40. Angelica Klis, 40
  41. Georgina Callendar, 18
  42. Saffie Roussos, 8*
  43. Kelly Brewster, 32
  44. Olivia Campbell, 10
  45. Alison Howe, 45
  46. Lisa Lees, 47
  47. Jane Tweddle-Taylor, 51
  48. Megan Hurley, 15
  49. Nell Jones, 14
  50. Michelle Kiss, 45
  51. Sorrell Leczkowski, 14
  52. Chloe Rutherford, 17
  53. Eilidh Macleod, 14
  54. Wendy Fawell, 50
  55. Courtney Boyle, 19
  56. Elaine McIver, 43
  57. 23 May 2017: Gemma Leeming, 30, was found strangled. Craig O’Sullivan, 39, has been charged with her murder.
  58. 25 May 2017: Emma Day, 33, was stabbed to death. Her ex-partner, Mark Morris, 39, has been charged with her murder.
  59. 26 May 2017: Mohanna Abdhua, 20, also known as Montana, was shot dead in what appears to have been crossfire of a ‘gangland shooting’. Two men have been arrested and bailed.
  60. 27 May 2017: Marjorie Cawdrey and her husband Michael, both 83, were stabbed to death. A 40-year-ond man has been charged in relation to their murders.
  61. 28 May 2017: Sobhia Khan, 37 was found dead. Her husband Ataul Mustafa, 35, has been charged with her murder.
  62. 29 May 2017: Romina Kalachi, 32, was found stabbed to death in London.
  63. 30 May 2017: Arena Saeed, 30 and her two children Shadia, 6 and Rami, 4 were killed in Liverpool. Her husband (their father) Sami Salem, 30, has been charged in relation to their deaths.
  64. 2 June 2017: Alyson Watt, 52, was stabbed to death and her 16-year-old son was also attacked. Her former partner Gary Brown, 54, has been charged.
  65. Christine Archibald, 30
  66. Kirsty Boden, 28
  67. Sara Zelenak, 21
  68. 8 June 2017: Sarah Jeffrey, 48, was strangled. Her husband Christopher Jeffrey, 51, has been charged with her murder.
  69. 10 June 2017: Corinne Hayes, 23, was found dead on 10th A 33-year-old man has been detained under the Mental Health Act in relation to her death.
  70. 13 June 2017: Jean Chapman, 81, was killed by blunt force trauma to the head. Her 71-year-old husband John Chapman, has been charged with murder.
  71. 12 June 2017: Janice Griffiths, 59, died in hospital 2 days after being subjected to a violent attack. A 22-year-old man has been held under the Mental Health Act in relation to her death.
  72. 14 June 2017: Joanne Rand, 47, dies after sustaining chemical burns on 3 June from a substance in a bottle that was kicked during ‘an altercation’. Xeneral Webster has been charged with attempted GBH.
  73. 17 June 2017: Dionne Clark, 27, was found dead. Dominic Wallis, 28, and Elizabeth Ellis, 19, have been charged in relation to her murder.
  74. 18 June 2017: Ellen Higginbottom, 18, was killed through multiple wounds to her neck. Mark Steven Buckley, 51, has been charged with her murder.
  75. 27 June 2017: Julie Parkin, 39, was stabbed to death. Adam Parkin, 35, has been charged with her murder.
  76. 29 June 2017: Molly McLaren, 23, was killed by her throat being slit. Her ex-boyfriend, Joshua Stimpson, 25, has been charged with her murder.
  77. 29 June 2017: Joanne Hemingway, 39, died in hospital after being seriously assaulted. Glenn Foster, 42, has been charged with her murder.

Awaiting charging information regarding the deaths of Samantha Blake-Mizen, Rosemarie Stokes and Anna Maria Pereira De Sousa Rebelo. Please let me know if you have information regarding the deaths of these women or any other women/girls (aged 13 and over)  where a man/men is/are the primary suspects in the UK or UK women killed abroad in 2017.

*Counting  Dead Women is a record of women and girls aged 13 and over. Saffie Roussos is commemorated here but not included in the count.

Last updated 4 July 2017

Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence Homicides*: Sex Differences April 2012 – March 2015 (3 years)

Domestic Homicide or Intimate Partner Homicide?

The ONS defines domestic homicide as including the following: spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriends/girlfriend, ex-spouse/ex-co-habiting partner, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, adulterous relationship, lover’s spouse and emotional-rival as well as son/daughter, parent (including step and adopted relationships), which is broader than the generally understood partner or ex-partner to more closely align with the government definition of domestic violence.

