All too often domestic violence is accepted as everyday news-fodder. Those that read the stories sigh – and then move on. It’s time they didn’t. Here, I look at the story of Maria Stubbings, a British woman who was let down by the system that should have protected her.
The vast majority of domestic violence cases are never heard. Often, we don’t report our abusers. For those that do go through the legal process, our stories may be deemed not sufficiently newsworthy. After all, domestic violence is so commonplace that it is often only the most extreme cases that make the big headlines, with horrific – but less unusual – incidents buried in the column inches.
Here, I want to share with you the story of Maria Stubbings. Her case made the headlines because the police failed to keep her safe. I can’t do justice to this lady’s life as a human being, but I can tell you about why her story resonates with me – as a domestic abuse survivor – and why lessons need to be learned by us all.
“We all deserve help and protection when we’re in danger – and they knew the danger.”
In 2008, Maria Stubbins was strangled by her ex boyfriend and her body left in the toilet of her home in Chelmsford, UK. The police were aware that Marc Chivers had killed a previous partner, and had already been convicted for assaulting Maria Stubbings.
Before Chivers was released from prison, police disabled a panic alarm – similar to the one I currently have installed in my home, which the police are also seeking to remove. This move was one of a number of failings noted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Shortly after his release, Chivers entered his former girlfriend’s home. The police regarded this as a burglary, rather than a high-risk domestic violence incident. Police officers were unable to contact Maria Stubbins in the days that followed. At one visit to her home, they found Chivers “in the house and passed him a note asking her to call them” reported The Guardian.
When, eight days later, the police entered her house, they found Chivers in the property with her teenaged son, whom he was trying to prevent from discovering his mother’s body.
Her son, Bengi, said: “It is horrific to discover the extent of the police’s failings and hard to understand how they got it so wrong. The risk to my mum was clear. I don’t want other women and other children to go through an experience like that. We all deserve help and protection when we’re in danger – and they knew the danger.”
I am fortunate in that the police have taken my situation seriously. They have arrived promptly when called. They have made their repeated arrests, gathered evidence and testified in court in my abuser’s trial. They have completed their risk assessments and I believe that they have done whatever they can to make me safe – short of placing me in a plastic bubble.
But, though my abuser has been found guilty under stalking laws and has yet to be convicted, their powers to protect me are limited. The police are moving on and they expect I can do the same. I don’t feel safe. I likely never will.
Here in the UK, efforts are being made to protect vulnerable women – but it there is still much to be done. The duty to protect doesn’t end when the process of justice does.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14