Investigation into violent fathers using allegations of “parental alienation” in the family courts

Further to the Briefing by Women Against Rape & Support Not Separation (8 June) to the Domestic Abuse Bill Committee.

Legal Action for Women, which coordinates the Support Not Separation Coalition, holds regular self-help meetings with mothers fighting to protect their children. In our self-help meeting last week, six women came together to discuss how they and their children have been targeted by violent fathers. Three were women of colour, and one was an immigrant from Eastern Europe. 

In every case the father had a history of domestic violence against the mother, sometimes including rape, and in several cases he had also been abusive towards the children. All six mothers had accused of “parental alienation” by the fathers after they raised concerns about violence and the impact of forcing the children into contact with a father they feared or hardly knew.

● In one case two young children have already been taken from their mum and given to the father who hits them and is so neglectful that they had to be sent to live with their grandmother.

● In three cases, the children are threatened with being taken into foster care if they continue to refuse to see their fathers! This includes 11-year old twins who face being separated from each other and put in foster care so they can be “persuaded” to see their father.

What is clear from these accounts is that:

  • Children’s “wishes and feelings” not to see their violent father are being ignored, in contravention with the Children Act 1989.
  • Children are being tortured with threats of being taken from their mother and their home and put in foster care if they don’t comply and have contact with their violent father.
  • Mothers who are doing their best to protect their children and to listen to the voices of those old enough to clearly speak for themselves, are accused of manipulating the children against their fathers i.e. of “parental alienation”.
  • Mothers who have experienced violence on themselves and their children, are being directed by the court to coerce the children into contact with the abusive father or risk having the children taken into care or given to the man they know to be violent.
  • Violent men are using the family courts to continue their reign of terror over women and children, and to avoid prosecution. We know of cases where police investigations were dropped once the fathers applied to the family court for contact.
  • Violent men are considered “good enough fathers” despite being ready to deprive children of their primary carer.
  • Court appointed psychiatrists, CAFCASS officers and social workers are more keen to promote fathers’ “right” to contact with the children than to protect children’s safety and welfare. They are ready to take children from their mothers, split up siblings and put them into foster care to try to force them into contact! 
  • No consideration is given to the devastating impact and lifelong trauma caused to children by being brutally cut off from siblings and from the mother who has been their primary carer, and put into state “care” with strangers. 
  • In addition to the sexism of having the violence they reported ignored, dismissed or even turned against them, mothers who are women of colour or immigrant and/or have a disability face racism and other discrimination from professionals. Disproportionate numbers of BAME children are in “care”; half of mothers with learning disabilities who seek help have their children taken from them.

@NotSeparation sns@legalactionforwomen.net

PRESS RELEASE: Domestic Abuse Bill must go further and ensure family courts protect victims not perpetrators

The Domestic Abuse Bill is now going through Committee stage in parliament when amendments are considered.  Some of its measures are welcome, but it must go further to stop violent fathers using the family courts to continue their reign of terror against women and children and avoid prosecution. 

The Bill must:

End the legal presumption of contact with children, and the consequent use of parental alienation” to torture children who refuse to see their violent fathers and take them from mothers who report domestic violence.  WAR is part of the Support Not Separation Coalition which says:

Just last week, six women described to us how they and their children have been accused of “parental alienation” after they reported violence. One mother has already lost her children to the violent father who hits them and is so neglectful that they have been sent to live with their grandmother. In two cases court professionals are recommending the children be taken into foster care to force them into contact with their fathers, including twins who would be separated. Such blatant disregard for children’s best interest amounts to child abuse. Three of these mothers are women of colour and one an immigrant from Eastern Europe – we believe they face not only sexism but racism and xenophobia.” 

Ensure resources for women and children escaping domestic violence, regardless of immigration status. Without resources such as refuges, housing and benefits, women and children are unable to escape violence. One resource already exists in law but is hardly used: Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 which instructs local authorities to assess what mothers need to keep their children. Instead millions go into taking children into care. In low income areas, up to 50% of children are being investigated for “neglect” and are therefore at risk of being taken from their mothers – easy prey of a growing privatised “child protection” industry.

We are calling on the Committee to reject all the wrecking amendments proposed by MP Philip Davies who wants “parental alienation” to be included in the definition of domestic abuse. Davies is closely allied with fathers’ groups who deny domestic violence and have influenced CAFCASS and other family court professionals to take up their cause. A member of the 1922 Committee, he has a long misogynistic and racist parliamentary track record, which so horrified his women constituents that in 2016 they formed the Shipley Feminist Zealots to campaign against him. Over 1,000 marched against him and President Trump, whom he supports: “I would vote for Trump in a heartbeat”. They say now:

We are appalled by his track record of obstructing legislation which seeks to protect survivors of domestic abuse in the name of ‘men’s rights’. Well over 1,000 of us have worked tirelessly over the past four years to hold him to account, despite being branded by him as “extremists”, “socialists” and “feminist zealots”.  We urge the scrutiny committee to ensure that this long-awaited Bill is not delayed or derailed by him at the expense of the safety of women and families across the country”. 

We won’t go back to the 1980s when it was legal for a man to rape his wife, and for men to sexually abuse children!

Women Against Rape is part of the Support Not Separation Coalition, which defends mothers and children facing the family court. For more information and our briefing on the Bill see here.

