Women suffering domestic violence will die if Doncaster council refuses to fund Women’s Aid in the South Yorkshire Town, campaigners have warned.
The Labour-run council cut funding for the service three years ago. Since then it’s been forced to rely on money from the Big Lottery.
But this funding is now due to end. If Doncaster Women’s Aid closes there will be no Women’s Aid anywhere in South Yorkshire.
Angry campaigners are fighting to defend the service. As one survivor, Emma, told Socialist Worker, “If it wasn’t for Doncaster Women’s Aid, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Local campaigner Diane told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been told that the doors to Doncaster Women’s Aid will close on 31 March. It’s been in the town for 40 years.
“Since 2010 when the Tories got in, some 54 percent of domestic violence services have gone. So the cuts are no surprise. But if the service goes, women will die.”
Emma said the service was crucial in helping her escape. “When you’re in a violent relationship, it’s terrifying,” she said. “You get suffocated.
“Doncaster Women’s Aid helped educate me about my rights and what abuse is.”
Campaigners have held street protests and demonstrations to defend Women’s Aid. They’ve launched an online petition, contacted MPs and councillors, and approached unions and campaign groups for support.
The campaign has been organised by Women’s Lives Matter and backed by other groups including Sisters Uncut.
Councillors have blamed the Tories for imposing funding cuts, implying that their hands are tied.
Diane said, “Some councillors are upset because they say we’re demonising the council. Labour MPs have gone crackers. Of course the Tories are the enemy.
“But we want our political representatives to act for us. If they want our votes, they have to look after the most vulnerable.”
Women need services such as Women’s Aid as they are often failed by the authorities.
“I got called a drama queen by one police officer,” said Emma. “One said to me, ‘You type of women like a bit of attention, don’t you?’”
Eventually she built up the courage to call Women’s Aid. “I remember the first thing they said to me was, ‘I believe you’. It gave me courage straight away.
“My fear is that women in the future will have nowhere to go. They will either live with long term abuse, be killed by their abuser or kill themselves. We have got to save this service.”
Names have been changed. For further details and to join the campiagn contact [email protected] and sign the petion in support of Women’s Aid at chn.ge/1nlEmWo
Domestic violence worker speaks out against cuts
A domestic violence worker in Doncaster told Socialist Worker about the scale of the problem in the town.
“We see thousands of women,” she said. “We’re just inundated. Since January I have seen some horrific cases. It’s been non-stop, high risk cases.
“Many women had gone to social services or the police, but they’ve needed our service to protect them. Domestic abuse isn’t taken seriously by society.
“Domestic violence specialists regularly work with women who are suicidal or have attempted suicide. Nine women a week attempt suicide because of domestic abuse and three die.
“And with each horrific cut to mental health services and refuges, these women have less support to keep them alive. Our service changes people’s lives. It’s a lifeline.
“A lot of the abusive behaviour is normalised in society, so women often don’t realise they’ve been in an abusive relationship.
“The power they have from coming to us, not being judged, is massive. They get strength. They get advice, support, therapeutic help and their children get support too.
“Women are often scared to report domestic violence as they worry their children will be taken away. We need voluntary sector women’s aid to give them support.
“It’s important that it’s free. Poverty, cuts and austerity are absolutely hindering any woman’s chance of escaping domestic abuse.
“Women in poverty are more likely to be in abusive relationships because it’s harder to escape.
“Of the £26 billion benefit cuts since 2010, some £22 billion has come from working class women. Women are being sanctioned if they can’t turn up to appointments because they’re dealing with abuse or the fallout from abuse.
“Services women need as an outlet to get out of the house, or to get a job to escape, are being cut. Every avenue is being cut.”
Council cuts hurt vulnerable people
Doncaster has some of the highest rates of domestic violence in Britain.
There’s been a 75 percent rise in child abuse rates in Doncaster.
In 2012 some 12 phone calls a day were made to police about domestic violence in Doncaster. And a woman suffers on average 35 incidents of abuse before she calls police.
Meanwhile the council last week approved plans put forward by mayor Ros Jones to slash spending by £31 million in the 12 months from April.
The cuts will squeeze services to support women even more.
Police let victims down
South Yorkshire Police (SYP) are letting domestic violence victims down.
That’s according to an official report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary.
The report found in December last year that, “The force’s response to domestic violence is not consistently good and requires improvement.”
SYP said it had made improvements in its response.
It boasted that officers now follow basic procedures such as making “a record of observations relating to children at a domestic abuse incident”.
Domestic abuse is systemic
Two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or ex partner.
A quarter of women in England and Wales will suffer domestic violence at some point during their lives.
Police in Britain receive a domestic assistance call every minute—despite the fact that most incidents aren’t reported to the police.
Some 25 percent of children in Britain have witnessed domestic abuse.