Intimate partner homicides are a subset of this and are committed by cohabiting partner, boyfriends/girlfriend, ex-spouse/ex-co-habiting partner, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, adulterous relationship, lover’s spouse and/or emotional-rival.

Domestic Violence – Who gets killed?

DV who.JPG

More women than men are killed in the context of ‘domestic homicide’, 315 women in 3 years compared to 117 men. Women were 73% of all victims of domestic violence homicide, men were 27% of all victims of domestic violence homicide.

Domestic Violence – Who gets killed by whom?

DV who by whom

Women killed in the context of ‘domestic  homicide’ are more likely than men to be killed by members of the opposite sex: Of the 315 female victims of ‘domestic  homicide’, 304 (97%) were killed by men. Of the 117 male victims of ‘domestic homicide’, 37 (32%) were killed by women

Domestic Violence -Who kills?

DV who kills

Intimate Partner Violence – Who gets killed?

IPV who

More women than men are killed by a partner/ex-partner, 243 women in 3 years compared to 60 men. Women were 80% of all victims of intimate partner homicide (243/303), men were 20% of all victims of intimate partner homicide (60/303)

Intimate Partner Violence – Who kills?

IPV who kills.JPG

Intimate Partner Violence – Who gets killed by whom?

IPV who by whom.JPG

Men killed by current or ex-intimate partners  are more likely than women to have been killed by someone of the same sex. Of the 60 male victims of intimate partner homicide, 27 (45%) were killed by men, 33 (55%) were killed by women. Of the 243 female victims of intimate partner homicide, 2 (1%) were killed by women, 241 (99%) were killed by men.

Of those killed in the context of intimate partner homicide by someone of the opposite sex, women were 88% (241/274) of victims, men were 12% (33/274), i.e. women are more than 7 times more likely to be  killed by a man, than men are by a women in the context of intimate partner homicide.

 

*Homicide  –   In England and Wales homicide is constituted of two offences: murder and manslaughter.  Murder is committed when a person (or persons) of sound mind unlawfully kills someone and had the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.  There are three exceptions which can make a killing manslaughter rather than murder: that there was intent but a partial defence applies, that there was not intent but  there was gross negligence and risk of death, or thirdly, that there was no intent but conduct that was an unlawful act which involved danger and resulted in death. 
Data from Office for National Statistics (2016) Focus on Violence Crime and Sexual Offences. London. Office for National Statistics

What do you think of when you hear the term ‘Cultural Violence’?

Culture is the ideas, social behaviours and traditions or customs of a particular society or group.

Cultural violence occurs when an someone is harmed as a result of practices that are part of her culture or tradition.  In patriarchal societies male violence against women is cultural, it is normalised, it functions as a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men.

In the UK, for April 2014, we could represent cultural violence like this:

April 201 - 15 women

(Left to right. Top row: Doreen Walker, Senga Closs, Kayleigh Palmer, Image to represent Sandra Boakes, Yvette Hallsworth; Middle row: Isabelle Sanders, Judith Nibbs, Pauline Butler, Angela Smeaton, Doreen Webb; Bottom row: Image to represent Elaine Duncan, Malgorzata Dantes, Ann Maguire, Carol Dyson, Susan Ashworth).     

The fifteen women above were all killed in the UK in April 2014. The primary suspects alleged to have killed them are all male.  Fatal male violence against women in the UK is so normalised that only the killing of one of these women made a significant impact on the media.  In the UK, the predominant culture makes fatal male violence against women invisible, it is rarely named as a cultural practice and there is resistance to attempts made to do so.

The woman killed though alleged male violence in the UK in April 2014 were aged between 16 and 75 years old.  Their killers were aged between 15 and 79 years old.  The men who allegedly killed the women made the following choices: One to kill a woman through multiple injuries, one to kill a woman through head injuries, one to strangle a woman, one to decapitate a woman, one to smoother a woman, one to kill her in a house fire or use a house fire to disguise his method of killing and seven to stab women to death  The methods by which two women were killed have not been made publicly available, we don’t yet know about the choices the men made who killed them. At least eight men are alleged to have killed a partner or former partner, one is alleged to have killed one of his teachers and one is alleged to have killed his mother. The relationship between alleged perpetrator and victim has not been released in four cases when men killed women in the UK in April 2014.

In the UK, if asked to describe the term ‘cultural violence’ in relation to April 2014, do we think about these fifteen dead women? If not, we should.

