The Socialist 30 November 2016 |
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Fight the cuts - victims of domestic abuse depend on it
Women march against the cuts, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
After my mum's first abusive partner, we had to move. But before you are eligible for council housing you have to be living within the region of a local authority for some time. For domestic violence victims this is a dangerous rule.
Those fleeing abuse need to be able to move away from a perpetrator otherwise they are likely to remain trapped in a cycle of abuse.
Fleeing is also a time when women and children are most likely to be killed by partner or ex-partner.
Like many women with children we were not street homeless, we were put up by a family member - a single room and a single bunk bed which we had to share for six months.
This is 'hidden homelessness' and is often not acknowledged as homelessness. However, it carries many physical and psychological effects. It's hard to get into schools, you don't have your own possessions, and can't have control your life.
This is where my mum met her second abuser. He was in the army and therefore was entitled to low priced, good quality housing on the army barracks if he is married.
Looking back it is clear he took advantage of our situation.
It took us three and a half years of hell to escape. In this time, the battalion had also moved over to Northern Ireland and so physically we were cut off from support networks.
My mum had contacted a women's shelter in England but it could only offer us an emergency bed for a few days because of the financial strain on their services. I know now this strain had come from a Labour council.
At this stage my mum tried twice to end her life. We had nowhere to go and yet again we did not qualify for any social housing.
A relative kept us off the streets until we qualified for council housing.
At this point me and my sister were teenagers but they still put us in a small two bed flat, where we lived for two years with cardboard boxes for curtains and no carpets - safe but with our food being provided by the Salvation Army and mostly without heating.
We need affordable social housing, services that can offer both refuge and therapeutic outreach services to help survivors rebuild their lives. Instead we are met with complex and soulless procedures.
The call for Labour councillors to fight the cuts, or stand aside if they won't, could not be more urgent.
My family survived by lucky acts of kindness, but every week two women do not.
Disgustingly, local authorities are leaving women and children's lives to chance and they are dying at the hands of their cuts. Alternatively they are being left trapped in abuse and if they get out they are left with not much of a life at all.