Contact

 Women Against Rape    war@womenagainstrape.net

Support Not Separation    sns@legalactionforwomen.net

BRIEFING 2 RE: DOMESTIC ABUSE BILL

on behalf of Women Against Rape and the Support Not Separation Coalition

Submitted to Public Bill Committee, 8 June 2020

Women Against Rape (WAR) is a multi-racial women’s organisation founded in 1976. It provides support, advocacy and information in individual cases. It campaigns for justice, protection and compensation for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.  It has won changes in the law such as making rape in marriage a crime and set legal precedents such as the first successful private prosecution for rape in England and Wales, after the authorities refused to bring a serial rapist to court. It is active in the Support Not Separation Coalition which defends mothers and children against unwarranted separation. Through this work, we are in contact with hundreds of mothers and children, family law professionals and organisations.  We have successfully intervened in a number of cases to stop local authorities and the courts forcing children into contact or even residence with violent fathers. 

Introduction

Women are primary carers in 90% of households.  Domestic violence is widespread and often deadly.  During the COVID-19 lockdown, domestic murders of women in the UK doubled and calls to the Met police from victims rose by one third. This has exposed the lies of domestic violence deniers.  Overwhelmingly, the victims are women and the perpetrators are men, particularly in more serious physical attacks, and coercive and controlling behaviour. 

As part of the Support Not Separation Coalition, which defends mothers and children facing the family court, we are particularly concerned that the Bill does not address many of the major problems with the way violent men are using the court to continue their reign of terror and to escape prosecutionBetween 70-90% of family court cases involve domestic violence, yet only 1% of fathers are denied access to children—a strong indication of how biased the courts are in favour of men. 

The reality we deal with every day is that mothers who report violence are being routinely disbelieved, especially if the allegations are also sexual.  They face having their children taken away by the state and even given to the violent/rapist father, further traumatising the children by separating them from the mother they depend on for protection.  The horror of this situation cannot be overemphasised.

We urge MPs to put forward a proposed amendment to Part 5 to: 

Delete Section 11 (2A) of the Children and Families Act 2014 which presumes that it is always in a child’s best interest to have contact with both parents.  

RATIONALE: The presumption of contact is continually used to over-ride any history of rape and/or domestic violence, or lack of care/involvement by fathers.  Introduced in 2014 after intensive lobbying by fathers’ groups who deny domestic violence, it has opened the way for allegations of “parental alienation” against mothers who report a history of domestic violence, and especially when they report fathers’ sexual or other violence against children. 

For the welfare of children to be paramount, their safety and the safety of the mother, who is usually the primary carer, must be prioritised over fathers’ contact.  Fathers who are violent to their children, to mothers, to former or present partners should not have contact with children, especially unsupervised contact.  Thousands of children are being harmed physically and psychologically by being coerced to see fathers they are terrified of.  It is horrifying that mothers trying to protect their children by reporting the violence and refusing to force their children into contact with their abuser, are accused of alienating them and having them taken away by the state and often given to their abuser.  The presumption of “equality” between mothers and fathers is of a piece with pressure to keep this Bill “gender neutral” – a travesty that plays into the hands of organisations of men who deny domestic violence or accuse women of it in order to hide the truth and call the victims liars. 

REJECT: all Amendments proposed by Phillip Davies, Bob Stewart and Damian Collins

Davies is closely allied with militant fathers’ groups who deny domestic violence.  His amendments have no place in a Bill to protect victims of domestic violence.  A member of the 1922 Committee, he has a long misogynistic and racist parliamentary track record.  He’s almost always voted against laws to promote equality and human rights for women (attacking feminists as “zealots”), Black people, disabled people, lgbtq, against bans on smoking, against corporation tax increase, against making rented homes fit for habitation, against welfare increases targeting poverty. 

His women constituents were so horrified by his record and rudeness to constituents that in 2016 they formed the Shipley Feminist Zealots to campaign against him.  Over 1,000 marched against him and President Trump, whom he supports.  (He said “I would vote for Trump in a heartbeat”).  They say now: “We are appalled by his track record of obstructing legislation which seeks to protect survivors of domestic abuse in the name of ‘men’s rights’. Well over 1,000 of us have worked tirelessly over the past four years to hold him to account, despite being branded by him as “extremists”, “socialists” and “feminist zealots”.  We urge the scrutiny committee to ensure that this long awaited Bill is not delayed or derailed by him at the expense of the safety of women and families across the country”. 

Reject the following amendments:

Amendments 1 &5: to exclude economic abuse from the definition of domestic abuse.  It is a fact that most men earn more than most women, (the income gap is still 18%, up to 26% for BAME women and women with disabilities) and that abusive men often use their financial superiority as part of their abuse and controlling and coercive behaviour, especially against mothers, in ways which are never “reasonable”!

Amendments 8 & 9: which would include “parental alienation” in the definition of domestic abuse.  Creating an open-ended definition of parental alienation could lead to mothers being prosecuted as soon as they report violence against themselves or their children.  

Children and mothers are frequently disbelieved or dismissed even when incidents of violence have been reported to the police or others in authority.  Mothers are accused of making up such allegations in order to “alienate” the child from the father. 

