Yesterday was the International Day of Non-Violence, so today we’re talking about The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (AKA Clare’s Law). This post has been anonymously written by someone personally affected by this.
Clare’s Law is a national scheme that members of the public can apply to the Police for, to make inquiries about an individual who they are in a relationship with, or who is in a relationship with someone they know, where there is a concern that the individual may be abusive toward their partner or have an abusive past. Absolutely anyone can make the application for information. The initiative is named after Clare Wood, a 36 year old Mum of one who was raped, strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend, George Appleton, in 2009. Appleton had a history of abuse against women, which Clare did not know about and it was Clare’s father, Michael Brown that fought for this law to be brought in after her murder, so that other victims might be protected in the future. Read about it here.
I went through the Clare’s Law process a couple of years ago. At the time, it had only just been brought in and I was one of the first people to use it. I didn’t make the application myself, it was done on my behalf without my knowledge, by people who love me and were deeply concerned about me. They knew I was in an abusive relationship, they knew I was so depressed I couldn’t think straight or make decisions about what to do and they knew that I loved my boyfriend, despite everything. The police had been called numerous times and I had not been ready to talk to them or make statements about him. I kept hoping (rather than believing) everything would be OK; it was all my fault because of my anxiety, which is what he always told me. If I wasn’t so anxious he wouldn’t have to restrain me, or poke me, spit on me or drag me around etc. I drove him to it, I knew how to push his buttons, so he said.
I got a phone call one day, at my work, from a Police Officer asking me to please come to the station as she had information she needed to give me. She couldn’t tell me anything else, just that I had to come down or she would have to come to my work or home. I was terrified as you can imagine; I didn’t know what it was about and I was really worried. I remember phoning my boyfriend before going into the Station to say I think it’s to do with Clare’s Law and please, to tell me the truth if there was anything he needed to tell me. I went to the station and was taken into a room with a female Police Officer who explained that I was there as she had information to impart, regarding my partner and that someone had indeed made an application for Clare’s Law on my behalf. You can imagine what I was feeling; I was shaking, nervous and terrified about what they were going to tell me. She explained the process: that an application comes in and an Officer is assigned to investigate further. If anything comes up on the Police National Computer (PNC) then it is investigated fully. Here is a list of just some of the things that are held on the PNC:
- personal descriptions
- bail conditions
- custodial history
- wanted or missing reports
- warning markers
- pending prosecutions
- disqualified driver records
- drink drive related offences
- formal warnings
The PNC holds details of people who are, or were, of interest to UK law enforcement agencies because they:
- have convictions for criminal offences
- are subject to the legal process, for example waiting to appear at court
- are wanted
- have certain court orders made against them
- are missing or have been found
- have absconded (escaped) from specified institutions
- are disqualified from driving by a court
- have a driver record held at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
- hold a firearm certificate.
If anything that concerns them presents itself then they take it to a Multi-Agency-Risk-Assessment-Conference (MARAC) where professionals get together to discuss the situation and decide whether there is sufficient risk to tell the partner of the alleged perpetrator. They take into account the human rights of both parties and then decide exactly who they need to inform; the alleged perpetrator, the person who made the application, the victim, or someone who is able to protect the victim from assault. They decide exactly what they will disclose, word for word. It gets typed up on a piece of paper and the Police Officer who did the investigation then asks you to come in and read it. They can’t answer any questions you may have about what you read (which is really, really frustrating, trust me, because you’ll have a million of them) and they can’t tell you anything other than what has been agreed at MARAC. In my case the Police were sufficiently worried about my safety to ask me to come in and provide me with information regarding my partner. It was made very clear to me that my (then) partner is a Domestic Abuser and has a history. Even if the alleged perpetrator does have a history of abuse, the Police will not disclose information unless they feel that there is sufficient risk of harm to you, or the person you are requesting the disclosure on behalf of. In my case they did. After that, it’s up to you what to do with the information you’ve been given. The Police can’t force you to leave, or do anything against your will. You must make up your own mind.
The only potential problem with Clare’s Law is that given the nature of Domestic Violence, most assaults go unreported. So you may not find out anything, unless the Police have been involved at some point. I know this to be true as I didn’t report 90% of what happened to me. You feel ashamed that you let this happen to you, that you are in this horrendous situation and you’re afraid. You don’t want to talk to the Police, you probably still feel something for your partner or ex-partner, you don’t want them to get into trouble. Maybe there are children involved and he or she has probably done a pretty good job of draining all of your confidence and self-esteem, so you actually believe you are to blame.
Clare’s Law is a fantastic piece of legislation; I urge anyone who has an inkling that their partner, or their loved one’s partner is an abuser to use it. To apply for Clare’s Law all you need to do is phone 101 and say that you are concerned and that you would like to make an application. If you are the friend or family member of someone who you suspect is in an abusive relationship the process is the same; call 101, or visit your local Police Station and ask to apply for Clare’s Law. Here’s a useful piece from The Telegraph for you to read and here’s some info from the Metropolitan Police, with some printable Clare’s Law guides and information about Domestic Violence and abuse in general.
The important thing is that once you’ve left, which wasn’t straight away for me, don’t go back. It will be so hard, believe me. You will feel all sorts of conflicting emotions; love, hate, shame, grief, loneliness, relief, happiness, sadness, anxiety. You’ll worry about what happens next, what happens to him or her, what he or she is doing. You’ll miss him, he’ll be on your mind constantly and you’ll naturally want to remember the good bits of the relationship (usually the beginning) before it all got so terrible and out of control. I did go back, 18 months later, because I thought I loved him still and that ‘everything would be different this time’… but it was short lived as I started to see his controlling behaviours and gaslighting* techniques creeping back in and so I ended things and that was that. It was still emotionally traumatic, but I was stronger this time around and realised that I had to leave him for my own safety. There was no point in hoping and praying that he’d change and we’d live happily ever after, because we definitely wouldn’t.
Breaking up with someone is hard in the normal scheme of things, but add DV and it’s one hundred times more confusing. It’s not like a normal break up at all. The Police are involved, professional services are involved and calling you frequently, you’ll be at meetings and appointments all the time and you’ll be trying to function like a normal person at the same time, holding down your job and sorting out your domestic situation. Your emotions will be all over the place and you’ll feel conflicted and confused most of the time. My advice is to talk about it. Surround yourself with friends and family and use the professional services that are there for you. Read blogs, join groups, just talk, talk, talk. Slowly you’ll start feeling like your old self again and you’ll realise how much you’ve missed being that person and that actually, you’re none of those rotten things he told you you were. Just take it a day at a time.
*Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favour the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception and sanity.