Well, my last blog turned up some interesting results. One such revelation to me was that anyone bothered to read the bleedin' thing it. Secondly, that not only do some read it, but respond, either online or send me texts or phone me as a result.
I don't take praise well and to be honest, it wasn't written with anything other than admiration for those who do deal with domestic abuse, either as victims or those who are helping said victims.
Basically, it's my past, I have to deal with it as best.
My only concern came about after the response to this article: http://www.thisisplymouth.co.uk/news/Objectors-fail-stop-plan-abuse-refuge/article-3024923-detail/article.html which made me think whether I should've coughed up to my past and my opinions.
Now, as a reporter, I have to try and be without bias. That's the rules. Being a human being [no really, I am], that's not always easily achievable. Some of the comment responses were expected [yes, yours Mick, I could predict pretty easily, you little ray of eternal sunshine you].
I made what I thought was a sensible decision to not put in the address of the new refuge. By law, the planning committee have to know the location of any planning application and by law, all planning applications have to be made public.
Which in this case is a bit awkward, to say the least.
I made a point of warning the council, the Plymouth Domestic Abuse Service and the applicants that I was writing an article - which is in the public interest to know about and clearly has a lot of interest to the residents, certain councillors and other parties such as the various groups and charities involved - and that as a result of the article a bit of digging would result in the planning application being found by anyone who went looking.
My decision was to say it was in the city, was in a quiet area which included cul-de-sacs (a point emphasised by the concerned residents) and was to be at an ex-council depot (ie a brownfield site, not a greenfield site, and also important because of the amount of police call outs to the current refuge by comparison to the current disused council depot, also important in the arguments put forward by both the residents and the council officers)
If I put in too little or didn't write it at all, I could be accused of ignoring the residents fears, if I wrote it but put in too much information I would be revealing the location. I hoped to have found a balance, and having warned the authorities, hoped something could be done to avoid the Googlers in the reading audience. They can't remove or redact it because basically, that's the law. Frankly, either way, I knew I'd lose.
I'll side-step the catch 22 situation I found myself in for the mo' by highlighting this case which has recently come to light. http://www.sussexexpress.co.uk/news/abuse_awareness_training_call_for_magistrates_after_murder_1_2200144
The Karen Brookes story highlights what I was getting at on this blog the other week, in that everyone needs to recognise why this stuff is important. Recognition of what can happen when it's all-too-often poo-poohed as "oh, just another domestic".
Following my last blog post I had a conversation with a former senior police officer about the William Goad paedophile case and stressed how there were hundreds, possible even into a thousand or more young men in and around Plymouth who are still dealing with the childhood trauma of sexual abuse. Here's the parallel. Very often domestic abuse is seen in the light of "husband hits wife, wife calls police, police turn up, wife fails to make statement, police go away, husband hits wife, wife calls police... " ad infinitum. The bit that's forgotten is "child in room watches father hit mother, child sees police officers turn up (who, when you're a kid, are bloody scary), child sees police officers finally leave (with a confused mixture of relief and ominous fear) and child is left to deal with it in their own confused little head.
On the plus side, hopefully next month, I'm going to be able to tell you a truly wonderful story about a police officer who is hoping to tackle this very horrible scenario with a corking idea.
Meanwhile, for those of you who think domestic abuse only affects a certain class of woman, the 'lower orders', those who work 'downstairs', who can't countenance that proper, decent, law-abiding, well-educated people in good jobs need worry about this sort of criminal practice.
This was the awful case I covered back in Basildon. Here's the inquest http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/1641255.stm and story of the history of domestic violence which went on for years http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-69653/The-parents-war.html. (Yeah, sorry, I've actually done a link to the Daily Mail... only because I can't find a link to my stories in my old paper).
Jill was well regarded and well respected by senior members of the council. The Chief Executive at the time even told me he had her pegged to be a future Chief Executive herself in the near future, she was that good at her job. Her husband was considered a pillar of the community, even though it later transpired his colleagues were aware of his questionable and arrestable home life habits. A former council leader at the authority admitted off-the-record to me they and others suspected Jill was being assaulted, but they weren't sure, didn't know what to do and she would always explain it away.
After her murder, staff at the Basildon Women's Aid/Refuge ended up being invited into the council to give them advice and guidance in how to deal with people they suspected were victims of domestic abuse. Then the local magistrates asked them to give them advice as well. Then the local police. Then local schools (even primary schools) and then other organisations in and around Basildon, then other parts of Essex and even outside of Essex. Needless to say, I was well impressed with the awesome work the local refuge were doing and still do, but bloody hell, it was such a cost to get some people's arses in gear and get them to finally listen.
Scary fact to leave you with, one which I never tire of stating, and never stop wishing it would change to a smaller figure. Since being a reporter, which currently is at 13 years and counting, this figure has remained pretty static. According to Home Office statistics, every week, on average, in England and Wales, two women are killed by a partner or former partner.
Sometimes that figures gets added to with men, but far more often, with children. Sometimes it's a baby, lying in a cot, repeatedly hit with a claw hammer after their three-year-old brother and mother has been slaughtered in front of their slightly older brother and sister.
Have a ponder the next time you hear someone say it's "just a domestic" or that a new refuge in a relatively quiet bit of Plymouth is more trouble than it's worth...