Cultural Shifts in England/Abuse, unfounded accusations
Chapter 5: Abuse, unfounded accusations
There are always disputes between couples; they occur throughout married life… they are normally concerned with: sharing, children, sex, and money - subjects that raise their heads after the honeymoon period is over – when work and home life has taken on a set routine. Normally they are things of the moment but during times of crisis they can develop into unresolved issues that linger. If accepted by both partners, as being important enough to need resolving, a new set of rules and understandings are set in motion – things that allow the partnership to continue.
As the partnership progresses, under these new rules, outside forces can present another upset. Once again the issue is resolved and the marriage continues… to again settle into a routine. Many upsetting incidents happen because of lack of space and children’s unhappiness or sickness. This suggests that there maybe more unresolved disputes at the lower end of the social scale. This is suggested by statistics (Pfol, 1994), and related essays.
The list of acts of abuse is endless but can be placed into three main categories: physical, sexual, and verbal. There are some statistics, and where possible I will add them. Unfortunately, National Statistics are not available; statistics that are published do not include all forms of abuse in marriage. It has been said that the definition of domestic violence is, ‘the action of one partner to gain power or control over the other’. This is not directed towards one particular sexual orientation. It is acknowledged in most writings that women get their way through verbal means and men by their physical presence.
'For a definition of ‘Domestic Abuse’ I quote ‘The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service’s’ Domestic Violence Policy as:'
Patterns of behaviors characterized by the misuse of power and control by one person over another who are or have been in an intimate relationship. It can occur in mixed gender relationships and same gender relationships and has a profound consequence for the lives of children, individuals, families and communities. It may well be physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological. The latter may include: intimidation, harassment, and damage to property, threats and financial abuse.
The marriage honeymoon period can last for many years. Both partners are busy, going to work, keeping up with friends, sports, and hobbies. Childhood and school friends, neighbours, social get-togethers, keeping up a social circle, sporting activities, all make for continuity. As the years go by the female considers her age and the possibility of child rearing. Friends and relations are all about the same age and they too are thinking along those same lines. The marriage is steady, a routine has been put into place, and both partners are happy. Starting a family is now paramount.
With any luck this couple may have talked through this stage… Starting a family is a joint decision, and should be entered into with common accord. This stage in their marriage life was planned and eagerly looked forward to. After all, this is natural thing, and it is what we are made for – a god given ability – and after all there are any number of people have gone before, and had a successful happy pregnancy… and isn’t there many modern aids, so what’s the problem?
Like every human endeavour, having children is not as easy as first thought… there is a spiritual, mental and physical consideration to be entered into. This may seem strange for such a natural evolutionary act. After all millions are doing the same thing, and they don’t seem have a problem…
Well that’s as maybe, but it’s not quite that simple. Sometimes it doesn’t happen… even: clock watching, temperature gauging, position assuming, and diet watching, can all have negative results. Perhaps it’s your fault… I’ve always been up for it, so it cannot be me. This maybe the start to disagreements and questioning, worries that undermine harmony?
Violence in the home is nothing new. However, the rights of individuals are increasingly being discussed. Prior to WWI physical violence by a husband towards his wife was common particularly within the lower classes. This was the case in all western culture’s the methods of abuse differ between the sexes although on an even scale. Physical violence is recorded more by men and verbal abuse used by women. Obviously physical violence is the greater anti social behaviour and more serious, that does not alter the fact that perpetual verbal abuse is the cause of humiliation, intimidation and mental cruelty, and can have longer lasting effects.
In the following Case Study I have chosen an issue which is becoming increasingly common, particularly for women. Common assault constituted twenty-four percent of all police violent crime figures. Of that number thirty-nine percent of the aggrieved parties suffered no injury. The Police maintain common assault to be an arrestable offence under schedule 1A to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60). Restraining orders under s5 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Section 5 (2) provides cause of fear of violence and Code C requirements for detention, treatment and questioning.
However, the common assault must be more than transient and trifling: grazes, scratches, abrasions and reddening of the skin etc., are the lowest form of actionable assault. If the assault does come within, or above, one of these injuries the Police then have to make a judgment on the psychological, or psycho-social, competence of the witness. The ‘go-order’ is only given when it is believed an assault has taken place or when there is a likelihood of fear, harm, or threatening behaviour.
The changing roles of human relationships are having an effect. Women are taking on the role of breadwinner and in some work places being rewarded more than their male counterpart. This financial independence changes their status – now becoming not only needed for sex, procreation, and mothering, but the source of a better lifestyle, and as a pension provider. This added responsibility and pressure, creates stresses, and has to be coped with by the individual,family and society.
