We must resist the deadly cuts to specialist domestic violence services


This is a guest blog by Suzy Blackwell, a Sisters Uncut and UK Uncut activist.

Violence against women is now a global pandemic, yet the government is removing vital funding for domestic violence services. Sisters Uncut demand an end to these cuts, which are part of a programme of austerity that disproportionately affects women.

I was asked to write about why I’m taking action tomorrow for the Sisters Uncut Valentines Day Revolt, well let’s start with the facts:

In Britain, 46% of women killed by men were killed by a partner or ex-partner. 2 women a week die as a result of domestic violence. A report by the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that only 8 of 43 police forces responded to domestic violence well.  The report identified “poor attitudes, ineffective training and inadequate evidence gathering” by police in response to domestic violence.

This quote from Cosmopolitan magazine shows they have a much better handle on the situation than the government:

“Imagine if hospitals could only plan three months ahead. Or if police forces had no idea if they would still be funded six months from now. It’s unthinkable, isn’t it? And yet, this is how hundreds of domestic violence refuges are being forced to operate. Currently, local authorities decide how much they spend on provision for domestic violence, and how that money is spent. As a result, several parts of the country such as Gloucestershire and Devon have been left without a single specialist refuge. Instead, women and children – terrified, sometimes even fleeing for their lives – are ending up in B&Bs and hostels, with no specialist support or advice on what their next safe move should be.”

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To answer the question of why I’m taking action, I’d like to pose another question in return: why wouldn’t I take action to change this situation? Why would I stand by while women die? Why would I not be outraged that in 2015, in a supposedly advanced democracy where women’s rights are championed, campaigners have had to start a femicide register to record murdered women because it is such a common occurrence? How can this be happening?

The fact is this situation has been allowed because women – all women – are viewed as second-class citizens whose lives are expendable. This needs to change. Sisters Uncut demands that domestic violence services are protected from cuts, that there are specialist domestic violence services for LGBT women, BME women and so on; that there is guaranteed access to legal aid for women experiencing domestic violence; access to safe and secure social housing for women fleeing domestic violence; the end of panic rooms being classified as a spare room under the bedroom tax, and for the safety of victims not to be subject to immigration status.

We demand recognition that women’s lives matter. We refuse to stand by while the government ignores this epidemic of violence. And we will keep taking to the streets until something is done. That’s why I am taking action tomorrow. It’s why I want other women to join me, and men to give us their support and solidarity. It’s a matter of life and death.

The Sisters Uncut Valentines Day Revolt will take place tomorrow – Saturday 14 Feb. This event is women only. We call on all self-defining women, as well as those who experience oppression as women or define as women for the purpose of organising, to join us.

It’s important this is a safe space for women, especially survivors of domestic or sexual violence, so we invite male allies to show their solidarity online rather than attending. You can support us by changing your Facebook profile picture to our Sisters Uncut logo, and linking to our social media @sistersuncut.

Stand with us to commemorate the women who did not survive, and show your solidarity with those still living under the threat of violence.

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