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    What makes a Murderer?!

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    What makes a Murderer?!


    I recently read an online entitled ‘How to spot a serial killer – Five key traits’. The traits were:

    • A power junkie
    • A manipulator
    • An egotistical bragger
    • A superficial charmer
    • An average Joe

    It struck me that these traits are the same traits often seen in perpetrators of domestic abuse. The Freedom Programme covers all of these, albeit named slightly differently, their meaning is the same. I have often wondered how many people who are abusive to their partners, go on to be serial killers? Yes, I know it is not particularly a light-hearted thing to think about but when you do the job I do, there is a temptation to look at everyone and wonder if they are a perpetrator. Although I honestly do try to resist that temptation!

    When I was researching this topic I came across hundreds of articles on the internet which highlighted the links between Domestic Abuse and Animal cruelty. Of course, those of  us who work in the field know that this is accurate and there is a very strong link with these two things. But I was surprised at how very little there was on the links between Domestic Abuse and Serial killers. Is it just part of ‘the big cover up’? I wondered. By that, and at the risk of repeating myself as I do go on about this! I mean the way in which the words Domestic Abuse/Violence are still seen by many in the media to be ‘taboo’ words that you dare not say, never mind print! as I have written about before. How many times do we read the paper on the way to work, and see stories of women being killed in their homes sometimes followed by ‘police are looking for the woman’s partner as someone they are interested in speaking to’. Those of us who do this work know instantly it is a Domestic Homicide. But anyone else may not read between the lines as we do.

    If we as a society broke down those taboo’s and actually said the words ‘Domestic Abuse’ more often, if our media outlets printed those words more often, then people would come to realise just how common Domestic Abuse is. They may be more likely over time to report it if they see or hear it. Women who are experiencing it may be more likely to report it. And the corridors of power may be more likely to stop cutting the funding of valuable organisations that support victims and survivors and perhaps more importantly, support perpetrators to change their behaviour and understand that what they are doing is wrong. We see it a lot in the sector – organisations closing, having their funding cut, forcing the organisation to make staff redundant. In my opinion this is because they simply do not know the scale of Domestic Abuse. It is something that happens to other people. Something that doesn’t happen in ‘our area’! But if we put more money and time into supporting perpetrators to change their behaviour and hold them accountable for their actions, we would be literally saving lives not to mention millions of tax payers money. Take this example –

    Milly Dowler murder: Levi Bellfield’s confession ‘could lead to others’

    In 2000 I was working in a refuge as a refuge worker.  I was supporting a young woman who had fled her abusive partner and come into the refuge with her two small children. Once or twice, I took her children into a busy city shopping centre away from the area of the refuge, so they could see their father. He presented as a pleasant man. Charming and friendly. He missed his children and his partner so much. Not that his pleasant demeanour ever fooled me. For I knew different. My client had confided in me and told me of all the unspeakable things he had done to her. What has this got to do with the article link?, I hear you say. The father was Levi Bellfield.

    Imagine my horror when I saw his face on my television screen a few years later. At the time of his original conviction, there was some mention of the fact that he had abused his former partner.  But only briefly and remember, I was looking out for this.  When we see pictures of this man now we instantly think of him as a serial killer. We wonder, what made him do this? Is he mad?. Was he on drugs?. The answer is much closer to home. He was a perpetrator of Domestic Abuse and he was never held accountable for his actions then. He committed these heinous crimes simply because he could!  He abused his former partner, simply because he could and no one told him otherwise!

    What if someone had told him otherwise back in 2000? I don’t need to expand on the answer to that, do I?

    I make no apology if this article has shocked and/or upset anyone reading it. Because as I have said before, if more people spoke about what is deemed to be taboo, victims and survivors of domestic abuse would be much safer.

    Sharon Bryan
    Head Of Partnerships & Development Of Domestic Abuse Services

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    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.”