Sex-differences and ‘domestic violence murders’*

*intimate partner homicides
What could we do if we wanted to hide the reality of men’s violence against women?

Firstly, we might have  a ‘gender neutral’ definition of domestic violence.  Maybe like the UK government which uses the following definition:

“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial [and] emotional.”

Not only treating ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ as the same thing, this definition erases sex differences.  It includes the phrase ‘regardless of gender’ when in reality men – as a biological sex-class – are overwhelmingly the perpetrators, and women – as a biological sex-class – are overwhelming the victims of ‘domestic violence’ (more on the differences between male and female victims of intimate partner violence here).  It is also broad, including violence  and abuse committed between any family members.  Whilst this can be useful, for example allowing service provision to be made available for those experiencing violence and abuse from any  family member, sometimes it is important to focus on ‘intimate-partner violence’, including that committed by former intimate partners.

Secondly, we might present official data in a way that hides the extent of differences between women killed by men and men killed by women

The Office of National Statistics (ONS)  definition of partner/ex-partner homicide includes  killings by a “spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-spouse/ex-cohabiting partner/ex-boyfriend/girlfriend and adulterous relationship” but also “lover’s spouse and emotional rival”.  Data from the ONS found that in 2013/14, consistent with previous years, women were far more likely than men to be killed by partners or ex-partners than men.  84 women, around 53% of female homicide victims (over 16) had been killed by their current or a former partner, compared to 23 men (7% of male victims over 16).  So, we could say that government data tells us that one-in-five of those killed though ‘partner  violence’ is male.  Except this creates a false picture of what is really happening.

Combining data for the three years from 2011/12 to 2013/14, the ONS tell us that of 57 men killed in partner/ex-partner homicides, 21 of them, over a third, were killed by a man.  Of these 21 men killed by men in the context of partner/ex-partner homicides, 14 of them were killed by a lover’s spouse/love rival.  Of 249 women killed in partner/ex-partner homicides over the same 3 years, 247 were killed by a man, one by a woman (in one case the primary suspect is listed as unknown).  None of the female victims of partner/ex-partner homicide were killed by the spouse of their lover or an emotional rival. Similarly, no male victims of partner/ex-partner homicide were killed by a female spouse of their lover or a female emotional rival. Not only are men killed in the context of an intimate relationship less likely to be killed by their actual partner or ex-partner, they are much more likely than women to be killed by someone of the same sex.

sex differences and domestic violence snip

Another important difference between women and men killed in the context of intimate partner violence is the history of the relationship.  When men kill women partners or ex-partners, this usually follows months or years of them abusing her, when women kill male partners or ex-partners, it is usually after months or years of having been abused by the man they have killed. (Browne et al., 1998; Websdale, 1999; Dugan et al., 2003.)

So, there are four important differences when we compare women and men killed in the context of a current or previous intimate partnership (figures from the ONS 2011/12 to 2013/14 data):

  • Far fewer men than women are killed in the context of intimate partner violence (57 men in 3 years compared to 249 women)
  • Men are much more likely to be killed by the spouse of a partner or a love rival (14 out of 57 men, compared to none of the 249 women killed)
  • Men are much more likely than women to have been killed by someone of the same sex (21 of 57 male homicide victims were killed by a man, compared to one out or 249 women)
  • Men are more likely to have been killed by someone they were abusing, women are more likely to have been killed by someone they were being abused by.

Finally, we could look at ‘domestic violence’ or violence between current and former partners rather than male violence against women and girls

The government has a ‘strategy to end violence against women and girls’, whilst this pitifully fails to name ‘male violence’ it does at least acknowledge that the issue is broader than domestic violence and it does indicate that women and girls are disproportionately victimised.

If we look at men who kill women (who are not current or ex- intimate partners), it is clear that they have more in common with men who kill female current or former  partners, than the much smaller number of  women who kill male former partners. When men kill women, regardless of their relationship or lack of it, they are doing so in the context of a society in which men’s violence against women is entrenched and systemic. Sexual violence runs through the murders of women by men who are not partners or ex-partners. Gender, the social constructs of masculinity and femininity are also integral.

