We know that people break the law through “gaslighting” (or LYING) and by threatening and invoking fear and compliance in others through a term called “coercive control”. Women’s Aid points out that women are highly unlikely to kill in comparison to men. Out of the 246 women killed in the United Kingdom between April 2013 and March 2016, 242 of them were killed by men. But we do know that women attack their partners. Sarah*, 32, was hospitalised by her ex-partner who left her with nerve damage, kidney disease and the knowledge that she will never carry or give birth to her own children.
Do we truly understand the extent of the problem?
When questioned, Women’s Aid told me “we are unable to answer your questions regarding prevalence within lesbian relationships” and pointed me to Galop. Galop agreed, saying that “there are by far fewer resources available compared to the research of women that have experienced violence from men.” They now have a dedicated researcher who is putting together information for LGBT victims of domestic abuse.
Justice for Women do fantastic work supporting and attempting to free women who have been imprisoned for life for fighting back against their male abusers and killing them. On 15thNovember 2018 at a conference, David Challen, the son of Sally Challen, stood for justice for his mother who has already served eight years for his father’s murder and still has 10 years of the sentence left. He describes her as never being beaten, but trapped for 41 years by a man he now sees every time he looks in the mirror. He feels that she became so broken and changed, due to the psychological manipulation and control of her mind, that she had diminished responsibility, not acknowledged in her trial, when it came to his murder. This and many other stories like it sadden me to my bones, but at least she has a chance of appeal. Something that is not offered for many. Shockingly, even with a change in knowledge and experience in relation to a case’s evidence, if the evidence itself hasn’t changed then there is no chance of appeal. This highlights the importance of getting it right first time. It was mentioned a number of times at the conference that domestic violence is gendered due to the flow of power.
I vehemently agree that we still live in a patriarchal society; in Greater Manchester alone, out of 67,000 cases of domestic violence from April 2017-2018, only 775 were recorded as LGBT cases. But, even the tabloids say men can be physically abused by women and, anyway, coercive control isn’t about physical strength. Julie Bindel, the journalist and the co-founder of Justice for Women, became noticeably shocked at Stonewall’s statistics which claim that one in four lesbian and bisexual women have been the victim of domestic violence and that two-thirds of those perpetrators were women. She would like to know where Stonewall got these figures from. She definitely doesn’t dispute that female on female abuse occurs, but she is yet to come across it herself.
If the women who are the mouthpiece for abused women do not understand it’s prevalence in same sex relationships and if Rob Harkavy, editor of Out News Global, is correct in saying that the number of people identifying as bisexual is multiplying, then it is a good job that Manchester police force have started documenting their cases of domestic violence in the LGBT community under a separate code.
You can contact Galop, the LGBTQ+ national anti-violence helpline, on 0800 999 5428
In part three I will look at how this initiative is going and at the myths surrounding abuse on women by women.
*names have been changed, to protect identity, upon request.