“Parental alienation” is the discredited theory of Dr Richard A Gardner, a US misogynist psychiatrist who dismissed domestic violence and defended paedophilia.  The World Health Organisation recently declassified “parental alienation” from its list of “disorders”, and many experts have dismissed it as pseudo-science.[3] 

Shockingly the fathers’ lobby, mostly men who deny domestic violence, have succeeded in getting “parental alienation” recognised as de-facto policy by the family courts.  They have heavily influenced CAFCASS which champions it, including to recommend children go to live with abusive fathers.  It’s a reflection of its sexist bias that there are five men’s groups among CAFCASS’ stakeholders, and only two women’s groups!  The Chair of its Board is Edward Timpson MP who as Minister for Children & Families was instrumental in promoting the presumption of contact.  (Should an MP really be chair of an independent body??)

Mothers face an impossible catch 22.  If we report domestic violence or child abuse, or if we don’t, we can be blamed for harming our children by having (had) a violent partner, even though we are victims, and the children taken from us, put in care or even housed with the violent father.

Also reject amendments 13, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 27

We also support proposed New Clauses 19, 20, 21, 24

We support the proposals made by Stay Safe East, Step Up Migrant Women and Southall Black Sisters.

Investigation into violent fathers using allegations of “parental alienation” in the family courts

BRIEFING 1: Domestic Abuse Bill does not go far enough:

Women and children are entitled to resources and to family courts that support victims not violent men.

The Domestic Abuse Bill is in Committee from Thursday 4 June, where they will discuss amendments.  We are urging MPs to give women and children more protection.

The Bill must go further in three key areas:

1.     It must provide resources, beginning with money and housing, so women (and children) can escape violent partners.  This includes implementation of Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act. 2.    
It must protect mothers and children from violent fathers using the family court to continue their reign of terror and escape prosecution.  The Bill aims to restrict cross examination by abusers.  It must also end the legal presumption that both parents should have equal contact with a child.  And it must end the use of “parental alienation” to dismiss allegations of sexual and other violence and to force children into contact with fathers they are terrified of. 
3.     The Bill should not be gender neutral.  Most perpetrators are men and most victims are women and children.

Women are primary carers in 90% of households.  Domestic violence is widespread and often deadly.  During the COVID-19 lockdown, domestic murders of women in the UK doubled [1] and calls to the Met police from victims rose by one third.[2]  This has exposed the lies of domestic violence deniers.  Overwhelmingly, the victims are women and the perpetrators are men, particularly in more serious physical attacks.  Yet the Bill is gender neutral.  This is a travesty that plays into the hands of organisations of men who deny domestic violence or accuse women of it in order to hide the truth and call the victims liars.  It must be reversed. 

As part of the Support Not Separation Coalition, which defends mothers and children facing the family court, we are particularly concerned with the way violent men are using the court to continue their reign of terror and to escape prosecution.  Between 70-90% of family court cases involve domestic violence, yet only 1% of fathers are denied access to children—a strong indication of how biased the courts are in favour of men. 

The reality we deal with every day is that mothers who report violence are being routinely disbelieved, especially if the allegations are also sexual.  They face having their children taken away by the state and even given to the violent/rapist father, further traumatising the children by separating them from the mother they depend on for protection.  The horror of this situation cannot be overemphasised.  The Bill’s section on the family court is much too narrow and if left as is will do little to right this injustice.

We propose the following amendments:

1.  INSERT INTO PART 4 Local Authority Support the following new clause:

Prioritise implementation of Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 so that resources are made available to mothers and children facing domestic violence, in particular access to benefits and housing.

RATIONALE: Section 17 provides for local authorities to put resources and help into keeping children within their family.  But it is not being implemented.  Money is instead being used to take children into care, contradicting the aim of the law.  The COVID-19 pandemic worsens the unprecedented poverty and destitution caused by a decade of austerity policies, which have targeted single mother families in particular and disproportionately affected those of us who are of colour, immigrant and/or have a disability.  Section 17 is needed more than ever.  It could make a huge difference to abuse victims. 

Before the pandemic, over 4 million children were living in poverty *** Single mothers were 75% of those affected by Universal Credit *** 86% of austerity cuts have been borne by women *** Women of colour earn up to 32% less than the wages of white men *** In 2018-19, 63% of referrals to refuges were declined *** Single mothers, women of colour and/or immigrant, and women with disabilities are disproportionately having their children taken from them—more likely to be impoverished and face sexism, racism and every discrimination *** Over 20% of children in care are from BME backgrounds.

2.INSERT INTO PART 5: Protection for Victims and Witnesses in Court.

Remove Section 11 (2A) of the Children and Families Act 2014 which presumes that it is always in a child’s best interest to have contact with both parents. And stop the use of “parental alienation” against women who report sexual and other violence, including of their children.

RATIONALE: The presumption of contact is continually used to over-ride any history of rape and/or domestic violence by fathers.  For the welfare of children to be paramount, their safety and the safety of the mother, who is usually the primary carer, must be prioritised over fathers’ contact.  Fathers who are violent to their children, to mothers, to former or present partners should not have contact with children.  Thousands of children are being harmed physically and psychologically by being coerced to see fathers they are terrified of.  It is horrifying that mothers trying to protect their children by reporting the violence and refusing to force their children into contact with their abuser, are then having their children taken away by the state and often given to their abuser.  The law is supposed to protect children not rapists.

Family courts must take seriously children’s allegations of sexual abuse by fathers, and of domestic violence against mothers.  Yet children and mothers are frequently disbelieved or dismissed even when the incidents have been reported to the police or others in authority.  Mothers are accused of making such allegations in order to “alienate” the child from the father.

