Saturday, 2 April 2011

An open letter to Cameron, Clegg, May and Featherstone


Actions, not words.
So formed part of Theresa May's speech to the Women's Aid conference after being appointed Home Secretary and Equalities minister, little less than a year ago. 

Actions, not words.

And, in some ways, she was right. Actions have been made, and very few words about them have been spoken. Actions that will result in the deaths, and the physical and mental harm of women all over the country, who are facing the reality of having their life-saving and life-creating services cut, thanks to this coalition government's financial and economic decisions.

It was revealed by Women's Aid this March that, across the country, 60% of refuge services will have no council funding in the new financial year, and neither will 72% of floating support services, which provide support within people's homes. 

Actions, not words. 

These cuts will also lead to 40% job losses in the refuge sector. 

Actions, not words. 

These cuts mean that next year, an extra 70,000 women and children will be left without the support they need to escape lives of violence. The cuts will reduce refuge projects from 400 across the UK, to 160. Every day, 200 women are already unable to access a refuge place. These cuts mean that many more women will literally have no-where to go to start new lives away from a world of physical, emotional and sexual violence. Their children will have no-where to go. Men in violent relationships will also lose the support that many of these services offer.

Actions, not words.

Statistics tell us that two women a week will die as a result of domestic violence, and 2,000 women a week are raped. The number of women annually killed by their partner has risen in the past few years, from 78 in 2008 to 97 in 2010. The basic facts are that as a result of these service cuts, more women will be beaten, physically and emotionally. More women will be raped. More women will die. 

Women like Tania Moore, whose story was told on BBC Panorama. When Tania Moore left her abusive partner, he continued to stalk her and send her threatening messages, before murdering her in 2004. Her mother has since campaigned to raise awareness of the horrors of domestic violence and stalking.

Or women like Hannah Fisher, whose mother is currently raising money for Refuge to ensure that services which could have saved her daughter exist for future women. Hannah was killed by her former partner when she was 21.

The moment when a woman decides to leave her violent partner is the moment she is most in danger. Without support services in place to ensure a safe space for her to escape to, women are at huge risk of stalking, violence and death. Refuge places save lives, like the life of an anonymous woman who got in touch with me to say how her and her baby fled a violent relationship to find a place in a refuge, and were supported in finding secure accommodation. She says the refuge saved her life.

Actions, not words.

It was also revealed last week that the post created by the government to fight against female genital mutilation in the UK has been cut. This comes weeks after the government pledged to fight this crime, that often leaves women with health problems, pain during intercourse and periods, and increased complications during childbirth. It can cause severe pain and shock, psychological damage, urine retention, immediate fatal haemorrhaging and complications in pregnancy and childbirth. It is an act designed to control women. It is a crime committed against children. This cut suggests that the government has chosen to risk the physical and emotional health of young girls in order to save money. One charity worker says that of all the young women she works in from the FGM-practising community, nearly all have been cut. It is estimated that 24,000 girls in the UK are at risk of being cut. No-one has ever been prosecuted for practising FGM since it was made illegal in the UK in 1985.

Actions, not words. 

I have briefly laid out the facts of the effects of the cuts to services that provide support to women and men escaping violent relationships. I have told the stories of a few women who have been affected. Now, I ask you to take action. 

You can ensure that services which save women's lives are safe themselves. You can pledge to invest money and secure funding to protect services that save lives.

Supporting the domestic violence sector makes financial sense. Domestic violence costs London alone £2.5 million a day. The average annual income of a Rape Crisis centre is £81,598 – only marginally more the cost to the state of one rape. And it makes moral and social sense. I do not want to live in a society that sacrifices the lives of vulnerable women to make savings. Risking the lives of women to save money is not an option. 

You can take action. After you have read this letter, please visit the websites of our leading domestic violence support service charities and donate. If the actions of this government have determined to cut funding from the this vital sector, then take action yourselves, and donate now.

And please, think of the sons and daughters who had no card to send to their mothers on the 3rd April. The siblings who will never reminisce with their sister. The mothers and fathers who will never see their daughters grow older. The best friend who loses the woman she loves. The women who will not live the lives they were supposed to live. And think of the women who have survived, thanks to the services that are dedicated to ending what  the UN Secretary-General has called the greatest human rights violation of our time. Who are dedicated to ending violence against women and girls, with actions, not words. 

Yours sincerely,

Sian Norris

342 women and men have signed this letter in support. There names are:

