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UK government announces ‘Clare’s Law’ consultation

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Summary of story from The Guardian, October 25, 2011

The UK government has launched a consultation on Clare’s Law – a proposed law that could give women access to information about any violence in a new partner’s history (see WVoN story).

The proposal is the result of a campaign by the family of Clare Wood, who was strangled in 2009 by ex-boyfriend George Appleton.

Appleton had been convicted three times for stalking and harassment, and had kidnapped a previous girlfriend at knifepoint – but Clare had no way of knowing this.

The consultation was announced by home secretary Theresa May, and the law has also been backed by former Labour minister Hazel Blears, the family’s local MP.

“Domestic violence is a particularly dreadful form of abuse, and I want us to constantly look at new ways of protecting victims and preventing tragic incidents from happening,” May said.

If approved, the new legislation could take the form of either a ‘right to ask’ or a ‘right to know’.

The former would give people the right to access information held on a national database, while the second option would mean the police could take the initiative in disclosing information.

  1. vicki wharton says:

    I would welcome something like this as my previous partner, who hit me on several occassions, is now in another relationship. I would like there to be a mechanism that dealt with people who use gender violence to warn people getting into relationship with them that this person has a history of assaulting on the basis of gender. I think the term domestic violence is a red herring, this is mainly about the perpetrator’s expectations around gender roles and using violence to enforce rigid adherence to his role model from his partner.

  2. I think the main problem with this is that most DV perpetrators do not actually have criminal convictions. About 25% of women experience DV but most do not call the police until they have been attacked more than 30 times. Even if they do call the police, quite often the police calm the situation down and then leave the abuser in the house with his victim, having got a promise that he won’t hit her any more that night. So there will be nothing on record, about his history of violence.

    Although a law like this will send the right signals, what really needs to happen is for violent men’s property rights not to be upheld as the safety of their partners and children must be prioritised. Police should be able and willing to remove them from the house and a judge should be able and willing to keep them out. Also if they break the terms of an injunction, they should be imprisoned.

    Further, we need massive education so that men are taught that women are not their property and that they are responsible for their own actions, feelings and thoughts. And women need to be taught the red flags which might help them identify those abusers who don’t learn those lessons so that they can avoid them however nice they are in the beginning.

    • vicki wharton says:

      Trouble is, the whole of our culture is built around men seeing women as animals rather than people – hence the rise of violent internet porn. A recent survey of men aged 18 – 36 put their internet porn use at 94%, so how do we educate people who are regularly viewing material that refers to women as b****es, gashes and worse when 94% of them buy into this portrayal of women.

  3. Well I think we just need to keep speaking up about this stuff, pointing out how it de-humanises women, refusing to have anything to do with men who watch this stuff. And we need to keep lobbying, agitating, complaining about the anti-bullying policies in our children’s schools, which mention anti-racist abuse but don’t even recognise sexist abuse, we need to ask men if they’re happy that because of this porn culture, their mothers and daughters are being thought of as gashes and sluts by other men and whether their right to a wank, is more important than the basic human rights of women, to be acknowledged as human beings.

    Also we need to be telling the truth about the porn culture – that the happy hooker myth is just that – a myth – and that the reality is that most women who work in the sex industry, will have experienced rape or other sexual abuse and that 70% of those who leave it, will suffer PTSD, a rate similar to torture victims.

    We need to confront men with the reality of the industry they’re supporting and we need to not buy the bullshit about freedom of choice.

  4. Oh and also we need not to be afraid of being thought of, as puritans or of being disliked by men. Because the sort of men who would dislike us for telling the truth about the porn industry, are the sort of men whose approval would mean we’d be doing or saying something wrong.

    • vicki wharton says:

      I do all of this, but when 94% of men use this stuff, I’m not sure the fact that men have girlfriends, wives, mothers is any inhibitor on them using porn as I suspect that most men secretly or not so secretly, see us as 2nd class other beings, in the same way racists see black people as inferior.

      • Well yes, I agree that lots of men do see women like that, but I’m hoping it’s not 94%. Although most men have seen porn at some point in their lives, that doesn’t mean they are regular porn users now or that they condone it or like it. That 94% figure doesn’t refer to regular users, does it? It can’t do, by definition, some men are gay, some men are too old to have internet access, some are too busy, etc.

        • vicki wharton says:

          Those figures were quoted from a survey of 1,000 men aged 18 – 34 from Gail Dines book Pornland if I remember correctly. 94% of men in that age bracket said they watched up to 2 hours of porn a week or a day, can’t remember which. I spoke to a couple of researchers a couple of months ago at one of the UK universities currently looking at men’s porn use and studying the way it influences their thinking about women and violence against women. They were trying to set up a control group of non porn users in that age group and couldn’t find enough men who didn’t use porn regularly to make up a control group. Internet use goes off the scale between 9pm and after in what advertisers call the porn spike – and Relate states that porn use is being cited in a third of its caseload at the moment. The porn industry grosses more money than Hollywood and the illegal drugs industry combined, according to Gail Dines.

          • God that is shocking. Really shocking.

            We really need to get violent porn banned from the mainstream don’t we. It is really screwing up men’s attitudes to women, even more than they are already screwed up.

  5. Jenny R, you speak a lot of sense! It is most definitely an issue that needs to be tackled on a number of fronts and I think talking about it is the first step.

    I do, however, like the idea of ‘Clares Law’. As long as its short fallings are recognised. (ie, the fact that many men guilty of domestic abuse do not have a criminal record etc.) But I see no reason that these men, once convicted of a violent crime of this nature, should be able to keep that a secret from future partners (victims?).

    There is an argument that it’s potentially unfair to people who may have made a mistake, realised the error of their ways, changed, etc. But I think that’s a small price to pay for the protection of women from men with a proven history of violence towards them!

    • vicki wharton says:

      Many people make mistakes but their crimes are still a matter of public record. My ex attended a DV course where some attendees spoke of having punched their son’s teeth out, but there is no statutory requirement for men arrested for DV to go to counselling in the way that if they were done for speeding they’d have to go to driving lessons. Indeed, when I made it a condition of my ex returning to the house that he had to attend a six month therapy course, his lawyer advised him not to sign up as it would be tantamount to an admission of guilt on his part. None of the men involved round him, from the male arresting police officer, his male solicitor, his father and friends and the social services, showed any concern for mine and my daughter’s welfare whatsoever. I know a number of women that have suffered gender violence from partners and there experience is little different from mine. Most of them are terrified of losing their children as they are treated and assessed as unfit mothers rather than crime victims.

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