The list of things that can kill you is endless. But how many of them do you sleep with?
You can trust a pillow not to smother you in a fury. Your alarm clock is never going to rape you. But for around 8million women and 5million men, someone they trust and love has the potential to do both.
Yesterday, to mark International Women's Day this Sunday, former women's refuge worker and now Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips read out a list of 113 names of women killed by men, or where men are the principal suspect. It included 4 women killed by their own son, and one killed by her brother.
It included the case of Maggie Smyth, 29, who was missing for 6 days before police found body parts under rubble at a pub where her ex-partner Christopher Taylor had been working. Last September, he was sentenced to 24 years for her murder, along with his brother who got 9 years for helping to dispose of her body. Her leg was found in a nearby park by a dog walker. Her head and left arm are still missing.
Last year, Jess read out the names of 147 such women. The year before, another 147. In 2017 she listed 125 dead women. And in 2016, the first IWD in which Jess was a MP, she named 138 women killed during the previous 12 months.
Parliament listened carefully to Jess each time. And since Jess first stood up to speak, more people have become victims of domestic abuse in every single year.
The names tell us a lot. There are British names, Indian names, Pakistani and Bangladeshi names. There's names from Eastern Europe, from China, from the Netherlands, from the Spanish-speaking world, from Eritrea and Russia. There are names likely to be older women, younger women, white women, brown women, mixed race women. Some were rich, some poor. There were two things they all had in common: they were women, and now they are dead.
Domestic abuse is a pandemic. In the UK, it exists in every street, every office, every school. It costs us about £66billion a year, in hospital care, sick leave, police work, social workers, legal aid, court costs, prison costs, lost economic output, in the cost of physical and emotional harm to entire families who need more care, and can provide fewer taxes, as a result of their experience.
It hurts the children of those abused; the parents; the future lovers, the friends, the neighbours, the witnesses. It damages the families and friends of the abuser, who can be estranged, or come to excuse the behaviour, enabling it to be repeated.
And if domestic abuse was a virus, we'd all be told how to avoid it.
Schools and nurseries which, this week, are giving handwashing and elbow-coughing lessons, would be teaching first aid, mental health, and spotting the earliest symptoms. Workplaces currently deep-cleaning evacuated offices would be devoting a day to training their staff on what to look out for. Government ministers ordering us to self-isolate would instead be hunting down super-spreaders of violence, and the Chief Medical Officer would be describing a mental illness – which can kill the unlucky and destroy the wellbeing of the more fortunate – as a "non-trivial" epidemic with huge social costs.
It is transmitted person-to-person, but no amount of hand-washing will keep it at bay. There are no masks, there is not enough toilet roll, to protect you. But like the common cold we have got used to it, and unlike the common cold most do not even notice it.
The taxman notices it only because he gets less tax. Holiday companies see that they can charge more single supplements. Insurance companies add it to their risk calculations as a way of charging more for divorced women living alone, and the police count the hours of "wasted" time dealing with people too scared, or too brainwashed, to heed advice which becomes irrelevant as soon as they leave. It throws countless children into poverty, and lifetimes of poorer chances and attainment, and yet it's still unseen.
In the UK, prostate cancer kills 10 times more men. With treatment, 95% can expect to survive. There is no such treatment for domestic abuse. No government health campaigns, no publication of warning signs, nor any newspaper campaign to end this scourge for good.
Instead we live in a country where, we learn today, a Labour government "interfered" in a police investigation into the alleged kidnap and torture of a 19-year-old girl. Shamsa ran away from her father, and he sent men after her to bring her home. A court found he then trafficked her out of the country, and relatives have alleged she is held against her will, drugged and in solitary confinement.
Shamsa would have a tough enough time getting justice if she were any other girl. But she is a princess, daughter of the sheikh who runs Dubai and who has mansions all over the UK, employs thousands of Brits, owns P&O Ferries, owns an airline with naming rights at a football stadium, and established a deep water port in the Thames that our economy relies upon. So instead of going to jail, he goes to Ascot.
In the court hearings which he initiated to punish an errant wife, and to which he was invited, he refused to give evidence in person. He claims in today's papers that "as a head of government, I was not able to participate". Yet there is nothing in English law that forbids it. A man accused of violence towards his own children used his job to claim immunity from even being questioned.
Today's newspapers published his quote without pointing out its falsehood. And almost every report of Jess' speech rounded the number of women she named DOWN.
People warn against complacency about coronavirus. The fact it is more likely to kill those already frail does not mean that it should be allowed to. The fact that panic infects others is something the government wants to stop just as much as it does the bug itself. Every day, we are told, this is important enough to do something about.
I wonder what our governments would do, if we stopped using airlines that took us to places where abuse was more prevalent. If we panic-bought pepper spray and rape alarms, if the stock markets worried about China's inability to provide self-defence lessons for all those who had use for them. Or what Hollywood would do if we took against some of its stars.
