Lee Webster guest blogs for Progressive Women. Follow Lee on twitter @leepster
“My husband tried to kill me, the Family Justice Centre rescued me”. These words came to me from a woman in the street as I was handing out flyers at East Croydon station earlier this week. “Family Justice Centre saved my life, I owe them everything”, another woman tweeted later. It’s a stark reminder that Croydon’s domestic violence service, at risk of closure from council cuts, is not an added-extra for women, it’s a vital service.
Let’s be clear. An attack on domestic violence services is an attack on all women. 1 in 4 of us will experience domestic violence in our lifetime. Croydon’s Family Justice Centre sees over a thousand people a month experiencing domestic violence, the majority of whom are women and children. In Croydon we have the highest reported rate of domestic violence, and yet because of previous cuts there are already 117 women, and 64 children, on the waiting list to access the Family Justice Centre services. Timely intervention in domestic violence is vital, waiting lists can kill.
Even when women do access the service, cuts in two consecutive years mean that the services run by the centre are being depleted: the housing officers have gone, the paid counsellors have been replaced by volunteers, and now the dedicated police unit, which provided a safe space for women to report violence, is leaving the building. Domestic violence services in Croydon will soon be nothing but a shell of the cutting edge service they used to be.
As women of Croydon and beyond, we must stand up against this. It’s International Women’s Day and tonight Croydon Labour Women’s Forum are holding a rally to show the council that we’ll stand by vital services for women. In a time of austerity, cuts are being made on the backs of women’s lives, and we won’t let that happen quietly. For the Council’s part, they have issued statements saying that no services will be closed. We hope, for the women of Croydon’s sake, that this is true. But the evidence is compelling – cuts to services, longer waiting lists, job losses. How much longer can the centre survive?
On International Women’s Day we must all stand together and loudly stand by the services that keep us safe. You’ll get a very warm welcome if you join us in Croydon after work this evening – or take two minutes to add your name to our online petition, and ask the Council to reverse the cuts and protect women: http://croydonfirst.org.uk/family-justice-centre/
On International Women’s Day, we send you sisterhood and solidarity from Croydon. Please send us some in return.
To find out more about Progressive Women’s forthcoming events email firstname.lastname@example.org follow us on twitter @sylviapankhurst