I wept for them: Reflecting on a Tory Government’s impact on BAMER victims of Domestic Abuse
As the exit polls correlated the damning results, I became consumed with an overwhelming sense of anomie, an emotion which Sociologist Emile Durkheim defined as ‘a social condition that occurs when common norms and values disintegrate; causing people to feel a lack of belonging within their society’. Less than overt despair or outrage, hopelessness left me numb. As the realisation of what the election results meant for the BAMER (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee) female-identifying domestic abuse survivors sunk in, all I could do was weep.
I wept for the 1 in 3 women who experience domestic abuse in their lifetime; the 1 in 2 young women who have experienced controlling behaviour in an intimate relationship; the two women killed a week by a current or former partner and the 1 and the 3 women who take their own lives as a result of domestic abuse. I wept for the 400 women a week whose referrals to refuge services were denied in the previous quarter due to lack of beds, stuck in a cycle whereby victims will experience 33 incidences of abuse before reporting.
I wept for the BAMER women, who will experience abuse 1.5 times longer than their white counterparts and who will stay in a relationship for an average of 10 years before leaving an abusive partner, largely due to individual, cultural and institutional barriers which make support services disproportionately less accessible for disadvantaged women. I wept for the women who were turned away from already stretched services due to language barriers which were unaffordable, unable to access counselling, housing, finances until they have a competent level of English; the women whose immigration status meant they had No Recourse To Public Funds (NRPF) and rendered them incapable of accessing refuge; the women whose immigration status is manipulated by their partners, whilst their experiences are used for diversity quotas, case studies and exceptions which prove the rule. I wept for those who are asked to leave their religions and culture at their door in order to access a one-size-fits-all, Eurocentric model of safety and wellbeing which only to have to navigate culturally incompetent support.
I wept because I knew that the needs of the people I support will continue to be minimised by a bigoted party who prides themselves on creating a “hostile environment” for BAMER people. Their hollow and frankly insufficient dedication to supporting victims, in a two-bullet-pointed mention on page 19 of their manifesto, promises very little in the way of specialist support. The proposed Domestic Abuse Bill due to be instated by the Conservative Party has many flaws which impact BAMER women, including; lack of consideration for the criminalisation of financial abuse, something particularly pertinent in light of the new Universal Credit system which no longer permits income to be paid jointly, which will particularly impact BAMER people who’s partners may exploit their income based on immigration status. Most notably however is the UK’s failure to ratify the Istanbul Convention means that those who have experienced FGM, Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage are not bound by the protection it serves. Infuriatingly, this bill was formulated in the Theresa May era. A self-defined “feminist”, May vowed to implement this “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” as law, however this Bill doesn’t deliver enough funding to counteract the effect of cuts which are responsible for the decimation of services under her office (local authority spending has been cut by over £10m in the past 9 years).
I wept as the calls to action across social media, reasoned with activists like myself to use our disappointment as fuel to fire a revolution, knowing full well that the once blazing inferno is now a dwindling ember for myself and many other passionate support workers who have had our flames stamped out by the oppressive environment we work in. Cuts to funds mean cuts to services, cuts to services means overworked, underpaid and overstretched staff. Whilst our mental health deteriorates, we are told to “put our vulnerable clients first”, so we provide the best service we can muster until we are forced by necessity of our own personal safety to put our own mental health first. A Domestic Abuse Bill that makes promises without addressing the cuts to funding simultaneously ignores the needs of the frontline staff who are expected to implement new changes with no further support.
Working in Sheffield – a city estimated to have a higher rate of Domestic Abuse due to many social factors, including a high BAMER population - our clients are some of the most devalued and doubly disadvantaged people in the country; they are BAMER, immigrant women on low income, who are vulnerable to further abuse and exploitation and yet, our clients are at best dismissible, at worst, vilified, those who voted for a bigoted party. I wept because the result of our election proved that 43.6% of our country simply does not care about the women we support. As the acceptance of our 5 year reality started to sink in, I wept from fear for the people I support daily, whose milieu of existing vulnerabilities instantly became more precarious overnight. So, I implore you, when you are commendably fighting against our oppressive government, when you dedicate time to volunteering and donations to organisations, consider the people who arguably constitute as the most vulnerable demographic in our community today, and the issues they are forecasted to suffer under a Tory government; BAMER women who are victims of Domestic Abuse.
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