Ben Blakeley: A known and repeated abuser of women
Details of the cross examination of witnesses in the trial of Ben Blakeley have emerged, revealing once more the pervasive victim-blaming in cases of domestic violence against women.
A known and repeated abuser of women
Blakeley, 22, is on trial for murdering of his pregnant, 17-year-old girlfriend, Jayden Parkinson, in December last year. Blakeley, who killed Parkinson by strangling her and later buried her body in his uncle’s grave, admits manslaughter and perverting the course of justice but denies murder.
Oxford Crown Court has heard from two of Blakeley’s former girlfriends this week, both of whom reportedly wept as they outlined the emotional and physical abuse they were subjected to by Blakeley – described by one of the women as “controlling, intimidating and scary”. This included:
- Punching, kicking, throttling and biting
- Rape and sexually abusive behaviour
- Control of money and personal assets, including mobile phones
- Pushing his pregnant ex-girlfriend down the stairs
- Threatening to stab his pregnant ex-girlfriend in the stomach
- Threatening to “cut [his ex-girlfriend] up in the bath”
- Control of personal behaviour, dictating what ex-girlfriends wore and when they showered
- Blaming ex-girlfriends for abuse, saying they “made him angry”
- Killing ex-girlfriends’ pet cats
- Threatening to harm his ex-girlfriends’ families and burn down their homes
“Why didn’t you leave sooner?”
An article published by the Oxford Mail today (26th June, 2014) details how, after outlining the abuse, the women were both asked by the counsel for the prosecution why they didn’t leave Blakeley sooner – in one case, “Why did you put up with it?”.
It is hard to know what the legal counsel in this case was seeking to achieve by asking two traumatised women “why they didn’t leave sooner” – or indeed, how it wasn’t immediately obvious – both generally and on a case-specific level – why both had stayed with Blakeley as long as they did.
While the question may have been a rhetorical attempt to underline the level of control and coercion suffered by Blakeley’s victims (Richard Latham QC, who asked the question, added in one case that he was not being critical of the victim), the question remains an intensely problematic one.
Likewise, its inclusion in the article by the Oxford Mail – as well as in a number of other publications – demonstrates neatly the blame, both implicit and explicit, that continues to be placed on the victims of domestic violence.
Studies reveal time and again the disempowerment suffered by victims of domestic violence: cowed, intimidated and isolated from friends and family, they are rendered emotionally and physically unable to leave.
Furthermore, to use a victim’s continued presence in an abusive relationship as a measuring stick for the severity of abuse is misleading: a popular assumption is that “if she stayed, it can’t have been that bad” when, in fact, the opposite is often true.
“Why doesn’t she just leave?” continues to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks on the road to understanding domestic violence, and thus to effectively supporting and advocating for victims.
What happens when women leave their abusers?
Statistics collated by Women’s Aid last year detail exactly why women in abusive relationships cannot simply leave (emphasis EVB’s own):
“A study of 200 women’s experiences of domestic violence commissioned by Women’s Aid, found that 60% of the women had left because they feared that they or their children would be killed by the perpetrator.
“In the same study, 76% of separated women suffered post-separation violence. Of these women…36% stated that this violence was ongoing.
“Women are at greatest risk of homicide at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner.
“42% of all female homicide victims, compared with 4% of male homicide victims, were killed by current or former partners in England and Wales in the year 2000/01. This equates to 102 women, an average of two women each week.
In a study by Shelter, 40% of all homeless women stated that domestic violence was a contributor to their homelessness. Domestic violence was found to be “the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless.
It is hardly surprising, with the continued victim-blaming that dominates the UK media and justice system, that the trope of “just leaving” persists.
However, with information like the above readily available, it is high time that the UK Criminal Justice System demanded more from its legal representatives, and the UK media began to exercise a deeper understanding of the cases on which they have a responsibility to report.