This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

Welfare Reform Bill: From a mother who fled domestic violence

You can’t put a time limit as if everyone was the same.

Excerpts: "If the government forces women escaping domestic violence to work after one month, they obviously have no idea what they’re doing...You can’t really put a time limit as if everyone was the same…It is very much down to how each individual heals and if they heal at all…

Also you may be able to exit this relationship physically but that doesn’t mean that the abuse stops there. You are in a mental prison after having been controlled for so long…

Being forced into a work situation prematurely has a very high risk of backfiring. I am certain that the crime rate would increase and so would the suicide rate…To me it seems that victims of violence keep getting victimised…"
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Full Statement:
I am a single mum living on sickness benefit, because I have been through a number of traumatic and violent experiences, including rape and domestic violence. I suffer from depression, eating disorders, and I am a recovering alcoholic and drug user.

There is a lot of prejudice and ignorance with regard to addictions. Although it has been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a disease, it is still common for a lot of people to think it is just down to willpower. Most addicts I have met have become so following extreme violent traumas, horrific experiences like incest and child abuse.

Anyone who’s been in that place can testify that addiction is not a party situation but rather a way of numbing pain that is unbearable and too much to carry. The drugs and alcohol become a double-edged sword coping mechanism. It is a dark place that scars you for life. It is not as simple as self-pity either. The contradiction is that it is about survival even if it is also self-destructive. If I had to go out to work in the midst of my active addiction I would need to drink or take drugs as my nervous system wouldn’t allow me to leave my house in any other way. This of course will not be tolerated in a workplace nor will it be safe for the people around you.

If the government forces women escaping domestic violence to work after one month, they obviously have no idea what they’re doing -- then again maybe they do and they don’t care. You can’t really put a time limit as if everyone was the same. Depending on the person you are, how much you have been bullied, if there are children involved, how long you have been under someone else’s control, how much you have lost your sense of self. . . It is very much down to how each individual heals and if they heal at all. Once your balance is rocked in this area, life is never the same again.

When I left my partner I felt reduced to nothing. He was very controlling and manipulative, as well as physically violent. He stole my passport and my benefits and just gave me £5 a week to live on out of my own money. This made me totally dependent on him. I had been treated really badly, I had lost my sense of identity, and had turned to alcohol just to cope with it. It took a long time for me to plan leaving and to admit to myself how bad things were, partly because of the state I was in.

I also couldn’t get my head around this kind of behaviour and thought there must be good in there somewhere. As a woman we are blessed with these mothering feelings and it is meant to be a good thing. That’s love, and love is meant to be unconditional.

When I left him I had nowhere to go, no savings for a deposit for somewhere to stay. I did not know there were refuges. I basically moved into the street, just me and my rucksack. I spent three months crashing on people’s floors, most of whom I didn’t know. My mother helped me with some money towards a deposit for a flat. The flat hunting wasn’t easy and the money was chipped away for food and survival. I finally got a hostel place at the end of the three months. I felt like a dog. I couldn’t even face what had happened. I needed to find help to think through what happened. I went to rehab and stopped drinking. If I had been forced to seek work at this stage it would have been pointless -- I was shaking and a complete wreck, I could never have passed a job interview.

Also, I would have been vulnerable in a new job. When my self esteem was so low, other people would have sniffed out that I was vulnerable and weak, and they would have bullied me or something. I have been treated disrespectfully in jobs in the past, and I can’t afford to put myself in that position again until I’m better and stronger.

Being forced into a work situation prematurely has a very high risk of backfiring. I am certain that the crime rate would increase and so would the suicide rate. I can’t help but think that would just suit certain people just fine. To me it seems that victims of violence keep getting victimised.

It is very hard to live on benefits now as the attitude benefits assessors seem to take is that we are all fraudsters. I have to keep reminding myself that I ended up on sickness benefit because of what someone else did to me so as not to feel so guilty.

Often I feel like I spend 70% of my energy dealing with the system, instead of on getting well. I am ill and yet I am constantly asked to bring in papers, to prove things. I sometimes lose stuff, because I am not very together and it’s all held against you as if you were fine. But the fact is I am ill. They lose a lot of information too, they are always losing my papers, but it isn’t held against them!

I went for a medical last winter. I have heard that the person assessing you is not qualified as a doctor or in my case as a psychiatrist. He asked me a lot of simple questions with no space for me to give an elaborate answer. He ticked some boxes that if you have a real mental health issue you can’t fit into. Questions such as asking how many times a day are you not able to do this or that or unable to do without help. In my case as in many others I am sure, there isn’t such order to one’s illness. It fluctuates. Some days I feel really strong but these days are not predictable. The following day I may feel back in complete darkness where I can’t even leave the house.

It was decided that I was now fit for work. This of course isn’t the case as I am not even capable of handling my day to day business without extreme effort. Also they seemed to have filled out a form for me that I was meant to have filled out myself but knew nothing about. 90% of the answers had nothing to do with my situation. I appealed and was told to go to a hearing to prove myself ill which again is a nerve-racking thing. Firstly, I am not even sure if I would feel fit to leave the house the day of the hearing. Secondly, it put me in a lot of stress with regards to the only security and feeling of safety I have, which is in knowing that there is a roof over my and my son’s head, and food in our stomachs.

Also you may be able to exit this relationship physically but that doesn’t mean that the abuse stops there. You are in a mental prison after having been controlled for so long. And often the man will find ways to get to you and search for you to threaten you or your children for the rest of you life.

If I was to work now in a regular job and lost all my benefits I wouldn’t be able to cope. I’d have to work long hours to pay my rent and everything -- London is very expensive. And I’d feel bad about leaving my son with strangers all day. He is three years old and starts reception soon. Right now it would be wrong for us. Where I grew up in Norway we only went to school for half a day till we were 10 years old. I don’t think little kids should be away from their mums for hours and hours every day. It’s not healthy.

What people like me need is compassion, care and regular therapy, and especially justice, to enable us to come to terms with what has gone so badly in our lives. When violent men are not prosecuted it leaves you feeling like the violence is somehow your fault, like you must have done something wrong to be in that situation. People don’t realise what a massive task it is to come back from that kind of life. We have to learn new ways to relate to people, and to protect ourselves in the future, so we don’t become victims again. People like me will only be made more ill or even be driven to suicide if the government keeps increasing the pressure on us to get a job.

Sign BWRAP/ WAR statement against the Bill
 

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