‘DIANE IS now 28. She went out with her husband for 15 months and they were happily engaged for a year. Shortly after their marriage he became very possessive with her and tried to break up all her relationships with other people including her own family. He also began to drink whenever he had the money to do so, and to beat her whenever he was drunk. The situation became intolerable and she left him to go and live with her father. After three months, a reconciliation took place, but shortly after the birth of their third child (now three) he assaulted her so badly that she had to go to hospital and he was given a thirty-day prison sentence. It was around this time that she made a suicide attempt, which temporarily brought her husband to his senses and alleviated her situation. Their fourth child (now two and the only one unplanned) arrived and things became as bad as ever. In desperation Diane moved to her sister’s house in Edinburgh where the Social Work Department drew her attention to the EWA house. She moved there immediately with the two younger children, leaving the older ones with her sister so that they could continue to attend school regularly.
She saw them almost daily and they came to the house at weekends. She applied to the Housing Department for a Corporation House and after four months was allotted one near the EWA House. It was a long wait and with the overcrowding and lack of fuel and cooking facilities (the latter problems are now overcome) she was often tempted to return home. She is about to get divorced and is prepared to let her husband see the children. She is now well-installed in her new house and an active member of the tenants association. Equally important (from our point of view) she regularly visits the Women’s Aid House and tries to offer comfort and assistance to newcomers. She reflects sadly that the only happy days of her marriage were the seven weeks when her husband was unemployed and forced to stay at home due to lack of resources to buy drink. It would be foolish to pretend that her problems are solved. She is a very conscientious mother trying to bring up four children on her own with £19 per week and all the frustrations and loneliness that this involves, but at least she has been given a chance to make some kind of new start.’
This is one case study from a report by ‘Edinburgh Women’s Aid’. This group was set up by members of Edinburgh women’s liberation, and succeeded in getting two houses to rent from the corporation, and an initial grant of £500 from the Social Work Department. The houses are open to any women who are desperate to escape violence, but have nowhere to go. The houses are organised on a self-help basis, so they are run only by the women living in them at the time. Some of the women only stay a couple of nights – others for many months until they can be re-housed with their kids. Edinburgh Women’s Aid wants to see small self-help units in all areas, and is keen to offer advice to any women willing to start putting pressure on their local authorities. Already they have made links with groups in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, and hopes that the idea will spread through England too.
It is important that battered women have somewhere safe to go by right. In most towns and cities there’s no such provision, and if you go to the police they’ll probably tell you to go home – they won’t deal with ‘domestic problems’. If they do agree to prosecute your husband, they can’t offer you anywhere to go to get away from him. So most women keep their mouths shut, suffer the beatings, and accept that it’s all part of our ‘civilised’ male-dominated society.
But the truth is – men aren’t naturally women beaters. Men can be as kind, gentle and loving as women. What kind of society is this, that turns people to violence? What kind of jobs, and housing conditions, and burdens distort human beings and lead them to harm the people they love?
Battered wives must be protected, but Women’s Aid centres will only become more crowded in this violent society. Remember most battered wives and their husbands were once happy young couples before the hardships and frustrations of married life in slums – unemployment – bad work conditions etc took their toll. Remember Diana? ‘She went out with her husband for 15 months and they were happily engaged for a year…’
Anyone wanting to contact Scottish Women’s Aid should write of phone Women’s Voice for information.
from Women’s Voice (paper version) Number 14 (1976?)