What could we do if we wanted to hide the reality of men’s violence against women?  We could ensure that our social and  political agenda setters of mainly men –  whose self-interest and privilege allowed them to consciously or unconsciously ignore, deny or dismiss the reality of men’s violence against women –  not only hid the reality of men’s violence against women but also created the illusion that they’re dealing with the problem.

Why the hierarchy of dead women and girls?

Like anyone else, I was saddened to wake up to the news that a body has been found in the search for 14-year-old Alice Gross, and that her disappearance has now become a murder inquiry; similarly, I felt sickened to hear about the rape and  murder of 23-year old Hannah Witheridge, just two weeks ago.

But since Alice went missing – and in addition to Hannah – at least ten other UK women have been killed through suspected male violence.  Why don’t we all know the name of Leighann Duffy, 26, stabbed to death in Walthamstow? What about Glynis Bensley, 48, who witnesses said was pursued by two masked men on bikes before she was killed? Perhaps some people will recall the name of Pennie Davis, 47, found dead in a field, stabbed as she tended her horse.  What about Serena Hickey, Dorothy Brown, 66; Nicola Mckenzie, 37; Davinia Loynton, 59; or Lorna McCarthy, 50?

The murder of 82-year-old Palmira Silva who was beheaded in London was also front page news this month, but few were aware that she was the third woman to have been beheaded in London in less than six months, after  Tahira Ahmed, 38, in June and  Judith Nibbs, 60, in April. Was this simply because beheading is big news at the moment due to the murders of David Haines,  James Foley and Steven Sotloff?

The killer of 15-year-old Shereka Marsh, shot in Hackney earlier this year, was found guilty of manslaughter this week.  Did we all mourn the 15-year-old school-girl, described by teachers as one of their “shining stars”, on course to sit 10 GCSEs this summer?  Wasn’t being accidentally shot by your boyfriend also big news, also international news, this month?

Men’s violence against women and girls, systemic, connected, has killed at least 11 dead UK women this month.  At least 111 UK women have been killed through suspected male violence so far this year, 111 women in 272 days is one dead woman every 2.45 days.

Older, black, usually but not all, killed by men they had known and loved – their husbands, boyfriends, ex’s and sons (8 women have been killed by their sons this year, 13 last year, 16 the year before) – why don’t we care so much about these women? Young, white and blond, killed by a stranger, hold the front pages – but don’t bother to make the connections with other women killed by men; talk about anything, immigration, terrorism, tourism, guns and gangs – talk about anything except male violence against women and girls.

What does it look like, this equality that you speak of?

To everyone – woman and man – who says they’re a feminist because they believe in equality, I have to ask you, what does it look like, this equality that you speak of?

Gender.  You probably want gender equality, don’t you?  But gender is inequality. Gender is the convenient invention, the way we train women and men to be different, to be unequal. Gender equality is a smokescreen. Gender is a hierarchy.  Feminine, masculine, they can never be equal, they are subordination and domination dressed up in frilly pink and crisp blue.

You mean wage equality, right? Are you going to achieve that by equal pay for equal work? Yes? Or no? ‘Cos that’ll never do it.  Work has no inherent value and just somehow, we’ve ended up with women’s work undervalued, so unless we all do more of the same, or unless we increase the value of what we see as ‘women’s work’, we’re stuck.  Wage equality without radical reform, is an impossible dream, never to be realised with the Equal Pay Act.

Child birth? Are you looking for a brave new world where that is equal? Or a world where bearing and rearing children does not render women unequal?  Are men gonna wipe an equal number of bums? Babies bums? Sick folk’s bums? Old folk’s bums? Equality of sharing, caring, cleaning and weaning.

