With refuges in the UK under threat because of government cuts, and women and children being turned away due to excess demand, there is an urgent need for women to know about other ways to protect themselves from violence.
One such mechanism is Clare's Law, or the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (DVDS), which allows people to find out from the police if their partner has a history of domestic violence and may therefore pose a threat.
The initiative is back in the news this week after one woman, Kirby Weegram, from Hartlepool, County Durham, spoke out about the violent abuse she endured at the hands of her ex on 19th August 2017, in a bid to raise awareness of the scheme.
The 22-year-old reportedly suffered a six-hour beating by Johnathan Graham, who strangled her, punched and kicked her, beat her over the head with a plank of wood and told her he was going to kill her in his flat in Hartlepool.
Weegram used Clare's Law after the attack because she said she was curious to know if he had been convicted of violence against women before and sure enough, he had been. She said: "I only wished I had done this sooner, because I would have left him straight away," adding that she urged other women to use the initiative if they believe they may be at risk, reported the Daily Mail.
"At first Jonathan was charming. I'd heard rumours about him being violent towards women but he managed to convince me they were lies," she said. "A few weeks in we started to argue. He was so different when we argued – he was like Jekyll and Hyde." Weegram began to worry about his temper and spend extra time at work to keep away from him. On the night of the attack, the pair bumped into each other on a night out, before the violent confrontation ensued.
What is Clare's Law?
The initiative, which came into force in England and Wales in 2014, enables people to find out whether their partner has any prior convictions for domestic violence or violent acts – information that could potentially be lifesaving. Members of the public also have the right to request information about the partner of a close friend or family member.
The checks are carried out by police and partner agencies and disclosures are usually only made to the person in potential danger. The information is only relayed in person, with no writing or documentation being exchanged.
How do I apply under Clare's Law?
You have to visit a police station in person to apply for information under Clare's Law. A police officer or other member of police staff will ask for details about why you're making the enquiry, along with your name, address and date of birth. They will also ask for details of a secure way of contacting you.
Where does the name come from?
The scheme is named after Clare Wood, who was murdered at the age of 36 by her ex-boyfriend in 2009. Wood did not know about George Appleton's history of violence against women when she was killed and her family campaigned for the initiative to come into force after her death. They believe Wood would still be alive if she had known about Appleton's past.
While the scheme was rolled out across England and Wales a few years ago and has been praised for empowering people with vital information, Wood's father recently claimed that not every police force is taking it equally seriously, the BBC reported. Michael Brown said some forces needed "to get their act together" after it emerged that some were handing over information in as few as 7% of cases.
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