Misogynists are trying to silence me: abuse bill commissioner

Mark TownsendSat, 6 February 2021, 9:30 pm

<img src="https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/EB7ACiUI7do8MGXBRa7H.Q–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/MZycpRbMWQrwRK0wUxDd8g–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/ce7fccc6be78c88d785f70737e4883d8&quot; alt="<span>Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian
Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

London’s first commissioner for victims has revealed how misogynists are attempting to silence her attempts to tackle domestic violence.

Claire Waxman, who is campaigning for amendments to the domestic abuse bill, says her work is prompting an increasingly coordinated online response from largely anonymous social media accounts designed to discredit and intimidate her from continuing. “Particularly around the area of the family courts and domestic abuse bill I have received a huge amount of abuse which has misogyny at its root, people who are trying to create a gender war,” she said.

“If I speak out we see the abuse intensify. It’s to try and silence what I am seeing and the work I am doing.

Waxman, who says she is motivated to help victims after her experiences of being targeted by a stalker for more than a decade, says the current abuse bears the hallmarks of “group stalking” where a number of social media users harass an individual. “It’s a growing phenomenon, which is starting to be understood by academics, which is seen a lot on social media and the tactics used to prevent legitimate voices from speaking out for fear of being targeted and abused,” she said.

Waxman said that failings in the family courts needed to be urgently addressed, warning that women were being encouraged to suppress allegations of domestic abuse as judges were more concerned with granting both parents access to children.

The family court’s principle of “contact at all costs” for parents and their children meant abuse was repeatedly being swept under the carpet, said Waxman, jeopardising the welfare of women and minors. “We see real evidence of victims of domestic abuse – mainly mothers – being told and advised to not bring up any mention of domestic abuse. This promotion of contact at all costs means that victims of abuse are expected to put their abuse aside,” she said.

Her proposed amendment to the domestic abuse bill, which has been described as a once-in-a-generation chance to tackle the issue, would introduce an initial “no contact” approach where there has been a conviction, restraining order or other evidence of abuse.

Waxman also warned that the current courts backlog could force domestic abuse and sexual violence victims to withdraw from the criminal justice system.

She warned that some individuals would prefer not to press ahead with prosecutions because of the lengthy delays in the courts.An unprecedented court backlog means some crimes will not go before a jury for four years with victims increasingly losing faith in the system and confidence already low over conviction rates for crimes like rape.