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Guest Speaker at the “Stand Up To Domestic Abuse 2019” Conference
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I was delighted when a friend and colleague of mine, Rachel Williams, asked if I would speak at her conference “Stand Up To Domestic Abuse 2019”. This is going to be an annual event and will come in different forms. And its key themes are to raise awareness but also to fundraise, in terms of making it a more comfortable experience for victims, so that they can leave and they don’t feel they need to go back. So I was most delighted to get the opportunity to speak at this event in September 2019. It was very high profile event which got National News coverage in Wales, and it did get lots of coverage outside of Wales as well in the Daily Mirror, The Telegraph as well as Marie Claire magazine.
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The event was opened Rachel Williams, the event organiser see sutda.org. Rachel was a victim of domestic abuse and stalking have had a very harrowing experience which has led her on to doing lots of work raise awareness of domestic abuse. Click the link to view the video of Rachel’s personal story.
The conference was compared by a local radio presenter, Chris Jones and Mark Drakeford, who is the first minister for Wales, kicked us off for the day shall we say. Then we had Michael Sheen, the actor, who is very involved and supportive in a lot of Rachel’s work, and it was great to get a fun selfie with him. Laura Richards who is an investigator and now works for the FBI, but she was at New Scotland Yard previous to that. She works a lot on the psychology of murderers and abusers. So, she did a lot of research into the “Dirty John” documentary which she features in, as well as the dramatisation “Unbelievable” and many, many more, plus she has done quite a lot on the stalking issues. Then we had our delightful Pat Craven, Author and Creator of the Freedom Programme, and a dear friend Nina, who spoke about her experience of learning about the Freedom Programme as a muslim woman when she had left an abusive relationship.
We had Luke Hart talking on behalf of himself and his brother about the levels of coercive control their father inflicted on the whole family, before their father murdered their mother and their sister, and then we had the lovely Lynn Smiley, friend and colleague, whose father murdered her mother when she was just 14 years of age and how she has come through that.
There were a couple of representatives from Save Lives, Dame Vera Baird the new Victims Commissioner, albeit she was talking about the £20 billion pounds that the Government is giving to domestic abuse victim services, but we actually know that it already costs £66 billion and that is Government’s figures. So, £20 million is not really going to even touch the sides to be quite honest.
The lovely Becky O’Brien, Singer and Drama teacher who featured on Britain’s Got Talent, a few years ago, she now lives in New York, but she came over to sing her little heart out as she does so wonderfully.
Dr Jane Monckton Smith who has done extensive research on stalking behaviours. See Jane’s profile which lists her work, publications etc.
Zoe Dronfield, spoke on her experience of being a victim, surviving near death attacks, and she works with Laura Richards on trying to get together a domestic abusers register, which would work very much like a schedule offenders register. So that is for people who have been convicted of rape, whether that is against an adult or a child or other forms of paedophilia and grooming.
We were going to have the delightful David Challen speaking for himself, his brother and on behalf of his recently released mother, Sally, but with the good news that his brother’s wife had given birth the night before, it was lovely that they weren’t there, to be quite honest. So we heard from Harriet Wistrich who was the barrister for Sally Challen’s case and Harriets partner; Julie Bindle, spoke Sally’s words, which David was going to read to us on the day. And of course in the midst of all that – there was my presentation.
What I spoke about specifically was again, as always, talking about the Freedom Programme and its versatility, and how we use it but specifically pin pointing coercive control aspects of abuse, and how the Freedom Programme gives us the words to explain. It gives us the language of understanding what coercive control. The Freedom Programme as a framework to identify which personas are doing which aspects of Dr Jane Monckton Smith’s eight stage model. Which sort of starts from the early beginnings in a relationship at stage one and goes all the way up to stage seven. If a perpetrator gets to stage seven, then they are going to murder their victim, nothing really is going to veer them off track, and stage eight is actually taking her life, which we have seen a 60% increase in the last twelve months alone. So, whatever it is that we are doing, we are not really doing it well. In fact, we are doing it fairly appallingly which is why I always go on about the Human Rights. See the details of these on my NO MORE Campaign page.
My key aim when I am speaking up at conferences, delivering training or lecturing, is to try and get people interested in what an enormous issue this is. It is not just “oh those poor victims” and “oh gosh what can we do”, because we know what we can do, but people and society choose not to. So I always try and look at it, at a different angle and see what else we can draw to the fore.
On that basis for this event, as I said, I focused on coercive control, but I also looked at the other aspects in terms of domestic terrorism turning into Global terrorism. There is an unholy amount of data and research and knowledge about this already, which is the hugely frustrating area for me to learn, to be quite honest. And it is, if we look at some of the recent terrorist attacks, home and abroad, the London Bridge attack, the Westminster attack, Parklands Florida shootings, Niece France attacker, Texas Church shootings, France, Germany, Norway, Belgium, Australia, all of these, all of these perpetrators came from context of domestic abuse. Now whether that was significantly embedded in their childhood or whether that was brought into their adulthood and practices, it varies. But domestic abuse is present and prevalent part of their lives, which is frightening.
