NI Women Want the Same Safety Laws as the UK
This petition had 328 supporters
Northern Ireland does not have stalking or coercive control laws which are both crimes of intimidation caused through fear. We have rights under the UN Convention but they are not applied here. The UN Rights of the Child also clearly states Governments have the responsibility to protect and assist families in fulfilling their essential role as nurturers of children. (Article 5). This would mean giving them laws to enjoy safety and freedom to do so. Women’s Aid NI are currently lobbying for coercive control, implemented in the UK in 2014, and considering this is an act of human suffering, why do they have to do this? Is it not an urgent priority, and sign of human compassion to have these laws automatically put in place when there is a need. We look the same, we feel the same, we have Great British passports, yet we lag badly behind our counterparts when it comes to safety laws.
Any contact attempt that instils fear is called stalking, and it will have been previously repeated enough to cause distress and alarm. Abusive relationships are not something that appear like this from the start, and often it is too late to walk away when fear and threats will be in place. The fear of the unknown becomes greater than the fear of the daily abuse. When the relationship breaks down, stalking is highly likely to follow as the controlling behaviour will not stop. It is a crime that few speak up about because they are living in terror and avoid provoking their perpetrator, who will have spent years breaking down the victim’s resilience to cope, and will have played head games, (emotional and psychological abuse) which results in feelings like “I think I’m going mad”, “I can’t think clearly”, “I feel numb”, “what if he’s right?”. This also results in the victim not reaching out for fear of not being believed, which is often the case. Can you imagine desperately trying to avoid someone you live in fear of, while trying to care for children, earn a living, and keep a home, but always waiting for the next sudden appearance or email or silent call from an obsessive individual who will not relent on tormenting you. And then left to get on with it.
Due to the lack of legislation PSNI are unable to stop an obsessed, controlling individual unless there is an assault or damage to belongings. Adults who have to be told how to behave as normal in society, will not pay heed to a verbal warning from police unless there is a serious risk to their own freedom. I believe this is the only way to deter this, as they can control it, as they do control it in public. This petition is for both men and women but for the sake of my story I am sharing the majority gender affected by this. Our criminal safety measures in place are limited, and results in the victim waiting and applying for a court order, where she will relive her fear in a court room full of legals, with the defence waiting to attack what she says. This is highly unfair as she will have fragmented memory impairment due to the impact of the trauma and years of constant fear, and will feel victimised for the second time. (UN Conventions Art 18 – aim at avoiding secondary victimisation). She is also likely to have the privilege of paying for this, if she is working and I hear this story all too often in my area of work.
I have experienced four years of stalking and have felt the same fear and intimidation. My stalker has defamed my personal and professional character though social media, and gossip in the town where I live in an attempt to destroy the life I worked hard to build. This is the punishment I had to endure as I rejected my stalker following a five-month relationship. I have had to fight for my livelihood as he attacked this with lies as maliciously as he could, knowing I had to support my children. I was naive enough to think that he would eventually stop as I couldn’t afford the legal costs of court proceedings, having to provide a home for my family. Instead he changed tactics and stalked two people close to me. Regardless of my PSNI reporting, he then reversed the victimhood, as a final attempt to “harass” me, and started court proceedings applying for an emergency ex parte injunction with no evidence. This was funded for him by the tax payers, as he is entitled to Legal Aid. Prior to the court date he still appeared outside my home, witnessed by two people but again nothing was done. I know what it is like to be afraid, to move houses, change cars, jobs, change telephone numbers, block emails, check car parks and places I may want to enter, install surveillance equipment, CCTV’s, carry personal alarms, strongly filter work email enquiries, keep my phone camera handy for capturing evidence, and in general always having this dark cloud following me everywhere I go. This may seem extreme but he did threaten to have me shot “costing £600” and I had no idea how far his obsession would go and to what level.
As my stalker wouldn’t give up and was determined to win, he kept trying but it always backfired on him, as the truth always prevails……….. Despite producing 30 pieces of evidence fit for civil court and secondary victim statements, the PSNI were limited in helping me, so following months of research, I discovered my rights, and the State rarely prosecutes using the Harassment Order. This may be because we are void of stalking and coercive control laws, which means Northern Ireland is not complying with Article 11 of the UN Convention, to collect and research data for study purposes. We have rights, but the majority of those suffering is not aware of them, but would also be afraid to demand them. I was too until I became weary of the constant onslaught from my tormentor, and the discrimination and inequality I witnessed, as I repeatedly asked for help from the state agencies in place to protect me. I have now decided to speak out and share my story. I may face his ultimate threat, and I may never be able to seek help from the police again, but something needed to change. Not just for myself but for every woman, man and child who has to live in fear of another in Northern Ireland. To have freedom and safety of your person is a gift I so envied when I was out with my friends, as no one knows what it feels like to be constantly watching, as his allies tipped him off when I was out, and he would suddenly appear. Only those who have gone through the same thing truly understands, how different you feel to everyone else as freedom is naturally taken for granted. This is a crime of unnecessary suffering and terror, and although it will take some time to break the silence and reveal the extent of this, I will for now be the voice for those gagged in fear. In the meantime, please stand in the gap for our Gov.NI in showing compassion to those who need protected, and sign the petition.
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