“Parental alienation” is the discredited theory of Dr Richard A Gardner, a US misogynist psychiatrist who dismissed domestic violence and defended paedophilia.  For years the fathers’ lobby, mostly men who deny domestic violence, have succeeded in getting “parental alienation” recognised by the family courts.  CAFCASS, which was created to protect children going through the court process, has been instrumental in this, siding with fathers and promoting “parental alienation” as a reason to recommended that children are taken from their mothers.  

The World Health Organisation recently declassified “parental alienation” from its list of “disorders”, and many experts have dismissed it as pseudo-science.[[3]]  Yet family court professionals continue to give it credibility.  This must stop.

Mothers face an impossible catch 22.  If we report domestic violence or child abuse, or if we don’t, we can be blamed for harming our children by having (had) a violent partner, even though we are victims.  Our children are taken from us, put in care or even housed with the violent father. 

3.The Bill must not be gender neutral.

Overwhelmingly, the victims are women and the perpetrators are men, particularly in more serious physical attacks. 

Overall, money and housing from central government are the most important things women need to protect us from domestic abuse.  More housing rights should go into Section 8 under secure tenancies.  If women have nowhere safe and affordable to go we are trapped with violent men.

We welcome the recent successful legal challenge to the No Recourse to Public Funds rule, which makes immigrant women particularly vulnerable to violent and exploitative men.  Women seeking asylum are also vulnerable to rape – over 70% have fled rape and other torture, and several have reported to us being raped in the UK by men who know they cannot call the police for fear of being deported.

The Bill does not address the continuing problems with criminal justice agencies not prioritising domestic violence.  We have been protesting for decades at the biased and negligent way in which reports are investigated and the lack of protection offered to victims.  There are always plenty of resources to combat “terrorism” and recently for breaches of the Covid-19 measures with more “stop-and-search”, but the daily terrorism against women and children which costs many lives is never prioritised.  The Bill will not change this unless the changes we are recommending are put in place and implemented.

Get our Model letter and find out which MPs are on the Committee here.


Footnotes:

[1] There were 16 murders from 23 March-12 April, including two children, compared to an average 2-3 women a week before the lockdown, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/15/domestic-abuse-killings-more-than-double-amid-covid-19-lockdown

[2] “Met Police officers have made an average of nearly 100 arrests every day for domestic abuse offences during the lockdown, the force has revealed. . . . domestic abuse calls have risen by about a third.” https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-52418650

[3] Professor Meier has published important research in the US documenting family court sexism in its use of parental alienation https://supportnotseparation.blog/2020/06/01/parental-alienation-important-research-shows-sexist-bias/

Model letter to MPs on the Domestic Abuse Bill Committee

Find out if your MP is a member of the committee below.

Dear [INSERT the name of your MP]

I am one of your constituents and am very concerned about the Domestic Abuse Bill now in Committee.

I have personal experience of the sexism in the family courts.  I was a victim of abuse by an ex-partner [INSERT whatever you want to say about it, not in too much detail].

Therefore, I strongly urge you to support the three amendments [below/linked /enclosed], circulated by Women Against Rape.  If you are not on the Committee please speak to your colleagues who are.

I will be following the progress of the Bill as it goes along through Parliament, and hope you will act to strengthen women’s hand against abusive and traumatic violence and silencing.

Yours sincerely

[YOUR NAME and postcode]

Domestic Abuse Bill Committee members and their contact details

MPPolitical PartyConstituency Phone NumberEmail
Joint Chair: Karen BuckLabourWestminster NorthParliament: 020 7219 3000
Constituency: 020 8968 7999
buckk@parliament.uk
Joint Chair: Peter BoneConservativeWellingboroughParliament: 020 7219 8496 Constituency: 01933 279343bonep@parliament.uk
Aiken, NickieConservativeCities of London and Westminster020 7219 4553nickie.aiken.mp@parliament.uk
Atkins, VictoriaConservativeLouth and Horncastle020 7219 5897Victoria@victoriaatkins.org.uk
Bowie, AndrewConservativeWest Aberdeenshire and KincardineParliament: 0207 219 2791 Constituency: 01330 705013andrew.bowie.mp@parliament.uk
Chalk, AlexConservativeCheltenhamP: 020 7219 8087 C: 0124 221 0473alex.chalk.mp@parliament.uk
Coyle, NeilLabourBermondsey and Old Southwark020 7232 4640neil.coyle.mp@parliament.uk
Crosbie, VirginiaConservativeYnys Môn0207 219 3000virginia.crosbie.mp@parliament.uk
Davies-Jones, AlexLabourPontypriddP: 0207 219 4981 C: 01443 401122alex.daviesjones.mp@parliament.uk
Gibson, PeterConservativeDarlington0207 219 3000peter.gibson.mp@parliament.uk
Harris, RebeccaConservativeCastle Point020 7219 7206rebecca.harris.mp@parliament.uk
Jardine, ChristineLiberal DemocratEdinburgh WestP: 0207 219 1701 C: 0131 285 5972christine.jardine.mp@parliament.uk
Jones, FayConservativeBrecon and Radnorshire0207 219 3000fay.jones.mp@parliament.uk
Kyle, PeterLabourHoveP: 020 7219 6133 C: 01273 933 380peter.kyle.mp@parliament.uk hove.portslade@parliament.uk
Marson, JulieConservativeHertford and Stortford0207 219 2429julie.marson.mp@parliament.uk
Phillips, JessLabourBirmingham, Yardley020 7219 8703jess.phillips.mp@parliament.uk
Saville Roberts, LizPlaid CymruDwyfor MeirionnyddP: 020 7219 6876 C: 01341 422 661liz.savilleroberts.mp@parliament.uk
Twist, LizLabourBlaydonP: 0207 219 2221

C: 0191 414 2488
liz.twist.mp@parliament.uk
Wood, MikeConservativeDudley SouthP: 020 7219 6982

C: 01384 913123
mikej.wood.mp@parliament.uk

Living under “lockdown” – Gloria, All African Women’s Group

When did you come to the UK?