So that means, if we do get this domestic abuse register together which Zoe Drumfield and Laura Richards are campaigning for then, you know, we just need to go and look where the evidence is. Currently what happens is the Police flag properties, Police flag perpetrators, it doesn’t go a great deal further than that unless there is a conviction, but that can be down to whether the CPS is going to take that forward or not, and that is not always down to whether the law has been broken, it can be coming down to the level of evidence available, and so the robustness of evidence for the CPS to agree to put that through Court, and when I say CPS, I mean the Crown Prosecution Service. And then, even if all those boxes are ticked, they might decide it is not in the public interest i.e. its going to be cheaper if we don’t do this, which really isn’t the right determination in terms of prosecuting the perpetrators.
In terms of terrorist behaviours and terrorist Acts, the MI5, they have got their own flagging system. You know at any one given time they might be watching more than 30,000 suspects, who they have got interest of their activities. Because of their radicalised views and speaking out about that. The Police and MI5 ironically, don’t share knowledge that they already have, and sometimes that is down to resources and sometimes that is just not sensible intelligent partnership working really. If we are trying to protect, on a domestic level and a National level and a Global level, we have got the information, but we are just siloed in our practices.
So, in terms of the radicalisation then this can be in a context of faith, so we hear quite a lot in the media in terms of radicalised people that tend to come from either a Christian or a Muslim context. But there can also be radicalised under a political agenda, which is when we get, you know the Tommy Robinson’s, the right wing aspects, the old BNP coming through in different coats, to be quite honest the values and the draw is exactly the same. But the list of different attackers that I mentioned a moment ago, they were all known to MI5 or the FBI, depending on what countries they were in, obviously they have different departments dealing with that. 93% of them were male, 72% of them were British, 43% lived in London, 38% were already known to the Police and 48% of those had previously caught the attention of MI5.
If we are just looking at the Westminster Bridge attack, the whole event took 82 seconds from start to finish, it left five people dead and another 29 injured. There had been significant domestic abuse, this guy had done time for his level of violence and abuse, not just in the home but in public as well. There was one particular domestic terrorists outburst that he had, if you want to term it in those ways, where he had, and we are talking like a 20 year back catalogue with this guy, with lots of prison terms. There was one of the events that went to Court and went to Trial, but wasn’t particularly successful, which is again the frustrations and ridiculousness of the law, and then when it is skewed by belief systems that are just not coming from the right place.
So, the situation is this guy is out wherever he is out. Somebody accused him of being an undercover copper, so instead of saying just “no” or something less polite, or even just walking away and shrugging it off, what he did was he got a carving knife and stabbed the guy in the nose, which went down the back of the guys throat, the blade broke off in his throat, and so yeah that did go to Court and so you think “oh hooray”. It went to Court and it was acquitted because the perpetrator, his plea of “acting in self-defence” was upheld. Which then just grants him permission to just keep doing what he does, because the law can’t touch him. It’s a bit like R Kelly, with his believing he can fly, because nothing touches them. It is just so horrific that people try and see good in people and unfortunately, some people are so damaged, that there is no good left, or it is very hard to retrieve it at least. So, yeah there was plenty of understanding that this guy was going to go on and on and on and that is what he did. He left his, I think his baby was 18 months old at the time of him taking his own life after the attack at Westminster Bridge, and left his abused wife to clean up the mess that he had left behind. In terms of peoples hurt and anger as well as everything else. But when we are looking at perpetrators who domestically abuse, and then they escalate through some framework of radicalisation, their thought processors change in various ways, but they begin to see their victim, be that their partner, or people on the street or people from a specific community or people from a specific country, as being morally deformed, unrepentant and therefore sub-human.
So the fact of the matter is, they practice this behind closed doors with their partners and their families, and then when that gets them through because nobody is touching them and nobody is holding them to account, they can just keep escalating. So again, in terms of what can we do, there is quite a lot that we can do. We can address the training that is needed, in terms of people who are working in the judiciary and the protective services. We can link up the intelligence we already have and stop working in silos. We need to stop victim blaming and assuming that is why it is happening. We need to stop colluding and we need to stop turning a blind eye and assuming these perpetrators will stop, because they won’t, they need stopping. We need to stop leaving that to the victim. So always, always validate the victims experience and hear what she has to say and empower her with the Freedom Programme.
Here is a quote that I penned some years ago and I quote it very often in a lot of my wrapping up of conferences to be honest.
“In this line of work, we have to play the long game, its like painting the fourth bridge. All that we can hope is that we have added one positive stroke of paint to that strong girder sitting right there in front of us. We have a long way to go, but if we keep going with the right intention, in the right direction, we can change this, but we need to want to do it….”
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