Right to know?



I have mixed feelings about this. As much as draconian action is required to provide legal equanimity to women this smacks of Big Brother. It requires the authorities to handle and disseminate yet more confidential information and I’m not sure I trust them to do it. What if the information is given to the wrong people? Or if the information is wrong, full stop? And how will the authorities collect said information.

Isabella Sankey, of civil rights group Liberty, said: ‘Prior knowledge of a partner’s violent history is all too often not enough to prevent tragedy.

Bullying is a carrot and stick game – I know because I’ve been in abusive relationships. They’ll set you up for the put-down with lavish praise; they’ll reel you in with words of encouragement, the better to put the boot in; and they’ll apologise again and again and swear to behave better in future. They’re charming as often as not – and you might not see the darker side of their behaviour until you’re well and truly involved.

Grassing – like wife-beating – is still considered a great taboo in many circles. And as with wife-beating, taboo encourages people to turn the blind eye, or act to conceal evidence of undesirable behaviour. ‘Never hit a woman’ often translates as ‘never be seen hitting a woman’. And the abusers themselves can hardly be counted on to turn themselves in. The police only have records relating to convicted offenders which is only the tip of the iceberg.

Both abusers and the abused will often carry the baggage of a history of abuse relationships, going back in some cases to childhood. They may have ‘normalised’ such patterns, even if they recognise them as problematic. Breaking with the past and the abuser/rescuer dynamic will take more than information alone.

Better in my estimation to invest the money in support networks and social programs to educate both women and men and rehabilitate violent offenders. Work to remove the ridiculous and outdated taboos around women and violence that encourage both abusers and the abused to hide their tracks. Teach our kids not that violence against women is wrong but that any violence is wrong except in self-defence.

Invest more in specialist police departments to ensure that reported domestic situations are attended by properly trained officers immediately. Rape! should attract the same immediate response as Fire! If fire engines took as long to arrive at burning buildings as some police cars getting to battered, raped and stalked women there’d be an outcry.

You can’t hold up a burning building with red tape. It needs a change of attitude to open the door to freedom.


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