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25th November 2015

Protecting the vulnerable

by Gemma Gaskell, Salford women’s centre manager; and Nadine Roberts, probation officer

THE INTERNATIONAL Day to End Violence Against Women is the ideal time to discuss domestic violence and how it has affected so many female offenders.

It is a depressing fact that the majority of the women sentenced to the Salford women’s centre and supervised by probation have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence.

One case in particular sticks in our minds and demonstrates the work we do to both hold women to account for the crimes they have committed, but also support their rehabilitation.

Sarah was sentenced to complete 24 hours at our women only centre and was very nervous when she arrived. She explained that she suffered with anxiety and depression and was currently 12 weeks pregnant. She attended a couple of sessions and went on to be distant and reserved when participating with activities. She painted a picture of having the “ideal” life, partner and home.

Sarah stopped attending the women’s centre, despite this being a court order. She received a warning and then the case had to go back to court as Sarah had breached her requirements. She received a further four hours at the women’s centre and was required to continue with her previous hours – which now totalled 28.

Sadly Sarah suffered a miscarriage and lost the baby. She explained that it was due to a hereditary problem.

Through the weeks we looked at healthy relationships, domestic abuse and positive role models. Sarah again painted a picture of her having a loving, supportive partner who gave her everything. Staff started to sense that this wasn’t the case.

Towards the middle of Sarah’s order she missed another session, and after investigation it became clear that Sarah had been violently attacked by her partner, which almost resulted in her death. She had been strangled, stabbed in her face with a high heel shoe and beaten. Her partner also tried to run her over in the car when she fled the abuse. Sarah had to have stitches to her face and has damage to her eye due to the stabbing being so close to her eye socket.

On Sarah’s return to the centre she disclosed what had happened and how this was a regular occurrence, she reflected back to when she lost her baby and explained that her partner had kicked her stomach so hard she lost the baby. She felt that she couldn’t tell anyone, as she loved him and didn’t want to see any harm come to him.

Throughout the rest of Sarah’s hours the women’s centre looked at helping rebuild Sarah’s life and improving her confidence.

She received a visiting order from prison to see her partner and was undecided on what to do. We looked at the options and benefits and Sarah decided not to attend. We talked about support around court and her safety at home. Sarah decided not to return home as it brought back the memories of the stabbing and the awful time she had.

Sarah ended the relationship, moved to safe housing, has now completed her hours and is settled back into the community.