How many more reports of domestic abuse of gay men would there be, if we did not have a Prime Minister who called them "tank-topped bumboys". How many more female escapees could we celebrate if the PM did not call them naturally "fickle", implied they opened their "well-bred legs to be ravished", or that foreign-born women are less welcome, less relatable, less, less, less.
Parliament has heard, before, that if more then 100 people died at a sports event there would be an inquiry. There is one into fewer deaths at Grenfell, and have been several into fewer deaths at Hillsborough. But those were one-offs that were as likely to claim the lives of men as women, and so we sought to stop them.
In the 5 years since Jess Phillips first stood up to speak, the government spent one on a strategy review. It spent another 3 proposing, consulting, and writing a Domestic Abuse Bill, and in the past 12 months it's been repeatedly delayed by prorogations and general elections.
There is no way that a law to crack down on prostate cancer deaths, or terror attacks, or another Grenfell, would be delayed like that. This is a conflagration, a massacre, a disease, that is horrific and expensive and the bottom of successive governments' to-do list. There is a 'battle plan' for the coronavirus, but nothing similar for those who fear death or injury every day in their own home.
Yet were we to introduce not just this bill but tougher measures – a national rehabilitation programme, lessons on the National Curriculum, citizenship and visa requirements, laws that compel employers and public office holders to tackle it – we could be a beacon that, for the first time in a long time, the whole planet would admire.
Jess told the Commons: "A far greater response is made to almost every other epidemic than the epidemic of male violence against women… [it] is never considered to be a pattern or a disease in our country or around the world that requires the same will as other issues. I recognise that the Government have brought forward the Domestic Abuse Bill, and we are all pleased to see it back, but until we start hearing that list as if it were a list in another circumstance and acting with the same level of horror, knowing that we would gain the same political benefit from dealing with it as we would were it terrorism, we will never get anywhere."
They listened to her, they spoke warm words, and then they spent more money and time on something else.
And so, next year, there will be another list. Make sure your name's not on it – talk to someone, ask for help. Just don't bother asking Boris.
* Contact Women's Aid online
THE WOMEN KILLED BY MEN, OR WHERE A MAN IS THE PRINCIPAL SUSPECT, IN THE UK IN 2019:
Julie Webb, Tracey Lovell, Libby Squire, Antoinette Donnegan, Dorothy Bowyer, Laureline Garcia-Bertaux, Giselle Marimon-Herrera, Allison Marimon-Herrera, Lala Kamara, Alice Morrow, Rachel Evans, Alison McKenzie, Janette Dunbavand, Barbara Heywood, Paula Meadows, Anna Reed, Sarah Fuller, Megan Newton, Leah Fray, Saima Riaz, Sammy-Lee Lodwig, Amy Parsons, Mihrican Mustafa, Henriett Szucs, Emma Faulds, Lauren Griffiths, Ellie Gould, Joanne Hamer, Mavis Long, Julia Rawson, Jayde Hall, Elizabeth McShane, Linda Treeby, Regen Tierney, Paige Gibson, Neomi Smith, Safie Xheta, Valerie Richardson, Lucy Rushton, Kelly Fauvrelle, Joanna Thompson, Ligita Kostiajeviene, Lesley Pearson, Carol Milne, Doreen Virgo, Diane Dyer, Kayleigh Hanks, Kelly-Anne Case, Dorothy Woolmer, Natalie Crichlow, Belinda Rose, Pamela Mellor, Linda Vilika, Lindsay Birbeck, Michelle Pearson, Rebecca Simpson, Alice Farquharson, Laura Rakstelyte, Sandra Samuels, Marlene McCabe, Lana Nemceva, Bethany Fields, Serafima Mashaka, Vera Hudson, Keeley Bunker, Emily Goodman, Cristina Ortiz-Lozano, Margaret Robertson, Arlene Williams, Sarah Hassell, Fatima Burathoki, Lesley Spearing, Niyat Berhane Teklemariam, Zoe Orton, Beatrice Yankson, Levi Ogden, Tsegereda Gebremariam, Nicola Stevenson, Mandeep Singh, Alison McBlaine, Katy Sprague, Saskia Jones, Lindsay de Feliz, Marion Price, Jolanta Jakubowska, Kayleigh Dunning, Nelly Myers, Angela Tarver, Amy Appleton, Sandra Seagrove, Vivienne Bryan, Stacey Cooper, Helen Almey, Magdalena Pacult, Katherine Bevan, Kelly Price, Beverley Denahy, Gian Kaur Bhandal, Margaret Grant, Kymberli Sweeney, Mary Haley, Cherith Van Der Ploeg, Ann Mowbray, Debbie Zurick, Li Qing Wang, Janice Woolford, Katrina Fletcher, Bhavini Pravin, Tatiana Koudriavtsev, Layla Arezo, Jasbir Kaur, Premm Monti, and Frances Murray
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