by Sarah Harris
Very recently the body of 19-year-old Shana Grice was discovered in her room in the town of Portslade, East Sussex. Grice was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Michael Lane. Just a month before she was killed, Grice had reported to her local authorities that Lane had been stalking her and on an occasion had even stolen her keys and broken in her home to watch her sleep. However the Portslade police charged Grice with “having caused wasteful employment of police by making a false report.” It’s clear from the events of last week that Grice had not exaggerated the behaviour shown to her by Lane. It’s clear that the fault lies within the police system. In 2015 alone, 518 people were murdered by their partner in England and Wales. A large proportion of these victims had previously reported domestic abuse to authorities yet in most cases, these reports were hastily dismissed or ignored just as in the case of Grice.
Its no wonder that a large proportion of victims of assault and abuse go without reporting their case if this is how things are usually handled. I have a friend -who for obvious reasons- has asked to stay anonymous but has kindly agreed to let me share their story. At the age of 16 she started dating a guy only a few years older than her and as most relationships start off, things were perfect. However, shortly after he started to deal with some personal problems of his own and as a result turned to hardcore drugs and heavy drinking. He started by emotionally abusing her and forcing her to participate in recreational activities with her and not long after, the physical abuse began. When I asked her why she hadn’t already reported the case at this stage she told me she was seriously scared that nothing would be done with her case and having officials involved would just make things worse.
Not long after my friend left for university and they broke up, the constant phone calls, texts, letters and emails began. Despite the fact that she had made it clear that she wants nothing to do with him, the stalking persisted. Despite this, she still didn’t involve the police in fear of worsening the situation. It’s ridiculous to think that even in this day and age, many people in abusive relationships are still terrified of involving the police due to fear of not being believed or worsening the situation. Just a few days ago, I read an article about a judge in America who had let a rapist walk free due to the fact that his 13-year-old victim looked ‘over 16.’ Despite feminism and the constant change in law, victims of stalking, assault and abuse are still living in terror due to the clear faults in the policing system.
The only way that this problem can be fixed is by making systems and helplines more approachable and raising awareness on the scale of this issue. Dozens of helplines and chat rooms are available for those who have -and are- suffering. Many of the users are people just like Grice who have been turned away from the police due their claims not being believed. If you or anyone you know is going through something similar, then remember it’s important to get help. The police may turn you away if you do not have “sufficient” evidence of what is happening so it’s important to keep a record of texts, calls and any other form of contact with the abuser/stalker. This is clearly an issue the government needs to look in to resolving, however, until this is done then victims need to know that they shouldn’t be afraid to talk to friends, family or anyone around them who may be able to help with the situation!