'The subjects:' both retired, have been married for over a quarter of a century and live in a comfortable home. The wife had been the main bread winner whilst the husband had stayed at home after early retirement - doing the housework and the cooking, whilst engaged in painting, running a small studio, and gallery. He is a retired teacher, qualified in Youth Leadership and a counselor for Victim Support. His Watercolour paintings, and graphic design, augmented his early retirement pension… On his wife’s retirement his income then exceeded hers.
Now they are both well into their retirement, gradually finding they are no longer capable of many of the things they had been used to doing. The husband, continuing his round of domestic duties, occasionally painting, has found that he has become tied up with his word processor - which keep him busy writing. The wife, now no longer working hectic business hours - looking after her own business, never found the time before for hobbies and outside interests has found the days long and monotonous, and the social scene tedious. Increasingly the wife encroached upon her husband’s duties, and past-times. His privacy and routines have now became disrupted – a thing of the past. The wife, inward looking and unhappy finds fault, resents his single minded insistence on maintaining his daily round… Now she means to assert herself and claim back some control…!
That sunny morning in October two police officers stood at the open front door, they hesitate, before ringing the bell…
It was quite a shock - for the husband to see them standing there; they were in uniform, with all their paraphernalia strung around them; quiet intimidating, especially for the resident of a backwater residence. He invited them in… they could see the usual weekly cleaning was taking place - the Hoover was out, and the furniture moved… With duster in hand the man bid them enter the living room. They assumed a commanding posture… instructing the householder to: ‘please stop what you are doing; come with us to the police station!’
As a modem day man he was used to doing the housework it had become a Saturday morning ritual. At first, it was a shared ritual, but it soon became ‘his’ task, to add - along with all the others. He guessed what this was all about. His wife had threatened to complain to all and sundry about his so called clandestine meetings… with ‘ladies in the park’ and all those other imagined happenings: the partying, meals out, shopping lists, and nocturnal meetings. He asked the officers: ‘Can I put some doctor’s letters onto a memory stick?’ They agreed. Later he asked them to read the letters - which they refused to, do, and saying: ‘That would interfere with their neutral stance.’ He told them: ‘What is in them is relevant’… but they still refused. His wife’s behavior patterns and accusations had for some months been extraordinary. It had been clear for many months that his wife was in need of medical help. He believed his wife was not mentally competent to make a reasoned complaint judgement.
The Policemen were surprisingly quite unthreatening, chatty, and faintly amused. They could see this was not a common every day case… The policeman, who did most of the talking, cautioned him: explained that it may harm his defense, if he did not mention, when questioned, something which he would later rely on in court, and that anything he said could be given in evidence. He locked up the house and they set out. The police car was at the end of the drive… the citizenry looked on as he tried to appear nonchalant… behind that exterior he was nervous and unsure - for his freedom and safety.
The two officer’s had been on mobile patrol – their normal duties. Seemingly, their present duty – appearance at the house to make an arrest - was of greater importance, for they drove the husband to the area’s main Police Station – a matter of thirteen miles, taking half an hour to get there. Even then, the husband was quite amenable, conversing amicably, keeping up the conversation. He carried his laptop to print out the doctor’s letters, when he arrived at the police station.
It had been a very comfortable journey. The policeman had kept up a lively conversation allowing the husband to explain what his life was like, how his marriage was being undermined by his wife’s boredom, and the position he was placed in at home… Nevertheless, he was beginning to feel threatened. This was all slightly over the top. Why were they taking it all so seriously, when there was no truth in the matter… What, he wondered, was being said and by whom?
When they arrived at the police station he was escorted to the front desk… there, the Desk Sergeant went through the arrest procedure… he was now under the care and control of the law. The Sergeant went through various 'Identification Procedures', including: ‘'Codes of Practice'. He asked if he had been cautioned and asked the police driver if he had any statements written in his pocket book. It was then that he realized that the other policeman in the car had taken down all that was being said; he then had them read out to him, and he signed them as true statements… He was given written information about his legal rights including the right to free legal advice from a solicitor.
Fingerprints and Photographs
He was then told he would have to submit to DNA testing, finger and palm printing, and photographs. It seemed like to him a rather sordid dream…; however, it was for real! The police can only do that if they have reason to suspect involvement in a crime. The Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005 can retain all fingerprints and photographs even if they are released or acquitted. Consent in writing was not asked for or given. He was told he was entitled to inform one friend, relative or person to ensure proper welfare – someone who would take an interest in his plight – he gave a name… in the event the person could not be contacted. His address book had been taken away from him with all the rest of his possessions and put in a secure lock-up - he could not retrieve a telephone number.
