SUSAN OLIVER is concerned at the absence of practical support for victims of domestic abuse in the borough
In early 2014, I wrote a piece in Inside Croydon about the shockingly high rates of domestic violence in the borough.
Today, the Family Justice Centre is still open only 24 hours a week.
At the recent Croydon Council meeting at the Town Hall, Mark Watson, the cabinet member responsible, informed us that a new online advisory service for victims will start in September, extending the current hours.
It’s a start. But what about people who need someone to talk to, or who flee from their victimiser? What about people who don’t have access to computers?
Those who are forced to escape a violent partner often get out of the situation very quickly, and that doesn’t allow them to take their laptop or tablet, and they may even flee without their mobile phone. That means that Croydon’s offer of internet access to the service is not practical for some of the most vulnerable and in greatest need of help.
Croydon’s Family Justice Centre has no Facebook page, no Twitter account, and does not even have its own website.
It has no programme for perpetrators – something like Respect, an organisation trying to work with people who are trying to change their aggressive behaviour.
And then for victims, its doors are only open from 10am to 4pm on four days a week, and never during the evenings or at weekends, so people who work for a living are just out-of-luck.
I was hoping for a big turnround when Labour came to power at the Town Hall last May. But it’s just not happening. Yes, we’ve seen a few efforts, like the campaign where councillors have worn white ribbons to demonstrate their support for victims of domestic violence. But serious, practical measures? It seems that the council is trying to get away with low- or no-budget solutions to this enduring tragedy.
What needs to happen before we see a major step forward?
Victims need a place to go – not just advice – so the greater number of hours that the Family Justice Centre is open, the better. I’d also like to see some temporary housing for victims who are in desperate circumstances and a programme for perpetrators needs to be created as soon as possible.
Research shows that domestic violence increases during major sports matches; therefore consideration needs to be given to the centre being open at least after every Crystal Palace match.
I’d like to see the police and the centre release more comprehensive statistics so the Croydon public is more aware of the suffering in our own community. We need to know specifics so we can wake up to the horrors going on.
In terms of new funding for the centre, I suggest putting a special levy put on the many developments going up around town. Billions of pounds are pouring into Croydon – don’t tell me these developers can’t afford a few per cent each for the Family Justice Centre. It would be nice to know that these massive construction projects are giving something back to the town.
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