20 days. One town. Four domestic violence murders. “We want deeds not words.”
Amy Cousens, Women’s Lives Matter and Socialist Party
400 people attended the vigil held to mark the murders of four women in Doncaster. The vigil, organised by Women’s Lives Matter, was initially to mark the domestic violence murder of Amy Leanne Stringfellow.
In the days leading up to the event, campaigners learnt of three more women that had also been murdered by their male partners or other men known to them. All within 20 days of each other in one town. This is an horrific increase in the rate of domestic violence.
This is in the same town where four years ago the local Labour council cut its funds to Women’s Aid – twice. I spoke from the campaign and the Socialist Party about domestic violence and its rise. While deeply personal, it is also political.
Domestic violence has risen in line with austerity, not because men have become more violent, but because austerity traps women in abuse. Low pay, low benefits, lack of affordable housing, little to non-existent legal aid and lack of refuge spaces – all make it hard or impossible for women to leave.
During the lockdown, the government has paid only lip service to the danger domestic violence victims face by being stuck in their homes. They have given minuscule crumbs, and only to charities, to help cope with the increase in demand for support and safe refuge. This has without any doubt contributed to the increase in women’s and children’s murders in the last three months.
Other speakers, which were members of the crowd, raised their disgust at the cuts and spoke about the need for support, and particularly counselling. They said, as a community they needed to talk about domestic violence, talk to their sons and daughters.
Amy Leanne’s mother, Jacqui, bravely climbed up to the fountain platform, and said that she would not, as long as she is alive, “allow another woman to go through this”.
There was not a dry eye in the park. But people were not just sad, they were angry.
Louise Harrison, founding member of Women’s Lives Matter (WLM), said: “It’s about time politicians in this town started listening to us, we want deeds not words. We don’t want them to tell us they are sorry, we want them to put their money where their mouth is and start funding our services.” This was met with cries of “Yes” and huge applause.
The WLM campaign page has been swamped with messages and comments from attendees wanting to get involved and campaign. One of them commented about their experience of domestic violence and how the speakers have “highlighted what needs to happen in society to tackle this”.
The last words of the protest were: “This is the beginning, not one woman more.” WLM will be building a campaign to fight for what is needed to keep women safe.