What about valuing women for how we look? You know, the patriarchal fuckability test?  Are men going to be equally judged by what they look like, rather than what they do? Women can chose to walk in painful heels, to maximise their ‘assets’, to flaunt or enhance their curves. Some women enjoy that femininity shit, don’t they? You surely believe in a woman’s right to choose, don’t you?  Of course you do. But what do we chose? Why do we? If we’re equal, would we? And those that choose not to, will they be equal too?

What about war? Do you want women to start an equal number of wars to men?  To fight and die in equal numbers to men? To rape in equal numbers to men? For men to be raped in equal numbers to women? Which is it?  How’s that going to work under your equality? What about no war? Maybe no war. But in this man made world of arbitrary boundaries and power struggles, how’re you going to achieve no war?

Democracy’s great, isn’t it? A cornerstone of equality, maybe, for sure?  But only 24% of the UK cabinet are women.  You’ll sort that out in the name of equality, won’t you? And where’s the equality when 6 percent of children go to independent schools but make up 45% of the cabinet?  When 61% of the cabinet graduated from just two universities?  5% percent of the cabinet – two people – are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.  What’s democracy again?  Power of the people,  ruling through freely elected representatives? It’s just that not everyone gets an equal chance of representing.  Just not rule by representative representatives.

What about the sale and purchase of women? Are men going to be commodified just the same?  Objectified? Pornified? Trafficked?  Pimped?  Ah, yes, but what about choice again?  That old turkey.  A woman’s right to choose to sell sex? Are men going to make the same choices? If not, why not?  Where’s the market? And how come it’s poor women, black women, in some counties indigenous women, who disproportionately make that choice?  What about their equality? What about mine? If some women are commodities and some men are buyers, how can any of us ever be equal? If my sisters are for sale, they cannot be, I cannot be, equal.

Equality under the law?  Yeah, surely you want that too.  But how are you going to get that, with laws written by rich white men to protect the interests of rich white men? When we have a legal system celebrated for innocent until proven guilty. When insufficient evidence is synonymous with lack of guilt, with innocence. Can’t you see how it’s stacked? When poor people, black people and women who have been abused are disproportionately found guilty, disproportionately disbelieved, where’s the equality?

When the Equality Act 2010  covers age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity but not class, not poverty, what is even the point of pretending it’s about equality?

Male violence against women? Bet you believe in equality there too, don’t you? Domestic violence is gender neutral, right? Rape?  Those hidden male victims?  If you refuse to see inequality, if you don’t even believe that most violence is perpetrated by men, how are you going to achieve equality?  Which equality are you going for there?  Increasing the number of male victims? Increasing the number of female perpetrators? Can’t be reducing male violence, can it?  Male violence isn’t a thing, is it?

In all this and more, equality just doesn’t provide the answers.  Equality is a condition of a just society, not a cure for an unjust one.  So when I say feminism isn’t about equality, it’s about women’s liberation from men’s oppression, this is what I mean.  Ending inequality is a big part of feminism, of course it is. But equality is impossible in the society that we have. That’s why feminists talk about smashing patriarchy because we need to think bigger. I don’t even know what a society free of patriarchy would look like.  I don’t know how we’ll get there, but I know we’ll never get there down the road called ‘equality’.

Early this year, I heard Bea Campbell ask ‘What would a world without male violence look like?’ Shit. I can’t even imagine that.

Innocent Victims? Isn’t that just another way of blaming women and girls for men’s violence?

The phrase “innocent victim” has re-emerged to describe Sabrina Moss – a 24-year old teacher who was shot dead in London as she celebrated her birthday in August 2013 – in British bastions of judgemental conservative journalism The Daily Mail and the Express.