Anna Brown Bristol Feminist Network
Helen Gregory, The F Word
Rob Buckley
Marina Strinkovsky
Kate Grant Bristol Feminist Network
Rachel Simmons
Emma Bedford
Dr Sue Tate Bristol Fawcett and Bristol Feminist Network, Senior lecturer at UWE
Constance Fleuriot
Jane Mornemont, Bristol Fawcett
Dr Nikki Hayfield
Harriet Williams, Bristol Feminist Network
Hannah Mudge
Louise Almond-Norris
Kate Bewick
Joanna Papageorgiou
Natalie Dzerins
Jean-Paul Storrow
Maddie Shapland
Jen Hall
Paul Wood
Guy Taylor
Jonathan Headington
Tiffany Daniels
Melissa Harry
Jessica Haigh, Leeds Feminist Network
Jan Martin, Bristol Feminist Network
James Tanner
Matt Moran
Katherine Williams
Tomas Rawlings
Sandra Dillon
Lee-Tze Leong
Cath Elliott, blogger and journalist
Selina Postgate
Sophie Warnes
Alison Wheeler
Alexx Eastwood-Williams
Vicky Ayech
Aatish Ramchurn
Claire Butler
Bob Irving
Dahlian Kirby
Anna Robertson
Elaine Hutton, Bristol Fawcett
Amirah Garba
Cat Jone
sChitra Nagarajan, London Feminist Network
Esther Owen, Bristol Fawcet
Finn McKay, founder of London Feminist Network
James Sherlock
Linda Durrant
Pam Smith
Dr Charlotte Paterson, Bristol Fawcett
Laura Norton
Mark Clapham
Ben Singer
Mary Ni Cheallaigh
John O'Dwyer
Fatma Kayhan
Sue Newte
Davina Williams, Bristol Fawcett
Jackie Barron
Karen Connelly
Carrie Supple
Carolyn Forsyth
Jan Goodyear
Orna Ross
Charmaine Elliott
Amani Zarroug
Dr Pamela Trevithick, Bristol Fawcett
Kayleigh Reed
Sian Cox
Kirsty Gallery
Eve Zienau
Mark Randall
Jac Higgs and the Northants Green Party
Tanya Jones
Juliet Blake
Thomas Pickard
Gill Harry
Deborah Metters
Simon Hewitt
Mel Brown
Cathryn Fraser
Simon Hayward
Selina Nwulu
Vicky Nigussie
Kate Smurthwaite, comedian and vice chair of abortion rights
Deborah de Lloyd
Amber Burrows
Robert Frazier
Jennifer Drew
Martin Wilson
Adrienne Madden
Margaret Vesey
Verity Halliday
Miles Curtis Watson
Jessica Finn
James Baker
Katie Sims
Will Mead
Ben Whale
Isaac Marsden-Loftus
Daniel Parkes
Lukasz Tyszczuk
Bidisha, writer and broadcaster
Natalie Vivian
Sophia McCrea
Polly Toney
Pete Toney
Nadia Yafai
Andy Platt
Alessandra Berti, Bristol University Feminist Society
Stephanie Theobald
Millie Kidson
Rosa Morris
Wendy Constantinoff
Damian Harte
Diane Law
Cerys Hammer
Lindsay Dickinson
Amy Wright
Lauren Evans
Ben Martin
Martin Paul Eve
Giordana Bunting
Jenny Williamson
Liz Britton
Steve Dickinson
Michael Bimmler
Beatrix Campbell, writer and journalist
AVA Project
Laura Woodhouse, The F Word and Sheffield  Feminist Network
Dr. Helen Mott, Bristol Fawcett
Ruth Schamrof
Maria Ng
Karen Barlow
Sharon Gewirtz
Stephanie Poyntz, Bristol Fawcett
Emily Brewer
Jeremy Green
Ruth Owens
Katharine Jenkins
Charlotte Gage
Sally Clifford
Sarah Fogg
Toni Haastrup
Lisa Saunders
Andrew Brown
Nina Blakesley
Jodie Gardiner
Paula Manners Rape crisis
Marilyn Shipley
Olivia Bailey
Claire Chetwynd
Emma Dowden
Kirsty Doole
Frances Walker
Sam Ahmed
Diane Shipley
Mary Tracy
Hari Byles
Nicola Kerry
Imogen Facey
Jacqueline Christodoulou
Catherine Elms
Pam MacLeod
Deborah Kelley
Minna Salonen
Kate Williams
Lynsey Rose
Josh Hadley
Kev Croaker
Claire Barker
Katherine Wootton
Harri C Weeks
Carrie Stewart
Eleanor Saunders
Sue Westwood
Jane Evans
Sue Jeffries
Lindsay J Haynes
Hannah Seidel
Kit Withnail Bristol University Feminist Society
Sophie Bennett President, Bristol University Feminist Society
Rob Griggs
Rukshana Afia
Sian de Freyssinet, London Feminist Network
Esther Polden  Bristol Fawcett
Sally Outen
Linda Haskins
Sophie Parker Manuel
Jessica Laughton
Amy O'Leary
Rhiannon Holder MBE
Cat Payne
Georgie Power
Katy Ladbrook, Bristol Feminist Network
Natalie Bennett Bristol Feminist Network
Anna Lowenstein
Alice Field
Michelle Wright
Susan Field
Armin Elsaesser, Bristol Feminist Network
Ruth Martin
Lara Gunnarsson
Jennifer Chadburn
Zara Grout
Sinead Walsh
Polly Smith
Clare Hollowell
Caitlin Gwyn
Eleanor T Higgs
Sarah Evans
Anna Travers
Claire Murray
Amy Wilkes
Bev Khan
Juliet Sprake
Lily-Rose Beardshaw
Sarah Kiddle
Amelia Bayes
Eleanor Johnson
Marion Payne
Charlie Dacke, Solent Feminist Network
101 members of Solent Feminist Network 
Francine Hoenderkamp, Turn your back on page 3
Hannah Pickford
Barnaby Lynch
Kate Sang
Susan Pares South London Fawcett Society
David Hopkinson
Dave Taylor
Melanie Jeffs



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