Thursday, 3 February 2011

cuts are violence

"Women’s Aid, Refuge and independent providers of domestic violence services – all are facing ‘inevitable’ funding cuts, ‘efficiency’ measures, amalgamation and closure. Services that support, empower and protect thousands of families and single women will shut down. Thousands of workers in our sector will lose their jobs in 2011. [...]

Abandoning survivors of abuse and other vulnerable people to the “Big Society” having bailed out banks and cosied up to corporate tax-dodgers is violence that will impact our society for generations. [...]

As survivors and supporters we are face to face with abuse on a daily basis and understand all too well how abusers operate. We have a responsibility to speak out and describe the abusive attitudes of the people behind the cuts programme, and the violence that is enacted in it. [...]

We know full well the links between abuse and homelessness, abuse and poverty, abuse and unemployment, abuse and mental illness. And we know that this cuts programme re-enacts and reinforces abusive structural social injustice. We are acutely aware that these cuts will compound this interlinked violence and make it much harder for the most vulnerable people to become free. [...]

As providers of, and workers within, gendered violence services – how can we respond to this crisis and act not merely to defend our salary structures, but as if stopping abuse in our communities is our absolute priority? 

Are we going to bicker between women’s services over our share of the crumbs and step on one another to stay in business? Are we going to unite as women’s services to gain a larger share of the crumbs at the expense of perhaps asylum seekers’ services, or homeless men’s services? Or are we going to challenge the system that attempts to divide and rule us in this way? [...]

Those anti-violence services that survive or are created in this cataclysmic upheaval face a disturbing ‘race neutral’ and ‘gender neutral’ future in which existing specialist services with decades of experience are ‘streamlined’ i.e. closed, in the name of ‘efficiency’. We are facing the end of specialist “Black and Minority Ethnic” services and specialist women’s services, a future in which provision “by Black women for Black women” and “by women for women” are anachronisms, because “we’re all in this together” [...]

As survivors and supporters we know the need to look for the crux of power in each situation. We are all too familiar with abusers’ use of an ultimate threat to hold over their victim: If you leave you’ll lose your home / No one else would want you / I could kill you… We have to assess whether there is any truth in the threat, and if so what we stand to risk in our effort to be free.

What is the ultimate, most terrifying, threat that the state holds over us? No more funding. So we must reckon with this possibility and face it head on. How can we support the people around us who are experiencing domestic and sexual violence, potentially in the absence of funding? We have done it before: Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis were started by women who reached out to support one another. Before there were refuges, women offered each other their spare rooms. Faced with a decimation of services, do we need to begin this grassroots work once more? Is this idea shocking, frightening?"

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