It’s a phrase that came in to my consciousness when it was used to describe 16-year-old Jane MacDonald who was murdered on 26 June 1977 by being hit on the head with a hammer three times and stabbed in the chest and back around 20 times. When her face-down body was turned over by police, they found a broken bottle complete with screw-top embedded in her chest.  She was murdered by Peter Sutcliffe and was the fifth woman of thirteen that he is known to have killed.  Before her, there had been 28-year-old Wilma McCann, beaten with a hammer and stabbed to death in October 1975; 42-year-old Emily Jackson, beaten with a hammer and stabbed 52 times with a screw-driver in January 1975; Irene Richardson, 28, beaten with a hammer and stabbed and slashed with a Stanley knife in February 1977 and Patricia Atkinson, 32, beaten and clawed with a hammer and also stabbed, in April 1977.  Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson and Patricia Atkinson had not been described by the press as innocent victims.  Why? Because Jane MacDonald was the first woman known to have been murdered by Sutcliffe who was not in prostitution.  Sutcliffe himself shared this belief that prostituted women were less worthy than none prostituted women.  In his confession, referring to Jane MacDonald, he said

“The next one I did I still feel terrible about, it was the young girl Jayne MacDonald. I read recently about her father dying of a broken heart and it brought it all back to me. I realised what sort of a monster I had become. I believed at the time I did it that she was a prostitute.”

and

“When I saw in the papers that MacDonald was so young and not a prostitute, I felt like someone inhuman and I realised that it was a devil driving me against my will and that I was a beast.”

Leaving aside Sutcliffe’s failure to take responsibility for his actions –  blaming them on being driven by the devil, not his own violent misogyny –  the implication is clear, that beating and stabbing four prostituted women to death was something less than monstrous. He became a monster when he killed Jane, not when he had killed Wilma, Emily, Irene and Patricia.

This week, Oscar Pistorius was found not guilty of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he killed.  State prosecutor Gerrie Nel refered to Pistorius as causing “the death of an innocent woman” and again referred to him being “convicted of a serious crime of killing an innocent woman.”  Of course, Reeva Steenkamp, in comparison to Pistorius was innocent, but surely that is almost always the case when comparing murder victims to their killers.    If not innocent, what are they? Guilty? Or perhaps somehow complicit in their own death?

Despite attempts at law reform, some women’s complicity in their own murders is still implied indeed enshrined  in British law.  Academic Adrian Howe has looked at infidelity in the sentencing of men convicted of intimate partner homicide.  She points out that  “For over 300 years, criminal courts have regarded sexual infidelity as sufficiently grave provocation as to provide a warrant, indeed a ‘moral warrant’, for reducing murder to manslaughter.”  and that whilst “ ‘sexual infidelity’ was expressly excluded as a trigger for loss of control in the new loss of control defence laid down in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009”, “sexual infidelity still has mitigating prowess” in diminished responsibility pleas, as does men’s ‘distress’ if they kill a partner who is in the process of leaving them.  This ‘distress’ could just as easily be described men’s entitlement, or their rage that their partner has the audacity to reject them and move on.  A woman’s murder is somehow less heinous, deserving a reduced plea of manslaughter or a reduced sentence, if the court accepts that something that she did contributed to a man’s choice to kill her.

Dead women get no opportunity to defend their character; but even if they could, it should not make a difference.   Victims of violence should not be graded according to their worth, the balance would inevitably be tipped to discredit those not deemed to be ‘good’ women according to a scale reflecting class-biased and sexist values of what a woman should be.  We can see this when we look at the justice system and men’s sexual violence against women.  Women are not equal in the eyes of the law. The concept of ‘lady-like’ behaviour controls, judges and stratifies; acceptable/respectable standards of woman or girlhood align with middle-class standards of conduct and appearance.  Catharine MacKinnon argued  that the law divides women along indices of consent from ‘the virginal daughter’ to ‘whorelike wives and prostitutes’ with women who meet standards closer to the former, less likely to be found to have consented to unwanted intercourse, more likely to be believed regarding rape and sexual violence. Women who are socially or educationally disadvantaged are less likely to ‘perform well’ in the criminal justice system1 and women from working-class backgrounds are more likely to refuse to adhere to the status of victim, more likely to endure/cope and more likely to minimise injury2, as victims is it we who are on trial, we who are judged and the men who attack us who benefit from our perceived innocence.  In Rotherham, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and beyond, we’ve seen how labelling girls as slags and troublemakers allows the men who abuse to continue to do so.

