True terrorism occurs in our houses, not in our streets
In October 2016, Luke and Ryan Hart’s father shot and killed their mother, Claire, and their 19-year-old sister, Charlotte. In this guest blog Luke, who will share his story at CIH Eastern Conference 2019, sheds light on coercive behaviour, which often goes unseen by outsiders, and asks those of us who work in housing to consider the role we can play to protect the lives of women and children.
Is a house a home, somewhere you look forward to going home each night? Or a prison that you are lucky to escape from at all?
A recent UN report detailed how, globally, most murdered women are killed in their houses. More than half of all female murder victims in 2017 were killed by an intimate partner or family member. About 50,000 women are killed each year by someone close to them. That’s an average of six women every hour.
Specifically, within the UK, murdered women are also most likely to have been killed in their own houses. In fact, for children below 16 in the UK, they are more likely to be killed by their parents than a stranger. Yet again, these children are murdered in their own houses too. My brother Ryan and I know this disturbing reality first hand; on the 19th of July 2016, our father shot and murdered our 50-year-old mother, Claire, and our 19-year-old sister, Charlotte, before killing himself.
Unfortunately, these murders are not an anomaly within the system. One in four women will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime – the vast majority of which occurs within the four walls of their house. Domestic homicides account for a quarter of all murders in the UK. In fact, every year in England and Wales, over 100 women are killed by partners or ex-partners as a result of domestic abuse. For comparison, it has taken traditional terrorists ten years to kill this many people in public. True terrorism occurs not in our streets, but within our houses.
Domestic abusers cause much more disruption to the UK economy and our ways of life than traditional terrorism (the yearly cost of domestic abuse is calculated at £66bn by the Home Office’s own estimates compared to £3.2bn for traditional terrorism). Total repairs and maintenance expenditure attributed to domestic abuse, for social housing alone, in England and Wales is estimated at £383 million a year, equivalent to the total destruction of roughly 1,500 houses per year.
Yet, abusers often act kind to outsiders – this is their licence to abuse because it stops anyone asking any questions. In fact, in the UK, one third of homicides had no history of violence before the murders; there may not even be bruises. But nearly every single homicide had a history of extreme coercive and controlling behaviour – economic, emotional, psychological, or legal for example.
Within this context, what is the role of an estate agent? Is it someone who helps you find your dream home? Or is it someone who covertly arranges your escape from your house and the abuse you are facing, as if you were the fugitive?
What is the role of a locksmith? Is it someone to help you break into your home when you have misplaced your keys? Or is it someone who helps you break out when you’ve been reduced to a hostage, incarcerated within your own house?
Within this context of life-threatening abuse that women and children face in their own homes every day, it is essential that those working within the housing sector take seriously the question: what role do you play in the protection of women’s and children’s lives?
CIH's Eastern Conference is at the Hilton Hotel in Cambridge on 2 and 3 October.