I’ve been in the UK since 2002.  I was forced to leave [Uganda] because I feared for my life.  I was married to an extremely violent, controlling and powerful man who was able to abuse me and get away with it as he had many friends among the police. When I came here I lived underground for two years.  I didn’t know I could claim asylum – but I knew going back would put me in danger as I heard he was still looking for me. So I applied for indefinite leave to remain but was refused.  

What is my current situation?

I did odd jobs to survive, looking after children, cleaning – housework. Sometimes I wasn’t paid because they took my money for food and living cost. In 2007 I started relationship with a British national who knew my situation.  Soon after he began to abuse and insult me. I was desperate to leave him, but with nowhere to go and no one to help me I suffered in silence.  In 2019 I was picked up by the immigration authorities and taken into Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre.  My partner didn’t help.  It was inside that hell hole that I came across a copy of Legal Action for Women’s SH Guide for Asylum seekers. I read it from cover to cover and finally understood my rights. I put in an asylum claim. It was very painful as I was forced to recall some of the dreadful things that happened to me. I was released after a few days. I went straight to the Crossroads Women’s Centre, the best decision of my life, I was able to smile again.  I joined AAWG and volunteered every week until the lockdown.  With their support I grown in confidence determined to fight not only for myself but for the many 1000s of women like me who don’t know who to turn to.

The CORVID pandemic – has made our live which were already fragile even harsher.  My accommodation set up has no nowhere to have quiet/private time.  It’s mental torture and brings back memories of being in detention.  I’m trapped with a man who knows he can do what he likes.  I tread on eggshells every day to avoid firing him up.  I manage to find a way to speak with women in GWAD most days and join the weekly phone meetings. This precious time stops me from going crazy because I can hear a friendly voice with genuine concern that lifts my spirits. 

What I fear in coming forward for help

Many charities that we have turned to for help, have been working in cahoots with the Home Office.  We don’t know who we can trust and fear of being reported to the authorities.   With no money of my own I’m at the mercy of my “host”.  I’m trying to get financial help from NASS– it will be small, but having any money will give me a little more independence.  Despite the awful situation I’m in – with CORVID – it would be far more dangerous to move.  I would have to start over again in another city where I don’t know anyone – I’ve had to do that too many times in my life already.

What changes would you like to see?

Women like me were destitute and in “quarantine” long before CORVID – I would like to see people getting our papers, to access accommodation and healthcare. Everyone must be released from detention and have the right to live.  People back home are in lock down and even worse eking out a living from hand to mouth without food or running water – never mind hand sanitiser.

Is there anything else you think is important?

Women are the main carers in this world – we make sure our households, animals and crops survive come rain, drought or virus – yet we get now money for this. We must have a care income for our work – that’s what I think is important to fight for now and win!

ACTION: TWITTERSTORM WEDNESDAY 27 MAY 2020 @ 6PM (UK)

The INTERNATIONAL NETWORK OF MIGRANTS AND ANTI-RACIST ORGANIZATIONS AND COLLECTIVES #PapersForAll demands immediate, permanent, and unconditional amnesty for all migrants and refugees at this time of a global pandemic and health emergency.   

Active in Europe, Latin America, the US and the UK – we are calling for everyone concerned with justice to join a Twitterstorm on Wednesday 27 May at 6pm to demand #PapersForAll.

In the UK up to one million undocumented destitute migrants are at risk of contracting Covid-19 but also of starvation because of the crisis created by the pandemic.

At the same time migrants have been more visible and valued than ever as essential workers — in hospitals, social care, food supply, agriculture, transport and other areas — keeping the society going. Over 17% of the social care work force and at least 40% of NHS workers in London are immigrants risking their lives to care for others. Many are the same Windrush and Commonwealth victims still fighting for their papers and compensation. And immigrant people are 63% of all those who have died within the medical profession.

Over 75% of women seeking asylum and refugees are survivors of rape and other torture.  Women, especially mothers, do the survival caring work that protects and holds together families and communities. As one woman asylum seeker said:
“Women like me were destitute and in “quarantine” long before COVID . . . we want our papers, access to accommodation and healthcare and financial security. People back in our home countries are in lock down in even worse conditions eking out a living from hand to mouth without food or running water – never mind hand sanitizer.” (Rubie, All African Women’s Group).

The current racist immigration bill under discussion will create more undocumented people and undermine people’s right to stay by removing free movement from all EU migrants.

