Legal aid is a lifeline for victims of abuse, enabling them to escape from abusive relationships, protect their children, and manage their financial situations. Access to justice is vital in these cases – the statistics are stark; two women are killed each week by a current or former partner and 500 recent victims of domestic violence commit suicide every year.
I stayed in a violent marriage for 16 years and if you pay any credence to Messent’s argument that makes me one of Britain’s holy cows.
I met my first husband when I was just 18. By the time I was 23 we had become a family of four. The violence started just after the birth of our first child and I was beaten on an almost daily basis for the following fourteen years.
Messent’s article suggests that women who stay in abusive relationships are somehow to blame for their abuse. She victim blames by suggesting that ‘women allow themselves to be used as punch bags’ and fails to identify the very real fact that many women feel that they have no real choices.
Messent ends by asking “Why, then, is it also the offence so many women baulk at taking to court, their silence perpetuating the evils used to control them?”. This statement in itself provides the answer to her argument but she fails to recognise it and her article does nothing more than assist in perpetuating the common myths associated to domestic violence.
The tons of research undertaken over the years shows that women in violent relationships are more often than not isolated from family and friends and usually left financially dependent on the abuser. We also know that even if women were able to leave, they are too scared to leave. This fact is totally ignored by Messent and the fact that more than 70 percent of violence happens after a woman has left. Messent’s statement that “The women who allow themselves to be used as punch bags are often their own worst enemies.” clearly shows this.
The reality of abuse and more importantly the reasons for staying in an abusive relationship are far more complex than Messent’s simplistic argument offers. But using this simplistic approach – women in abusive relationships have no power.
The effects of domestic violence touches every aspect of your life. If being beaten, bitten and kicked on a daily basis isn’t bad enough, then there is the sexual violence. Beaten, raped and made to feel worthless. You are isolated. You are humiliated. If someone tells you enough times that it is your fault…you start beginning to believe it. You become an unwilling accomplice in hiding it from others. Yes there are days when you want to be beaten – as this is better than waiting all day for the inevitable beating. There are days when you want to be beaten so that your kids don’t witness it when they come home from school. There are days when you want to be beaten so that you don’t get dragged out of work, humilated and then beaten.
It is far too easy to question the reason that women ‘choose to stay’ and to blame women when they don’t report the abuse to the police but when you are living in a violent relationship there are quite simply no easy solutions.