 

 

 

Can you give me a link to ‘Counting Dead Men’?

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Women who are killed are most likely to have been killed by a man, men who are killed are most likely to have been killed by a man.  We know that women who are killed are most likely to have been killed by someone they know, government statistics suggest 78%, of these most are killed by a partner or former partner, government statistics suggest 47%.  Most women killed are killed by men.  The government declines to share the statistic for this, instead blurring the sex of killers by using neutral relationship terms like parent, associate, child, indeed partner or ex-partner to identify killers by their relationship to the victim. Men, on the other hand, whilst still more likely to have been killed by someone they know, 57%, are much less likely to be killed by a partner or former partner, approximately 5% of men killed. Gay men are more likely to be killed by their male partner than lesbians killed by their female partner.   

Most men killed are killed by men.  Again, the government declines to share this statistic. We know that more men are killed each year than women, so we can’t simply compare the 47% of women killed being killed by a partner/ex-partner to the 5% of men killed for a simple numerical comparator, but in the 11 years between 2001/2 and 2011/12, 296 men, an average of 27 per year were killed by a partner or ex-partner and 1066 women were killed by a partner or ex-partner, an average of 97 per year.  In the same period, in total, 6.1% of people convicted of murder were women, meaning that 93.9% were men, those are the government’s figures, not mine.  31.8 of homicide victims were women, 68.2% were men.

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We all know that Charles Saatchi grabbed Nigella Lawson by the throat last June but what about Janelle Duncan Bailey, 25; Myrna Kirby, 57;  Glynis Solmaz, 65; Chantelle Barnsdate-Quean, 35; Mary Roberts, 50;  Christine Baker, 52; Margaret Macati, 63; Georgia Williams, 17; Yvonne Walsh, 25; Marianne Stones, 58; Sabeen Thandi, 37; Shavani Kapoor, 34; Assia Newton, 44; Jade Watson, 22; and Poonam, 35,  all of whom were strangled to death last year in the UK by men.  How many of us know the names of these women?  How many of us know the names of their killers?

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On Saturday 5 April this year, it is alleged that Mayka Kukucova shot a British man Andrew Bush, in Spain.   A google search of her name brings 5,100 results and 104 links to articles for the reader to ‘explore in depth’. On the same day, Aston Robinson murdered Kayleigh Palmer, it is alleged; a search of his name brings 3,420 results and 39 articles to ‘explore in depth’. Also on 5 April, it is alleged that Steven McCall murdered Senga Closs.  Search his name and there are 3,700 results but the first three links are to completely different issues, different McCalls, before the murder of Senga Closs appears with 5 links to pieces for the reader to  ‘explore in depth’.  Since then Dudley Boakes and Mateusz Kosecki have been charged with the murders of Sandra Boakes and Yvette Hallsworth on 6th April; and Dempsey Nibbs with the murder of Judith Nibbs on 11th April; none generating the interest afforded to Mayka Kukucova.  In addition, Liam Naylor has been charged with the murder of Doreen Walker on 2 April and Paul McManus has been charged with the fatal stabbing of  Isabelle Sanders on 9 April. Compare also the number of photos of Mayka Kukucova  to those of the men accused of murder (only Aston Robinson currently appears in a photograph) and it is very clear that the killing of a British man by a woman, even overseas, is deemed much more newsworthy than that of any of the 7 British women suspected to have been killed by men  in the UK so far this month.

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The media coverage of the current trial for murder of Oscar Pistorius who has admitted killing Reeva Steenkamp last February, has sympathetically covered his sobbing, his vomiting and his love for Reeva;  despite his more recent floundering under cross-examination by state prosecutor Gerrie Nel, today he found time to sign an autograph on his way out of court  reading “Thank you for your love and kindness, Oscar”.  It’s about him, about what happened to him not what he did.  Last month, a report released by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) ‘Everyone’s business: Improving the police response to domestic abuse’ referred to 77 women killed by their partners or ex-partners between April 2012 and March 2013.  The focus on domestic violence meant that the killings by men of 38 women were rendered irrelevant. The extent of fatal male violence against women simply erased.

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We’re only two weeks in to April 2014 and already seven women in the UK have been killed, with a man charged with their murders.  Just like any other month, these killings can rarely, even if somewhat anachronistically, be referred to as front-page news.  Without the added ingredient of celebrity, male violence against women: rape, assault and murder are simply too commonplace.

