By Sheldon Ridley
OVER a hundred women marched through Manchester city centre to remember women murdered by abusive men.
The event was organised to commemorate women who have been killed by partners, ex-partners and family members and to raise awareness of domestic violence as it reaches record levels.
Domestic violence charity Refuge, says two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner and one in four women will directly experience domestic violence during their lifetime.
The march was organised and led by Claire Moore, co-founder of Certain Curtain Theatre Company, with relatives and friends of murdered women, domestic violence survivors and those in support, marching in single file through the city centre dressed in bright red ponchos.
In an attempt to put a face to the figures, Claire read the names of women who had been murdered by a man known to them within the last 12 months. She separated the list of names with the line ‘We are the dead women walking’, as if the women in attendance represented the lost lives.
Claire said: “I wanted it to be a visual march that makes shoppers in the city centre think about domestic violence. They might learn the helpline number, they might tell a friend that they understand that it is a big problem and that we as a community can make a difference.”
This was the third time the march has happened, with the first two events taking place in central London.
Claire added: “I believe this kind of event is a great way to help people connect with other people’s lives, to help them walk in the shoes of people who have experienced something that they haven’t. It’s also a great way for people who have experienced a serious issue to see it validated, so they know they aren’t alone.”
One common concern among women marching were cuts to local services while numbers of abuse cases rise.
More than 30 per cent of funding to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector from local authorities has been cut since 2010, with black and minority ethnic services attacked the hardest.
Research by Women’s Aid also reveals two-thirds of domestic violence shelters in England and Wales are facing closure due to the housing benefit cap. The group expects 67 per cent of refuges in England will be forced to close, and 87 per cent will not be able to provide the same level of support as they currently do.
In 2015, George Osborne said the £15million raised from the tampon tax would go to women’s services and recently Prime Minister Theresa May, has made available the first half of the pledged £40million funding, which local government can apply for to go towards domestic abuse services.
Although these funds were welcomed by Women’s Aid, they received criticism by anti-austerity group, Sisters Uncut, being described as ‘Nothing but a sticking a plaster on a haemorrhage’.
Dianne Hindley, a domestic violence survivor on the march, who now works with women seeking help, believes abuse against women needs to have sufficient funds to eradicate it. She said: “We need to put funding in to young people’s education and understanding of domestic abuse and understanding that there are services out there for them.
“There needs to be funding into the services so when people are looking for them they can find it, and it’s not ‘sorry they’ve been cut’.”
One woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was on the march in memory of her sister, as she believes her death was caused by her husband.
Expressing her concerns with services, she said: “My sister got seen by a member of staff on the crisis team but I don’t feel they did what they could do. If they had stepped in and taken her in to a place of safety, this might have been a different story and my sister might still be with us now.”
Councillor Sarah Judge who represents Woodhouse Park Ward on Manchester City Council, was also on the march. She said: “Today was a massive win. it was great to see so many women walking through Manchester. And when other women saw what we were doing, you could see from their faces that they’d been there too, they understood why we were doing this.”
Cllr Judge is also a representative from Wythenshawe Safe Spots, a south Manchester organisation which supports women to access domestic violence services. She said: “Wythenshawe is an area with one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the country and since we opened in February we have had over 500 women through our doors.”
Independently run with police money, it was set up by a group of survivors of domestic violence who felt that services were not acting in the best interests for victims.
She added: “Sometimes people think it’s easy for women to just leave. The one thing people often forget is that a woman still loves that man and it’s one of the hardest things for them to do to just leave them. There may be children involved, they may not be financially able.
“Don’t just tell them to leave. You have to be there for them, support them and it’s just about letting people know there are services that are going to help them out. The time’s got to be right for that victim and it’s got to be done safely.”