Women victims of male violence should not have unequal status under the law.  Whether we have fucked one man or woman or five hundred; whether we pay our bills though prostitution, preaching, teaching or trust funds. Our laws, written by white middle-class men, favour white middle-class men and all women victims of male violence deserve justice, not just those of us who according to some scale of judgement are deemed ‘innocent’.

 

1 Temkin 2002b:6

2 Skeggs, 2005:971

 

Counting Dead Women: Reviewing 2012 – How 107 dead women became 126

When I talk about why I started counting dead women, I begin with my realisation that in the first three days of 2012, seven UK women had been killed though male violence.  More than two years later, I found out it wasn’t seven women in three days, but eight.

Betty Yates, a retired teacher who was 77 years-old, was found dead at home in her house in Bewdley, Worcestershire on 4th January.  She had been beaten with a walking stick and stabbed in the head four times, two days earlier.  The knife used to kill her was still embedded in her neck.  Stephen Farrow, 48, was charged with her murder through DNA evidence matched after he murdered vicar John Suddard on 13 February.

2012 then, in the first three days of the year, eight women were killed though male violence.  Three days: 8 dead women: 3 shot, 2 stabbed, 1 strangled, 1 smothered and one beaten to death through 15 blunt force trauma injuries.

By the end of the year, I’d counted and named 107 women killed though suspected male violence, but as cases of women’s killings went to court, that number grew.  By February 2013 it was 109 women, by  the end of July it became 114, then 118.  In October 2013, I added Carole Waugh and then later Louise Evans;  in March 2014, I added Sally Ann Harrison.  May 2014, and not only is there Betty Yates but Jenny Methven, Yong Li Qui, Patricia Seddon and Eleftheria Demetriou.

Jenny Methven was 80 years-old when she was found dead on 20th February, she died through blunt force injuries to her head and body. Her skull was fractured from one side to the other with bone splinters embedded in her brain. 46-year-old William Kean has been found guilty of her murder.

Yong Li Qui, 42,  was murdered by Gang Wang, 48.  In his trial, he denied he intended to kill her or cause her really serious harm. He had beaten her head with an object so severely that her skull was fractured and her brain tissue could be seen.  She died on 25th March, a week after being attacked.

Patricia Seddon, 65, and her husband Robert, 68, were shot dead by their son Stephen. Four months earlier, he had staged a road accident and attempted to kill them by driving into a canal with them strapped in the back seats of a car.

Eleftheria Demetriou, 79, was stabbed to death by Hakim Abdillah, 38, she was killed through multiple wounds to the heart and spleen by a man she had befriended and who used to call her ‘grandma’.

I’ve written before about how I initially started counting women killed by men who were partners, ex-partners or family members: domestic violence; I’ve also looked at how femicide is a more useful but still problematic term because, whilst using patriarchal society as a context  it focuses on women killed because they are women  and not enough on toxic masculinity.

Between the five women above, two, Betty Yates and Patricia Seddon were murdered by men who also murdered a man.  I don’t know how the sex of 80 year-old Jenny Methven, 79 year-old Eleftheria Demetriou, and 77 year-old Betty, was relevant when they were killed by William Kean, 46,  Hakim Abdillah, 38 and Stephen Farrow, 48.  The age gaps between killer and victim, the inevitable differences in their strength; and the brutality of their attacks mean masculinity and power over women and misogyny, the hatred of women cannot be ruled out.   But the differences between the numbers of men who kill women (or men) to the number of women who kill women or men; and the number of men who kill their mothers (or father) to the number of women who kill a parent mean that if we want to end male violence against women, we need to look at patriarchy, sex inequality and socially constructed toxic gender for the answers.

The names of all 126 UK women killed through male violence in 2012 can be found here.

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.