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Almost 94% of murderers in the UK are men.  Even the most ardent disciples of ‘yeah but women kill men too’  cannot deny that this is a  significant statistical difference.  Government data and mainstream media conspire to feed the denial of both the extent to which men comprise the majority of murderers and the number of women killed by men compared to the number of men killed by women.  It could almost make you feel sympathetic to those suggesting, demanding or instructing me to count dead men.  Almost.

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Holy Cow! Women killed by their partners or ex-partners are their own worst enemy says columnist

Yesterday, The Birmingham Mail published a hateful piece by Maureen Messent about the 77 women killed though domestic violence in the year April 2012-March 2013. Messent described the 77 women killed  as their own worst enemies : “holy cows, never to be held accountable for staying with brutal men”.  She shared her sympathy for West Midlands Police, imagining their “ frustration and disappointment, then, when the women they want to help fail to turn up as witnesses “because I love him really”.”

In the year in question, at least three of the 77 women killed by a partner or former partner lived in the area policed by the West Midlands force: Da In Lee, Natasha Trevis and Shaista Khatoon.

Da In Lee

Da In Lee was a 22-year-old student studying International Relations and Sociology at Aston University.  She met Daniel Jones in 2011 at a local church but had ended their relationship  on 24 March 2012 though spent the night with him on 8 April.  We only have Daniel Jones’ account of what happened the next day because Da In Lee is dead. According to Jones, during an argument, he ‘caused her to fall over’, (a phrase which neatly eradicates his responsibility), before climbing on top of her.  By his own admission, she  struggled and screamed so he put his left hand over her mouth before taking hold  of her throat.  He described how her face went purplish blue, he said he saw tears well up in her eyes and two tears rolling down her face.  Yet he claimed he had not intended to cause her any harm and  lost track of time and so didn’t know how long it was he was applying pressure to her throat.  Accident-prone forgetful  Daniel Jones had been cautioned for common assault on a previous girlfriend in 2010.

 

Natasha TrevisNatasha Trevis was 22.  She had three children aged three, two and one with 28 year old Junior Saleem Oakes.  Oakes was violent and controlling throughout their relationship. He had a history of domestic violence including a conviction at the age of 19, and was known to carry a knife.  Oakes and Natasha were recently separated, she had not told him that she had recently terminated a pregnancy because she was afraid of what he might do. On 7 August,  five days after a social worker let slip this information, Natasha had called a taxi to her mother’s home but Oakes had travelled with her to be dropped off elsewhere.  In his statement, the taxi driver said he heard Natasha say to Oakes that they ‘didn’t need to talk about their relationship because they didn’t have one’. Natasha tried to escape but Oakes stabbed her 26 times.  She had wounds to her head, face, neck, chest, back and legs, one stab wound to her brain was 10cm deep.

Shaista Khatoon, 33 and Shoukat Ali, 38  had been married 15 years and had five children. His behaviour had become controlling and violent, they had separated but his harassment and threats had continued.  Shaista wanted a divorce. On 19 November, two days after receiving a divorce letter, Shoukat Ali  broke in to the where Shaista lived with three of the children.  As Shaista called the police, Ali cut her throat.  The operator heard her screams.  When the police arrived, they found her body in a pool of blood.

In addition, on May 8th, Lynda Jackson, 56, was found strangled to death at her home in Erdington.  A 60-year-old man was found with injuries at the same address and taken to hospital where he was said to be in a critical condition.  Police confirmed that they were not looking for anyone else.  Lynda was a teaching assistant at Hodge Hill Sports and Enterprise College who was strangled to death. Marie McMahon, head teacher at Hodge Hill Sports and Enterprise College, said: “Lynda was a talented and well respected colleague. She was loved by staff and pupils alike and she will be sorely missed.”

Not all women killed by male violence are included in those killed by domestic violence. In addition to the women above, in the year in question a further five women in the West Midlands were killed though men’s violence against them.  Janice Smithen, 46, was killed though blunt force trauma and Pauline Gillen, 69, was stabbed, both killed by their sons;  Kaysley Smithen and Ian Woolley.  Carole Mudie, 68, died after being mugged by Marvin Blake. Georgina Stuparu, 23, was stabbed by her friend’s boyfriend, Phillipe Burger.  Christina Edkins,16,  was stabbed by Phillip Simelane and Hayley Pointon was shot.  Are they less responsible for their own deaths in Messent’s eyes because they hadn’t been in a relationship with their killer?

