Victims in need of so much more vital help

Talking Point columnist Sam Billingham wants victims of abuse to be put first

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May

“The duty of a government is to keep people safe, but it is not enough to simply bring offenders to court.”

These are the words said by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, in relation to the first ever cross government Victims Strategy launched in September this year – and as a survivor of domestic abuse I could not agree more.

My abusive relationship started off with so much charm and charisma that when the control became part of the relationship it felt very much like care.

It started right at the honeymoon period of the relationship, when things are new and exciting, when he didn’t want me to see my friends that night or my parents the next and before I knew it, I was seeing less and less of them.

Isolation was the start of the complex cycle and his controlling behaviour started long before the physical abuse began and when the first black eye came, I was in complete shock and he was so full of remorse, promising it would never happen again.

I was in my abusive relationship for three years, for which he never got a custodial sentence.

And I strongly believe that if I had known about domestic abuse I would have left the relationship sooner rather than later.

Instead, I simply accepted this as normal behaviour, thinking it happened in all relationships.

With much needed awareness I could have been kept safe, without being dragged through the family court so my abuser could gain and maintain his power and control over me.

Anything that puts victims first, I welcome. I completely agree with our PM who states: “Nothing can take away the distress and trauma of being a victim of crime, but ensuring people get the support they need as they rebuild their lives is vital”.

However, the lack of support I received after leaving my abusive relationship is exactly why I set up my own support group.

An eight-week awareness course of what I had survived – and no other support put in place after the eight weeks just was not significant at all.

With the support group I run, I hear all too often how many survivors experiencing domestic abuse feel let down by the justice system.

Many don’t even feel heard or believed let alone supported, however, commenting on the importance of this work the PM said: “The duty of a government is to keep people safe, but it is not enough to simply bring offenders to court.

“Victims need to know they are protected and listened to, and we will continue to work with charities and support groups to improve their experience”.

I welcome this but it is so sad that so many people have already been let down completely by the justice system.

One in four women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse at some point during their life time and what society doesn’t really understand is that a lack of justice is why they don’t just leave.

  • Sam Billingham is the founder of Black Country charity SODA (Survivors of Domestic Abuse).

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