At Christmas and New Year some men think it is okay to rape, abuse and be violent. It ISN’T!
It is never okay.
At Christmas and New Year some men think it is okay to rape, abuse and be violent. It ISN’T!
Recently someone said to me, “Watch this space, we are going to do a leaflet about Domestic Violence and provide a service” – The first question I asked was how much training those who would be involved had had? The sad answer was none. “We’ll deal with any difficulties as they arise” was the answer, I was given.
When I pointed out that training could avoid issues arising, and enable staff to know the answers, rather than just seeming to be friendly, it was acknowledged that this was probably a good idea. However, despite my spending hours creating some training it hasn’t been taken up.
And this is all too often the problem and why Christians offering support are rarely viewed with any respect by outside angencies.
Wanting to offer services and meet needs is and should be part of what we do, but we cannot be effective by doing things without the proper skills to do it. Domestic violence, and all violence against women are often very complex subjects. Advice needs to be positive and correct.
So if you are planning on developing a new service have you really thought it through, have you set aside an appropriate budget, and have you had the required training to be able to offer a creditable service that is able to meet the needs of those it reaches out too? If the answer to any of these is no, go back to the planning stage, and don’t offer help you can’t deliver.
The Government has this week announced plans to make it a crime to force marriage. Whilst this is an admirable step in the right direction (showing the importance of not forcing women – and sometimes men) into marriage, it raises concerns about young people having to report their parents as criminals. It potentially puts young people at risk of dv (domestic violence), sv (sexual violence), and hbv (“honour” based violence).
Hopefully the introduction of this law will not just be an empty gesture, a law that just sits on the statute books but is never enforced or used. What would be more useful is to use the relationships with Mosques, temples and other religious groups to spread the message that Forced Marriage is not acceptable in this country, nor is it acceptable to force it’s citizen’s to be forced into it.
Schools/teachers/youth workers may have a very big influence in trying to protect or alert authorities where girls are worried, or disappear from the registers. Whilst the majority of Forced Marriage in this country relates to South Asians it can occur in any community. Girls may often be taken on holiday or to visit the family from around the age of 13, with around 8000 a year in the UK disappearing. If anyone has concerns they should contact the Forced Marriage Unit at the Home Office.
Forgiveness and Justice
Forgiveness and justice although from a similar stable are NOT the same. This point is often forgotten or misunderstood by many people.
When I forgave the men that raped me I did it; calling on God’s strength to get me through, and his supernatural power to sustain me. I did it so that I wouldn’t have to live with anger and hatred festering away and eating me up inside. I did it to be free of the burden of bitterness. I had been down that path in the past; it was painful; it was horrible and I didn’t want to go there again. I was reminded of how close I had come to not being able to do that just days before the rape. And I did it because that’s what the Bible tells us to do. “Vengeance is mine” says the Lord. That frees me from having to decide what level of retribution is satisfactory.
I will never know what made my attacker’s do what they did. They can never justify what they did with an answer that will be satisfactory, there isn’t one.
But I did want justice. I wanted the men to be caught. I wanted them to be sentenced, I wanted them to be locked up so that they couldn’t hurt others, and I wanted them to know that what they did was wrong. I wanted the law of this land to sanction these men to learn that in a “decent” society – or any society – that rape, buggery and sexual assault are totally unacceptable forms of behaviour and very serious crimes. I wanted the sentence that I had been led to believe they would get – and that was Life – possibly with a recommendation that they serve longer. (“Life” being 15 years) to be handed out. It wasn’t. But that was a failing of the justice system.
I like many other victims of numerous crimes were let down by the one system designed to help and meet out justice. However, my forgiving the men did not impact on the judge’s decision on sentencing. That decision was made by a man who really didn’t understand what I had gone through. He made an error of judgement. One he was judged for, for many years.
Thankfully as a result of the error the law changed and you could then appeal against low sentencing. It didn’t give me justice, but it has helped others to get some.
At Easter it’s a good time to look at forgiveness and justice. Easter is a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice, a time to see God’s forgiveness and his love, conquering sin and death. But still giving people freedom of choice. Mankind has freedom of choice; the ability to hurt or heal, to persecute or protect, and the freedom to decide whether they want to follow Christ or deny him. That choice doesn’t make anyone perfect. It gives people a way back though when they do fail.
I try and fight/campaign for justice and I try to forgive. I don’t always get it right, but God’s grace enables me to be forgiven.
The DNA database is currently being destroyed…………and this is a crying shame. Although it is a requirement by Europe that we get rid of old data or data that doesn’t relate to specific offences the cuts in police services and spending mean that for many justice will give way to the rights of offenders – yet again. Recent investigations by Big Brother Watch have shown that although required by law, this is not what is actually happening. Many forces were unable to provide accurate accounts for the data they hold. This is disturbing as it implies that police forces are not properly administering it, which will have a negative impact for investigation too.