Public pressure has won some victories:
• 75% of immigration detainees have been released, however, many have been forced into slum housing with little or no money to buy food and other essentials and where it is impossible to self-isolate or observe social distancing.
• The ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ Policy has been ruled unlawful and free school meals for children re-instated
• The surcharge non-EU NHS staff had to pay, on top of visa fees and taxes, was finally scrapped last week

We draw strength from other countries. In Spain, pressure from 900 community organisations led to all detainees being released. In Italy migrant (mostly African) farm workers are courageously striking for fair pay and papers for all. In Portugal all immigrants and asylum seekers were granted residency and full citizens’ rights during the pandemic – we want this to be permanent and global!    We have a right to be here in Britain and anywhere we want — to access health care and protection, and to reclaim the wealth that our work has created. Governments and corporations have looted our home countries, for centuries, and that theft continues today, causing war, starvation and ecological devastation.

We call on all governments and international organisations to grant #PapersForAll #RegularizacionYa to asylum seekers, those in detention and all undocumented migrants.

TAKE ACTION with the #PapersForAll Network to demand an immediate, permanent and unconditional amnesty for all migrants and refugees in this time of a global pandemic and health emergency.

1. Please sign and circulate our international statement  https://papersforall.com/

2. On Wednesday at 6pm (UK time) tweet @pritipatel @ukhomeoffice  
Example tweets:
Immigrant people are essential workers risking their health to care for others yet are denied their rights. Grant #PapersForAll #RegularizacionYa

Over a million people are undocumented in the UK and denied healthcare, housing and an income & at risk of Covid19. Grant #PapersForAll #RegularizacionYa

Download and share the images here

3. Write to Home Secretary, Priti Patel – model letter here. (Please copy to asylumfromrape@womenagainstrape.net)

4. Sign the UK petition https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-boris-johnson-and-an-taoiseach-leo-varadkar-access-to-healthcare-housing-and-food-for-all  
Please share this action with your networks!

Contact:
Global Women Against Deportations
(a coalition of the All African Women’s Group, Legal Action for Women, Women Against Rape, Women of Colour/Global Women’s Strike) asylumfromrape@womenagainstrape.net +44 (0) 7456525227
Payday Men’s Networkpayday@paydaynet.org

DOMESTIC ABUSE BILL in Parliament today

MUST PROTECT MOTHERS and TACKLE WOMEN’S POVERTY


The Domestic Abuse Bill is debated in Parliament again today – it must help protect women’s and children’s lives.
 
The Bill introduces new Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, which should offer more protection in an emergency.  But it must go further to tackle women’s poverty and the appalling sexism mothers and children face in family courts.   

Mothers face an impossible struggle.  If we report domestic violence or if we don’t, we are blamed for harming our children by having a violent partner, even though we are victims.  Our children are taken from us, put in care or even given to the violent father.  

The family courts have allowed themselves to be used by violent fathers to continue their abuse and control.  The presumed “rights” of fathers to see their children, regardless of a history of violence, are generally prioritised over the safety and wishes of children and the efforts of mothers to protect them from harm.  

As part of the Support Not Separation Coalition which defends women and children facing the family court, we know that between 70 and 90% of cases involve domestic violence, yet only 1% of fathers are denied access to children.  Over 70% of the cases brought to us involve domestic violence, including rape.

We demand: immediate changes to family courts so women who report violence do not risk having their children taken away or given to the perpetrators.  (See our amendments to the Domestic Violence Bill.)  Implementation of Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act to keep children safe with their mothers.  Judges who refuse to apply the law must be removed – we won’t go back to the 1970s when rape in marriage was considered legal!  

Court judgements have repeated flouted the rights of children and mothers to safety and welfare, and court professionals often display shocking disregard for the basic legal protections victims have won.  Many of the mothers and children struggling against injustice are women of colour or immigrant, and/or have a disability.

    One judge repeatedly insisted a violent father, convicted for attacking the mother, be brought from prison to the family court, breaking an exclusion order from the mother’s and children’s town. No protection was available in or around the court, and the judge called her ‘pedantic’ when she asked about it. We succeeded in getting the judge removed from the case.  

Another judge ruled that the rape of a pregnant woman by her partner who woke her in her sleep was not rape even though he acknowledged the rape in a text, because she hadn’t fought him off. The judge allowed contact.  

As foster carers and contact centres are now inaccessible during the coronavirus lockdown, mothers’ contact with children who have been taken from their care has been curtailed even further, cutting children off from their mothers.  

Remote family court hearings are causing injustice and retraumatising vulnerable women.  When they are isolated on a phoneline to the court they are denied meaningful access to a lawyer (if they have one) and can’t talk to any lay supporter.  

For many women and children the lockdown and #StayAtHome directive are a like a “prison sentence” with a violent and controlling man.  Support workers and the police have reported that the murder of women has doubled [1] in the UK with at least 16 killings between 23 March and 12 April 2020, including of children. Reports of domestic violence have mushroomed all around the world. China and Spain saw a surge in calls reporting domestic violence, while police in France reported a 30% increase in domestic abuse cases.[2]  

Women around the world have been demanding emergency safety measures, including cash and housing.  In some European countries, like Spain, Italy and France, women have won new State protections, including: emergency refuge in hotels or the eviction of violent men from the home, helplines and code words to alert pharmacists to call the police.  

In the UK, the Home Secretary has said victims can leave their home despite the lockdown.  But where are they to go?  What are they to live on?  As with the protective equipment demanded by health and care workers, our survival and protection are not being prioritised.  Yesterday’s Home Affairs Committee report demands money for services.  But funding charities is not enough – women need our own money.  

