This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

Welfare Reform Bill denies full protection to women and children fleeing violence, and increases danger from ex-partners.

Sign below to stop these measures

The government and its Minister for Women Harriet Harman have made a great show of their commitment to support women against domestic violence. But measures in the Welfare Reform Bill which give traumatised victims of domestic violence only brief respite from the job-seeking requirement, and grant ex-partners more rights over children to prolong their hurtful and dangerous involvement, prove otherwise.

We urge you to help stop these uncaring measures before they become law. Please add your name to the statement at the end, and circulate to others concerned with women and children’s safety.

* * * * * * * * *

Hostility to government measures has been such that the government had to shift from its recent refusal: it has now stated that women and children fleeing violence will have a three-month exemption from job-seeking. This is just a token response to the stark warnings from anti-violence groups. Traumatised women who have just left violent partners, and whose children are distressed, would still have to attend “work-focussed interviews” as a condition of getting money to live on. When claimants miss Jobcentre appointments and “work-focussed interviews”, they are usually cut off benefit, and the Housing Benefit which pays for a refuge place stops too.

The government acknowledges that 30% of women have suffered domestic violence.* But they are deliberately undermining victims’ main means of escape, by abolishing Income Support which does not have a requirement to seek waged work. Baronesses in the House of Lords, including Helena Kennedy, Celia Thomas and Patricia Hollis, had argued that there should be a specific exemption from job-seeking of three months for domestic violence. Weeks ago, the government had refused any specific benefits protection, and was prepared to leave women to the mercy of individual staff granting short discretionary exemptions (Hansard, 22 June).

There is no respite for women with severe mental health problems caused by the violent crime they suffered – most people on Employment and Support Allowance, which replaced incapacity benefit, must comply with work-oriented conditions of benefit.

Many victims of domestic violence have survived horrendous attacks which their children have also witnessed. Many are living in a refuge or other temporary accommodation, and are terrified when their ex-partner comes after them, forcing them to move again. A woman from Women Against Rape described how she felt after she escaped: “I was a nervous wreck. You don’t know who you are anymore; you are like a beaten dog in a corner. It took me three months to find somewhere to live. No way could I have got a job . . .They would have looked at me like I was a nutter.” Read her full statement.

Many survivors have drug and alcohol problems as a result of the violence they suffered. If the Bill goes through, they will be subject to drug tests, compulsory treatment and “work-related activity”, and could be cut off benefit for failing a drug test.

On average, women suffering domestic violence are assaulted 30 times before they seek help. Vulnerable women who have mustered the strength to leave, lose heart when the official response to their need for respite and support is harsh or bureaucratic. Abused women are more likely to attempt suicide or self-harm as a result, more so for Asian women and other women of colour. They may return to the violent man, with tragic, even fatal consequences.

Standards of care and concern have been eroded so much that three months is seen as a big concession. But it is not enough. Traumatised women and children are not to be given a deadline by which time they are to have recovered. Threats, harassment, forced job-seeking, and separation of traumatised mothers and children from each other, are the opposite of what survivors need.

And at the same time, the Bill brings in compulsory joint birth registration, which would grant violent ex-partners greater rights over the child and unwanted involvement with the mother.

Domestic violence is suffered by 30% of women. Nevertheless, just 7% of all births (around 45,000) are solely registered, and this fraction is getting smaller. The proposed measures, therefore, are simply punitive against those mothers who wish to be entirely independent.

Joint registration of births would give all fathers a say in decisions about the child, and access to records which could reveal the mother’s address. Fathers could independently register their paternity regardless of whether they have any interest in the child, or whether they want to use their parental rights to harass the mother. This is the latest attack on mothers’ and children’s safety. Though exceptions would be allowed if a mother fears for her and her baby’s safety, most domestic violence goes unreported, so relatively few women can prove violence or mental cruelty, and no mother should be pressured to register a father if she has any misgivings about what he might do as a result. The registrar will decide, and the government says registrars should not accept solely the mother’s word on not knowing the father’s whereabouts. Mothers who refuse to name the father if “good cause” is not accepted could be fined, or imprisoned for seven years under the perjury law for deliberately giving false information, possibly leading to losing custody of their children. These powers are worse than the notorious Child Support Act which impoverished and terrorised many single mother families, until it was abolished.

If you agree with us that there should be:

· No set time limit for benefit rights for women and children fleeing violence.

· No forced joint registration of births.

Please add your name below:

Signed…………………………………. Print your name………………………………………...

On behalf of (organisation if applicable)………………………………………………………..…

………………………………………………………………………………………………………... 

Email………………………………………………Tel………………………………………………

Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Women Against Rape

Tel: 020 7482 2496 Email: bwrap@dircon.co.uk war@womenagainstrape.net

www.womenagainstrape.net

* ‘Together we can end violence against women and girls: A government consultation paper’, 2008

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