Daniel Jones, Junior Saleem Oakes and Shoukat Ali have all been found guilty of murdering the women who were trying to leave them: Da In Lee, Natasha Trevis and Shaista Khatoon.  We do not hold these women accountable for their own murders, not because they are ‘holy cows’ but because the ones who are responsible for male violence against women are the violent men themselves.  Men who kill women are responsible for their actions whether the woman they killed was in the process of taking court action, of leaving, had already left or was still in a relationship with them.

Messent describes West Midlands Police as taking “whatever steps necessary to help the vulnerable. Officers burn the midnight oil, never preach, are prepared to listen for hours at a time”.   Is this the same West Midlands police who had to apologise to 19-year-old Alex Faragher who, when she reported domestic violence was called a “fucking slag” and a “bitch” by  two officers who allegedly inadvertently recorded the message?

The killing does not stop.  Since April 2013, Salma Parveen, Yvonne Walsh, Lilima Aktar, Varkha Rami, Jacqueline Oakes, Kanwal Azam,  Jane McRae, Amandeep Kaur Hoti and Tracey Snook-Kite have been murdered though male violence or a man has been found responsible for or charged with causing their death. Nine more dead women.   Holy Cows?   Women who allowed “themselves to be used as punch bags” and “their own worst enemies”? No.  Women who are victims of male violence.  Women who were killed by men. Men who are solely and entirely responsible for their actions.

Forgiveness, Christianity and men’s violence against women

Desmond Tutu has been eulogising about forgiveness, he’s written a soon to be published book about it.  He’s a fan of forgiveness.  He has forgiven his father for his violence towards his mother, violence that Tutu witnessed and was powerless to stop as a child.   He explains that it took him years to realise that he needed to forgive himself, or the child that he was, for not protecting his mother.

No one needs to be forgiven for being a child unable to prevent one parent’s violence towards the other (usually a father’s violence towards the mother).  The child is never responsible.  There is nothing to be forgiven for.  But is it for the child to forgive the abusive parent?   What does it mean for a boy child to forgive his father for violence towards his mother, essentially for a man to forgive another man for violence against women?

Tutu has also, with difficulty he says,  forgiven himself for not making time to respond to his father’s request to see him the night before he unexpectedly died, an occasion which, Tutu imagines, might have been the time when his father sought to apologise for the violence he inflicted on Tutu’s mother.  There’s nothing to suggest that Tutu is correct in this belief.  It’s a convenience upon which he can pin his forgiveness.

It’s probably fair to say that Desmond Tutu is big on religion.  He’s a retired Anglican bishop.   I’d go as far as saying that he appears to have used his power and influence for good, but however closely allied to social justice, religion is conservative, it protects the status quo.  In a feminist analysis that identifies patriarchal society, religion has been shaped to protect men’s oppression of women.

Apparently,  in the bible there are two types of forgiveness: God’s pardoning of the sins of ‘his’ subjects, and the obligation of those subjects to pardon others. Being able to do so is so important that a believer’s eternal destiny is dependent upon it. Refusing to forgive is a sin.  Forgiveness then is a selfish, not a selfless act.  But it’s more than that, when talking about violence, it is an act that absolves the abuser of their responsibility. “No one is born a rapist, or a terrorist.  No one is born full of hatred,” explains Tutu.  He looks at how life chances have an impact upon the person we become, how none of us can say that we would not have behaved as an abuser behaves.  I disagree.  We are more than the product of our experiences.  We have consciousness, we make choices, we can see if our behaviour is harmful or hurtful to another. Abusers are always responsible for their abuse.  If someone’s ‘god’ , or indeed another believer, can absolve someone for the choices that they make, their responsibility is erased.

By reducing male violence against women to an individual relationship, one in which someone who is neither perpetrator nor primary victim can bestow forgiveness, we are ignoring, condoning – forgiving – the wider impact of men’s violence upon women, upon all women above and beyond that individual relationship.  We cannot allow a person to say that this is okay, that this is forgiven, but it appears that religion encourages us to do just that. Indeed, male violence against women can be forgiven by god.  That’s just a little bit convenient for patriarchy.

Male violence against women does not simply take place in the cocoon of an individual relationship. It is structural, it is systemic.  The pattern, the overwhelming consistency with which women are the victims and men the perpetrators  should be a big clue.  Male violence against women is not random, it has a function and that function is to maintain the social order of male dominance: patriarchy.  Male violence against women is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men.    In the UK, the mainstream is very quick to identify ‘other’ religions as oppressive to women but this is equally true of Christianity. Religion reinforces and upholds patriarchy, forgiveness is just another of its tools. We do not need to forgive male violence against women unless we want men to continue to dominate women.

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