Clare’s Law – Let’s talk about Manchester

Becky Ayres, killed on the 6th March 2014,  is the second woman in Greater Manchester to have been stabbed by a partner/ex-partner this year following the stabbing of Caroline Finegan in January.  Last year, 5 women in Manchester were killed by a partner/ex-partner and 3 women were killed by their sons. The year before, 2012, 4 women were killed by a partner/ex.  That’s 14 women in Manchester killed through men’s violence in two years.

Greater Manchester Police were piloting the domestic violence disclosure scheme, also known as Clare’s Law, from September 2012 to September 2013.  Clare’s Law allows people – of course most of them will be women – to ask the police to check whether a partner – of course most of them will be men – has a violent past. If police checks show that a ‘person’ may be at risk of domestic violence from their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. The pilot was also supposed look at how the police could proactively release information (‘right to know’) to protect a ‘person’ from domestic violence where lawful, necessary and proportionate.

Linzi Ashton was murdered by Michael Cope nine months in to the Clare’s Law pilot.  We know that Greater Manchester Police knew that Cope was being violent to Linzi, that he had raped her and strangled her.  Through the court we have also learned that he had a known history of violence to two former partners as well as other convictions for violent crimes.  It appears to me that there was ample evidence to suggest that the police should have shared information about Cope with Linzi and should have realised the danger that she was in. Whether they did so or not, Linzi is dead and suffered a brutal painful death.  After her death, there were 108 injuries on Linzi’s body, there were fractures to her right forearm, left elbow, neck, her nose was broken, there were ligature marks to her throat, as well as a cut along her throat. She had been punched, kicked, stamped on, cut with a blade, beaten with a metal pole and strangled with a cable tie.

During the pilot of Clare’s Law, as well as Linzi Ashton, the following women were killed through men’s violence:  Jabeen Younis, 32 was stabbed 19 times by her husband Jahangir Nazar;  Marianne Stones, 58, was strangled by her son Paul Stones, she also had a cut to the nose and bruising on her eye, arms and tongue;  and Zaneta Kindzierska, 32 was stabbed by her husband Krzysztof Kindzierski.  The body of Rania Alayed, 25 has not been found.   Her husband and brother-in-law have been charged with her murder. They both deny the charges and will face trial in April.

The IPCC is investigating Greater Manchester Police’s contact with Linzi Ashton before her death.  I fully expect to see a report showing that ‘lessons have been learned’.   I’m sick of reading that lessons have been learned whilst still women are being killed by violent men.

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 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 headlines.  The number of women killed though domestic violence has remained consistent for over 10 years. Yet that’s not the whole story.  Approximately one quarter of women killed though men’s violence over the last two years have not been killed by a partner or former partner. The Government has a strategy to end violence against women and girls within which it states that: “The causes and consequences of violence against women and girls are complex. For too long government has focused on violence against women and girls as a criminal justice issue” and yet its actions do not match that commitment.  I launched my campaign ‘counting dead women’ to highlight the extent of the problem of fatal male violence against women and to urge the government to do more to stop this happening.  We need changes to the Criminal Justice System for sure, but we need so much more than that.

Clare’s Law, during its pilot in Manchester, did not prevent the deaths of Linzi Ashton, Jabeen Younis, Marianne Stones, Zaneta Kindzierska and Rania Alayed. 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.  I want to see changes to show that lessons really have been learned and that things are going to be different.  Until then and until the government admits the seriousness of the problem and properly commits to doing  everything it can to understand and end male violence, women will continue to be beaten, raped, abused, controlled and killed by men.

In memory of

Becky Ayres

24

06 March 2014

Caroline Finegan

30

16 January 2014

Jabeen Younis

32

19 April 2013

Marianne Stones

58

09 June 2013

Zaneta Kindzierska

32

16 June 2013

Linzi Ashton

25

29 June 2013

Rania Alayed

25

Olwen Dohoney

86

12 November 2013

Aisha Alam

49

22 November 2013

Glennis Brierley

64

14 December 2013

Leanne McNuff

24

11 March 2012

Kelly Davies

31

02 June 2012

Razu Khanum

38

08 June 2012

Esther Aragundade

32

26 June 2012