I heard this story on the news this week and immediately wanted to write a piece about how absurd this is. How shocking and how it once again punishes single mothers. But then I saw a friend commenting on it on over on Facebook and asked her if she would do a guest post as she has first hand experience of very important issue. Sarah puts into words exactly what I was thinking, but much more eloquently.
One woman in 4 experiences Domestic Abuse in a relationship during their lives.
Two women a week are killed by their partners in the UK.
My name is Sarah. I’m a victim of Domestic Abuse.
I don’t count as one of the 1 in 4. I never reported him to the Police. The kind of stuff he did didn’t warrant police attention.
I don’t have Residency issues, access issues or any ongoing harassment. My Ex is no longer in the country, to all intents and purposes, I am free. I can focus all my time and effort healing myself and my child. I’m ‘lucky’.
Today I read with utter despair the article in The Telegraph about the plans to ban divorced mothers who refuse to give their former husbands access to their children from travelling abroad, driving or even leaving their homes in the evening.
Now I am aware that there probably ARE some ‘divorced mothers’ who MAY hold children hostage, or who may wish that contact between their former husband and their children ceases, but SERIOUSLY, this has to be in the minority?
Surely there are other ways of holding them in breach of a court order; One that wouldn’t adversely affect their ability to travel, move freely or indeed work? As for Orders to Stay at Home after dark? That more resembles life in a backward and misogynistic Middle Eastern country than in the glorious free nation that we are so blessed to live in.
Quite aside from the insulting assumption that numbers of women are routinely doing this and it therefore needs to be so harshly clamped down upon, I find it utterly distressing that NO allowance has been made for those children and mothers that have legitimate reasons for withholding access.
Abused women are told to get out, vociferously; we are ridiculed as to why we have ‘put up with it’ for so long. We are told that if we don’t protect our children from the abuser by continuing to expose them to the abusive environment, then other agencies will be involved and steps may be taken to protect the children directly. Our children may be removed from us and placed into care if we fail to act to protect them.
It is immensely hard to get out, even to allow an abusive partner to simply leave. We go through that effort, being braver than we have ever been before, challenge lies often decades in the making, to get ourselves to a place where we are not terrorised, attacked or worn down.
We find ourselves out of the toxic environment then to be told by the courts that we must grant our former husband access to the children we have fought so hard to protect.
When my abusive relationship ended, my family all abandoned me the same time he went. I literally had no-one to talk to. I found the Taking Steps group. It’s a truly vital service to all its members and is free to attend. Taking Steps is the only place I am able to speak about the issues I faced when I left and somewhere that I continue to gain immense help and support in my ongoing recovery.
Taking Steps is a charity, and funding is hard to come by. A fundraising programme is planned to take place later this year with the aim of raising awareness and to expand the service to any county council in Hampshire initially that can raise the £5,000 a year required to run a group. There are currently groups in Aldershot, Basingstoke and Hook.
I asked Gerrie Jordan, leader of Taking Steps for her input:
It is often left to the partner who is the main care provider for the children to make decisions that keep a child safe. At a time that could potentially see other organisations get involved if they don’t.
If a parent knowingly allows a child to go with/attend a contact that could potentially put a child at risk either personally or witness to harm, then the parent who is the main provider could potentially be held as just as guilty of neglect as the perpetrator.
We all know and hear of main carers that need that weekend off from the children and justifiably but at what cost to the children? We sometimes see the children used as ammunition in the wars of court sometimes by both sides.
But the question lies with What If….
What if the main carer knows that the perpetrator has no intentions of being the other doting parent?
What if the perpetrator knows that by seeing the children is another way of power and control and used the arm of the law to do so?
What if the children really do need protecting?
There are some loving caring absent/part time parents who are equally abused by controlling full time parents. I have worked with both sides and unfortunately if these heavy handed measures are allowed to go through, some genuine safe guarding parents will be caught up and entwined in the forever changing laws of parenting, and what is right and wrong.
This will enable those few who do flout the law to be flushed out, but if Domestic Abuse is not factored in to this, if it is not taken seriously and considered, there is no doubt that parents with well-founded and genuine concerns for the safety of their children will also be punished. As a direct consequence of this action, their children too will suffer.
It may even serve to send a message to the children that their mother was wrong to stand up for them.”
The question I have is this: Why, when at least 25% of women suffer from abuse in a relationship is Domestic Abuse not being factored into more Government thinking?
Who is there to help us protect our children?
Who is listening to us?