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    Episode 7: Signs And Symptoms Of Domestic Violence

    Part Four: Forms of Abuse – Financial and Sexual Abuse

    Financial Abuse

    • Does he keep very tight reins on you financially?
    • Does he then complain bitterly when you don’t have enough money to cook a decent meal?
    • Does he run up bills in your name?

    If the answers to these questions are yes, then this is when the control over your life is of a financial nature. You may indeed be entitled to money that you never see or get your hands on, because this is what your abuser has decided. Even if a bank account is in your name, you may still be denied access, to the money that is rightfully yours. You may be forced to work and then your wages are taken away from you. Alternatively, you may not be allowed to work, for fear that having your own money would enable you to be more independent.

    Financial abuse takes place when you are forced to beg for money, to buy basic much needed things like food, soap, things for the children and other personal items. When the abuser believes there is no reason why he should not commit fraud, or theft against you, you are without a doubt, being financially abused.

    Sexual Abuse

    This takes place when the victim is forced to participate in sexual acts. This includes being forced to have sexual intercourse against your will, which amounts to being raped. It can include being touched when you do not want to be touched or being forced to touch them when you don’t want to. When you are being forced to sell your body and receive unwanted attention from them, making you feel cheap, you are being sexually abused.

    Sexual abuse can be one or the most devastating forms of abuse for the person involved. Perhaps one of the reasons is because sex is always meant to take place, within the context of a loving relationship between consenting adults. Whenever this therefore takes place violently, and against the victims will, (typically characteristic of when rape takes place), it is not only traumatic, but it is also soul destroying. It often encompasses all the other forms of abuse simultaneously, such as physical, mental, and verbal, which makes it particularly effective. The victim is left with the feeling of once again being pathetically defeated. There is often little hope that things will ever change when all dignity and respect is lost at such a basic human level. The victim feels violated and powerless, as the abuser forcefully takes what he wants, knowing that it is not freely or willingly given. The victim is forced to participate in unwanted sexual activity, because as far as the abuser is concerned, the victim’s choice is an irrelevant consideration!

    For the victim however, this is a complete nightmare which they can’t seem to wake up from. They feel dirty and guilty that they allowed this atrocity to happen to them. At the same time, they feel that they were completely powerless to have stopped it from taking place. They often blame themselves and are tormented by thoughts that perhaps, they should have done things differently, screamed louder, and fought back harder.

    Sexual abuse can occur just because the victim is being forced and manipulated into watching pornographic material. Abuse comes into play when the victim’s right to choose has been snatched away.

    Michelle Thompson an MP for Edinburgh West shared her experience of been attacked and raped, when she was only fourteen years old. She was a victim of someone she knew. She talked about what she went through and how the experience made her feel. She decided to share publicly about her ordeal in parliament. She said it was because as an MP, she wanted to give a voice to people who are unable to speak out in the same way. She really wants the focus to be on effecting change for many other women, who still suffer in silence.

    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”