DNA is fascinating, and the developments in science mean that more and more can be discovered using DNA. The more money that can be invested in DNA, and the training to use and collect it properly the more useful it will become.
The fear associated with the database is unwarranted. In the UK we supply all sorts of data to all sorts of people without ever really thinking about it. Storecards, social media, governments, schools, emails. Many are used to target specific messages to consumers, and we never bat an eyelid.
Worries about who will use what against us are also unfounded, insurance companies are often cited but information within are DNA can only offer predictions, and can’t see things such as accidents. Knowing what may happen medically may be of use, but then again you only have to look at the number of people who smoke to see that you can’t make people change their habits, or necessarily change their life style. And there are reports that imply that certain types of behaviour are genetically programmed anyway.
But there are restrictions on who can know what.
But back to the argument, the DNA database has been profoundly useful to the police, in ruling people out and convicting the guilty. It can never be used solely in the detection of crime, but is a very powerful tool that helps in this technological age. It won’t stop people being wrongly convicted when fitted up, but nothing has done that yet. But that is a minority of cases. The numbers of cold cases and other crimes that have been able to find an offender should always outweigh the rights of others.
One day I am sure we will have a national DNA database, it just may take a while.
Jane Clough was a nurse and a young mum who in July 2010, became another dv statistic. (2 women die each week in the UK as a result of domestic violence).
Jane fell in love very quickly with ambulance technician Jonathan Vass. She became pregnant and he became violent…. a common point for dv offenders to start their abuse.
Jane reported Vass to the police for multiple rapes and sexual assaults. The case went to Crown Court initially and there Vass was bailed. This was in spite of requests from the police and CPS, that he was not released. Jane lived in fear of her life, for many months she hid away, but then decided not to let herself be intimidated by him.
Jane returned to work as an A and E nurse, working on the night shift. Vass discovered she was working and went to the hospital she was working at. He waited for her and one night he attacked her stabbing her repeatedly. Jane’s injuries were so severe her colleagues didn’t recognise her.
When Vass was sentenced, at the last moment all the rape charges were dropped against him. He is not classed as a sex offender.
Jane’s family are now campaiging to change the law. Initially they want to change the law on bail, and their local MP Andrew Stephenson has put forward an amendment to the Bail act. There is a petition in support of this. Please sign up and ask parliament to change. http://www.justiceforjane.co.uk/campaignaims.html
The Bail Amendment Act (Jane’s Law) was announced in this year’s Queen’s Speech. Unfortunately the MOJ can’t say as yet when it will become law.
But the fight for Justice for Jane is not over. Jane’s parent’s John and Penny are still fighting for justice. They want judges to be made accountable for their actions, and they want tissue and organ donation to be offered to families.
On Father’s Day this weekend we saw David Cameron talk about absent fathers. On Facebook we were encouraged to change our pictures to one of our father. And whilst I have no problems with my dad, many people I have worked with do with theirs, and many women I have supported long for dads to be absent, and with good reason.
There are many reports on the impact of domestic violence on children, not just from actually seeing the violence, but also by being in a house where the violence/abuse is going on. And we know that sexual abuse has a massive impact on individuals, and that a very disproportionate figure of those with mental health issues have experienced sexual violence or abuse. So celebrating fathers is something that must be done with measured sensitivity.
Whilst some men’s groups blame women for destroying their relationships with their children they fail to address that it is their behaviour that has caused the break down, or the mother’s need to protect. Each year father’s do kill or harm their children and yet the courts still encourage many abusive men to be given access to their children. We need to be much bolder in admitting that not all families work, and that some fathers should never have access to their offspring.
We also need to examine how referring to “God the Father” can impact on those with such negative experiences of what a “father” is. If your church celebrated Father’s Day did it examine the different aspects of fatherhood, the failure of some to “father” in terms of a positive role model, and the harmful impact fathers can have? Probably not. And you may say that raising such things during a celebration is not appropriate, but that fails to address that it is not a celebration for those who have been hurt nor should it be for those who are deliberately hurting others.
We don’t tend to refer to our fathers as Abba. But maybe we should in terms of God the Father. To differentiate and distance people’s understanding from God as father in human form.
Abusive father’s can change, or stop their behaviour but we need to make sure that we protect first, and accept that actions have responsibilities, and by abusing them they can loose that right.
Stop it Now! is a secular organisation that can help men who want to abuse. They provide support and work with men to change their behaviour.
I hope that if you are reading this as a father, that you were able to celebrate. But I hope that you can also appreciate that for many this was a day in which bitter, painful memories were present, even if hidden behind a smile.
I’ve finally got around to making some progress on my new website.
But you’ve stumbled across it before I’ve finished.
Do check back soon. (And I didn’t put that photo on!)