It was then that he asked the desk Sergeant to read the Doctor’s letters on the memory stick… the Sergeant refused to do so. He was asked if I wanted to see the duty Solicitor… after a while, he agreed - ‘That would be wise move,’ exclaimed the Sergeant! I asked, ‘How long would the Solicitor be?’ The Desk Sergeant replied, ‘twenty minutes - for they were in touch with her…’
The husband was then put into a police cell which was about 10 feet x 8, which held: a mattress on a stone shelf, a wash basin, and open lavatory. The time was approximately 13.15. This was an experience at seventy-five that was a combination of: shock, worry, bemusement, and great concern… all these fears and doubts occurring at the same time. During the next hour he began to become increasingly annoyed - and worried. Eventually, he pressed the intercom and asked, ‘have I been arrested?’ He was told, ‘You have…!’ The intercom clicked with a resounding clunk… In the deafening silence the sound echoed threateningly. He started to walk round and round his cell… quite stunned… the distant comings and goings, along the front hall, was a far distant echo. This had lost its sense of interesting experience long ago, it had become a heart palpitating worry.
As the hours went by his mind focused on what had bought him to that position - what on earth was an ancient like him doing here? He knew his wife had been upset, but this was ridiculous. Was the object to undermine him - just to maintain her domination and control? The minutes and hours ticked by as he tried to read the police procedure manual - his only reading material… It was 17.15… The intercom clicked… it startled him… a voice informed him that, ‘His Solicitor had just arrived!’ He wondered what on earth she looked like and how they would communicate together.
The Duty Solicitor
The duty police officer opened the door… and he walked out, leaving his two empty paper cups - he was never offered any food – the police manual was his only source of entertainment – it had been of little help! He was lead to a small room to be interviewed… It was now late – dark and cold outside, the poorly lit police station foyer appeared like a dismal category ‘B’, film set… He felt lonely and abandoned.
The duty solicitor arrived at 17.15. When he had originally made the request it had been 13.15 – he had been told the duty solicitor was on her way, and would be available in twenty minutes. During the subsequent four hours: he had had two cups of coffee – having not eaten since 08.00 that morning and offered no food. When interviewed by the duty solicitor word came through that his wife’s statement was being faxed over… It was read out…
The Interviewing Officer
The Interviewing Officer told him: ‘Your wife has laid a complaint against you - for assault; you slapped her face, and bruised her arm’. The husband said, ‘That was not true’, giving his side of the story… The Solicitor meanwhile took down notes. He was told that he would have to stay in police custody, to receive his wife’s statement which had to be answered… and tape recorded - before the Station Interviewing Officer, and his solicitor. It was beginning to be clear that he might have to stay there for the night… or maybe longer…?!
Making The Statement
Later, at 19.00, the interviewing officer recorded his statement on a tape machine - before his solicitor…; each of the tapes had to be signed. Both statements and the tape recording were compared and assessed by the Interviewing Officer and the Duty Desk Sergeant to judge whether a filed complaint should be made to the court. At that moment a call was put through to the wife to ask if she would allow he husband back home – if she would fell safe and free from harm. The wife repeated a number of times that she wanted him home. This finally made up their minds.
The Station Duty Sergeant came to the conclusion that there was no case to answer - that he would be allowed to go home. It was clear the wife had no fear of: threatening behaviour, injury or harm. The prisoner had his shoes and processions returned… he wondered if there were many instances like his throughout the country, if so what a state for the country to be in… individuals could lose their freedom on the whim of hearsay evidence of an unhappy, spouse.
That night he left the police station at about 8.00 pm tired, hungry and feeling unkempt… he was driven home by the Interviewing Officer… to prepare and cook the evening meal, as was his normal occasion… it had been a long wearisome day. Now, he resolved, there was going to be the aftermath…!
That December, eight weeks later, the wife was diagnosed with short-term cognitive abilities - on the evidence of a CT brain scan… This was after many medical tests - over the previous six months, and the husband’s letters to her doctors.
The above ‘case history’ gives a reason why the local tax payer will have to provide more money (The local precept for the Police Force and national taxes will have to be increased). Powers given to the police to act instantly (go-orders) to protect women and families from domestic violence, on the strength of minimal evidence, were deferred last August by the UK Government. Such cases, after the governments deferred programme, should not exist - where information given to the police is insufficient to warrant a prudent person’s belief. Police Procedures may need amending.