On Monday the Home Affairs Committee launched an eConsultation (an online blog forum) to hear from victims who have direct experience of domestic violence, including forced marriages and 'honour-based' violence. The Committee especially wants to hear about experiences of public services related to domestic violence. The eConsultation runs from 21 January to 29 February 2008 and can be accessed by clicking here.
Along with evidence gathered during the inquiry, the posts on the online forum will help shape the recommendations the Select Committee makes to the Government in their final report.
The forum currently has four main topics listed, including "Do victims of domestic violence receive the support they need from public and voluntary sector organisations?"
One user, known as 'bouncingback', posted her personal experience of domestic violence when her ex-husband strangled her in front of her son until he thought she was dead. After an hour her son managed to break away from her ex-husband and call an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, she had to wait for half an hour for the police to turn up before she could be taken to hospital. Before the ambulance left, the police asked her if she would like her ex-husband to be arrested, a question she was unable to answer given her state of fear after the attack.
The hospital discharged her after a few hours even though she had no where to stay with her son because she was too afraid to go home and the police refused to accommodate them, she claims.
The experience caused her suffer from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which led to her losing her job and the lifestyle she once enjoyed. She felt that her GP didn't take her seriously and offered her little support and she became suicidal.
"Not only [are] the police ignorant [about] how serious strangulation is, but the doctors, the justice system, my friends and family, everybody let me down," she wrote on her post.
In a second post she uses her experience to set out four recommendations for the Select Committee: police should arrest the offender without asking the victim's permission; victims should be kept in hospital overnight; steps should be taken to ensure that the victim has a safe place to go and; victims of attempted murder or grievous bodily harm should be referred to a psychotherapist straight after the incident.
Another user writes about how, after neighbours made complaints, he was removed from his home by police rather than his abusive partner. The police and his GP refused to take his claims seriously and left his daughter with a "drunken mother". He was later able get an uncontested residency order for his daughter.
More information can be found on the Domestic Violence Home Affairs Committee's eConsultation website: http://forums.parliament.uk/dvec/index.php?index,1.