Sunday, August 26, 2007

Domestic violence

The Guardian reports on the continual high rates of domestic violence and the crap attitudes of judges.

It highlights two recent cases where men were fined for violent and sadistic abuse of their partners :

It is quite hard, for instance, to fathom what the magistrates who gave Stuart Brown a £500 fine this week - after he dragged his wife out of bed and punched her at least 24 times - meant when they described him as being of "good character" . For the seven years of their marriage, Brown's wife, Carol McEwan, complained of regular verbal and physical abuse. Brown hasn't even lost his job - he still works at the Norwich and Norfolk University Hospital as a consultant anaesthetist, although the General Medical Council will be holding a disciplinary hearing. "No punishment this court could enforce could come anywhere near the impact you feel this had on you, your profession and your colleagues," the presiding magistrate, John Warne, told Brown.

The case caps a week of astonishment and despair for campaigners against domestic violence. On Monday, Colin Read, a management consultant, was fined just £2,000 for a catalogue of violence against his wife, Elizabeth Axe. Read became violent soon after the couple married last year, and, in one of the worst attacks, slashed his wife's feet with a knife while she was asleep because she hadn't made his sandwiches for work the next day. When she protested, he punched her. Eight days later, he complained that she hadn't ironed one of his shirts and branded her twice with the iron on her back - the steam holes were burnt into her skin. Too terrified to see a doctor, Axe treated her burns by standing under a cold shower.
Read wasn't given a community punishment as the judge said that the demands of his job meant he would be "too busy" to fulfil it. "A fine is not really a deterrent," said Axe after the three-day trial. "People might think they can do whatever they want, pay a few pounds and it's all over." When you consider these men's salaries, it becomes even clearer that the fines handed down were no real punishment - Brown is said to earn £100,000 a year, Read £90,000.

How the fuck can anyone be deemed of good character when they physically abuse another person. Seems the judge did not want to inconvenience these men too much, I mean can't have their well paid jobs affected. Perhaps if they really were punished they might think twice before acting as they did.

The judges seem to think that because the partner has left the man he is no longer a risk. Firstly, that smacks of seeing her as in some way to blame.No women is to blame for being burnt with an iron . Secondly, he is still a risk to any other woman he becomes involved in.

The report puts these two cases into context :

One in four women in the UK experience domestic violence during their lives, and it accounts for the murders of two women - and as many as 10 suicides - a week. In Britain, police receive half a million complaints a year, although this is, of course, a tiny proportion of the actual number of incidents. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) says it takes domestic violence "very seriously" and points to the increasing number of specialist prosecutors working on domestic violence cases. Overall conviction rates are higher year on year, but, looking at this week's cases, that seems almost irrelevant if the punishment doesn't fit the crime. In cases where domestic violence hasn't ended in murder, just 4% of men who are convicted serve prison sentences.

And yes I know prison is not the answer, but while we wait for a better world without violence against women I am quite happy to see these men punished for their violence. And yes it needs to go hand in hand with challenging attitudes that it is ok to abuse women and to address why these men act how they do through rehab programmes. More support is also needed to help women who are suffering abuse .

At the moment though the message these cases are sending out is that it is not worth reporting attacks and that your suffering is worth about a week or two of these men's wages . No wonder many women feel there is no point and no one really gives a damn.

hat tip Mind the Gap.