A decade of austerity wiped out our financial independence and our escape routes out of violence.  Women have suffered 86% of the cuts.[3]  Benefits and social housing were slashed – a key source of independence for women.  The bedroom tax and total benefit cap hit mums and kids fleeing violence. Refuges have been cut: 1 in 6 refuges closed over the past 8 years.  Women’s Aid reported this month that even before lockdown they had to decline 64% of referrals over 2018-19.[4]  

The withdrawal of social care services leaves disabled women more at risk of abuse as we are forced to rely on family and friends who can turn abusive. Unwaged family carers are suffering domestic violence during lockdown as Council support is not provided to disabled adults with aggressive and challenging behaviour, and day centres are closed.

This is echoed in the criminal justice system’s disgraceful response to violence.  Before the virus, an average of two women a week were murdered by partners or ex-partners often after reports to police.  And despite a 40% increase in reports of rape over 2012-2018, in 2019 convictions fell to 3% – the lowest in a decade.[5]  

The anti-rape movement has won important protections over the years: ● WAR’s 15-year campaign got rape in marriage finally recognised as a crime in 1991 ● We exposed and defeated some outrageous discrimination in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, especially against those who were raped as children, and won thousands of pounds for individual victims ● Official recognition that rape is torture and grounds for asylum: we won the right to stay for many rape survivors seeking asylum.  

But the falling conviction rates for rape and domestic violence show that in reality the state has given violent men near total impunity.  And without financial independence our vulnerability to violence and injustice remains.  

WE DEMAND:

·     Immediate safe accommodation for women and children in emergency need. 

·     Immediate changes to the family courts as outlined above.

·     A permanent end to benefit sanctions and other punitive measures, especially to disabled and traumatised claimants. People pressing their needs during COVID-19 brought some benefit changes but Universal Credit is lower than many previous benefits it replaces, and makes women financially dependent on men. ESA which a lot of traumatised women get, has not had the £20 increase like other benefits. They must scrap the two-child limit, total benefit cap and policies which pay money to the man in the household rather than individually to the woman. Scrap the bedroom tax. Raise child benefit. All payments must be made without delay.  The welfare state must be rebuilt and expanded – we need urgent access to benefits and social housing. 

·     We support the call for a Care Income made by the Global Women’s Strike and the Green New Deal for Europe.  The virus crisis has shown how dependent society is on caring work, waged and unwaged, in the family and outside, and how women in particular care for extended families and neighbours.  For the health and protection of people and the environment to be prioritised, those already doing caring work must be compensated.  Money from the state would guarantee financial independence from men and our ability to protect ourselves and our children.  We could refuse unwanted sexual demands, and have the means to leave and to use the law.   Women fleeing or surviving after violence deserve an income for self-care and recovery, and to be there for traumatised children.

·     Thorough investigations and prosecutions by the police and Crown Prosecution Service.  The Corona Virus Act has given police free reign to arrest, fine and criminalise, and even to fine the parents of young people who leave the house.  We demand a change of priorities so that resources go into protecting women and children from violence.  We demand accountability from those charged with protecting us – those who don’t implement the law should be sacked.

·     An amnesty against deportations #Papers For All. Over 70% of women seeking asylum have fled from rape but sexism, racism and other injustice in the asylum process leaves them destitute. Sign the Open Letter to the Prime Minister of the UK and the Taoiseach of Ireland demanding  the release of all immigration detainees, free health care, and an end to destitution.    

28 April 2020  

Notes
1 Data collated by Karen Igala Smith of Nia Project. Looking at the same period over the last 10 years, data records an average of 5 deaths. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/15/domestic-abuse-killings-more-than-double-amid-covid-19-lockdown 

2 https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/04/08/domestic-abuse-reports-coronavirus

3 Women’s Budget Group, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/09/women-bearing-86-of-austerity-burden-labour-research-reveals

4 Women’s Aid

5 There were 58,657 complaints in the year to March, but just 1,925 of those resulted in a successful prosecution.’ https://metro.co.uk/2019/12/17/anger-police-just-3-rape-cases-lead-conviction-11918901/

CORONAVIRUS AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN: WE DEMAND THE RESOURCES TO ENSURE SAFETY AND PROTECTION

This coronavirus crisis comes on top of the rape and domestic violence crisis and the austerity crisis.

For many women and children the lockdown and #StayAtHome directive are a like a “prison sentence” with a violent and controlling man.  Support workers and the police have reported that the murder of women has doubled [1]in the UK with at least 16 killings between 23 March and 12 April 2020, including of children. Reports of domestic violence have mushroomed all around the world. China and Spain saw a surge in calls reporting domestic violence, while police in France reported a 30% increase in domestic abuse cases.[2]

In the UK, the Home Secretary has said victims can leave their home despite the lockdown.  But where are they to go?  What are they to live on?  As with the protective equipment demanded by health and care workers, our survival and protection are not being prioritised.

A decade of austerity wiped out our financial independence and our escape routes out of violence.  Women have suffered 86% of the cuts.[3]  Benefits and social housing were slashed – a key source of independence for women.  Refuges have been cut: 1 in 6 refuges closed over the past 8 years.  Women’s Aid reported this month that before lockdown, they had to decline 64% of referrals in 2018-19.[4]

The withdrawal of social care services leaves disabled women more at risk of abuse as we are forced to rely on family and friends who can turn abusive. Unwaged family carers are suffering domestic violence during lockdown as Council support is not provided to disabled adults with aggressive and challenging behaviour, and day centres are closed.

This is echoed in the criminal justice system’s disgraceful response to violence.  Before the virus, an average of two women a week were murdered by partners or ex-partners often after reports to police.  And despite a 40% increase in reports of rape over 2012-2018, in 2019 convictions fell to 3% – the lowest in a decade.[5]

Mothers in particular face an impossible struggle.  If we report domestic violence or if we don’t, we are blamed for harming our children by having a violent partner, even though we are victims.  Our children are taken from us, put in care or even given to the violent father.

The family courts have allowed themselves to be used by violent fathers to continue their abuse and control.  The presumed “rights” of fathers to see their children, regardless of a history of violence, are generally prioritised over the safety and wishes of children and the efforts of mothers to protect them from harm.

As part of the Support Not Separation Coalition which defends women and children facing the family court, we know that between 70 and 90% of cases involve domestic violence, yet only 1% of fathers are denied access to children.  Over 70% of the cases brought to us involve domestic violence, including rape.  Court judgements have repeated flouted the rights of children and mothers to safety and welfare, and court professionals often display shocking disregard for the basic legal protections victims have won.  Many of the mothers and children struggling against injustice are women of colour or immigrant, and/or have a disability.  

One judge repeatedly insisted a violent father, convicted for attacking the mother, be brought from prison to the family court, breaking an exclusion order from the mother’s and children’s town. No protection was available in or around the court, and the judge called her ‘pedantic’ when she asked about it. We succeeded in getting the judge removed from the case.

Another judge ruled that the rape of a pregnant woman by her partner who woke her in her sleep was not rape even though he acknowledged the rape in a text, because she hadn’t fought him off. The judge allowed contact.

As foster carers and contact centres are inaccessible during the lockdown, mothers’ contact with children who have been taken from their care has been curtailed even further, cutting children off from their mothers.

The anti-rape movement has won important protections over the years: ● WAR’s 15-year campaign got rape in marriage finally recognised as a crime in 1991 ● We exposed and defeated some outrageous discrimination in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, especially against those who were raped as children, and won thousands of pounds for individual victims ● Official recognition that rape is torture and grounds for asylum: we won the right to stay for many rape survivors seeking asylum.

But the falling conviction rates for rape and domestic violence show that in reality the state has given violent men near total impunity.  And without financial independence our vulnerability to violence and injustice remains.

WE DEMAND:

Immediate safe accommodation for women and children in emergency need.  

Support for disabled children and disabled mothers entitled to care and childcare help under the Care Act (made discretionary by the Coronavirus Act).

Immediate changes to the family courts so women who report violence do not risk having their children taken away or given to the perpetrators.  (See our amendments on this to the Domestic Violence Bill which is going through Parliament now – the Bill must go further to protect us.)  Implementation of Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act to keep children safe with their mothers.  Judges who refuse to apply the law must be removed – we won’t go back to the 1970s when rape in marriage was considered legal!

A permanent end to benefit sanctions and other punitive measures, especially to disabled and traumatised claimants.  People pressing their needs during COVID-19 brought some benefit changes but Universal Credit is lower than many previous benefits it replaces, and makes women financial dependent on men. ESA which a lot of traumatised women get, has not had the £20 increase like other benefits. They must Scrap the two-child limit, total benefit cap and policies which pay money to the man in the household rather than individually to the woman. Scrap the Bedroom Tax. Raise Child Benefit. All payments must be made without delay.  The welfare state must be rebuilt and expanded – we need urgent access to benefits and social housing. 

We support the call for a Care Income made by the Global Women’s Strike and the Green New Deal for Europe.  The virus crisis has shown how dependent society is on caring work, waged and unwaged, in the family and outside, and how women in particular care for extended families and neighbours.  For the health and protection of people and the environment to be prioritised, those already doing caring work must be compensated.  Money from the state would guarantee financial independence from men and our ability to protect ourselves and our children.  We could refuse unwanted sexual demands, and have the means to leave and to use the law.  Women fleeing or surviving violence deserve an income for self-care and recovery, and to be there for tramatised children.

Thorough investigations and prosecutions by the police and Crown Prosecution Service.  The Coronavirus Act has given police free rein to arrest, fine and criminalise, and even to fine the parents of young people who leave the house.  We demand a change of priorities so that resources go into protecting women and children from violence.  We demand accountability from those charged with protecting us – those who don’t implement the law should be sacked.

An amnesty against deportations #Papers For All. Over 70% of women seeking asylum have fled from rape but sexism, racism and other injustice in the asylum process leaves them destitute. Sign the Open Letter to the Prime Minister of the UK and the Taoiseach of Ireland demanding  the release of all immigration detainees, free health care, and an end to destitution.

30 April 2020

Notes

1 Data collated by Karen Igala Smith of Nia Project. Looking at the same period over the last 10 years, data records an average of 5 deaths. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/apr/15/domestic-abuse-killings-more-than-double-amid-covid-19-lockdown 

2 https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/04/08/domestic-abuse-reports-coronavirus

3 Women’s Budget Group, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/09/women-bearing-86-of-austerity-burden-labour-research-reveals

4 Women’s Aid, 2020

5 There were 58,657 complaints in the year to March, but just 1,925 of those resulted in a successful prosecution.’ https://metro.co.uk/2019/12/17/anger-police-just-3-rape-cases-lead-conviction-11918901/