West Ham MP Lyn Brown says when you suspect domestic abuse it is OK to dial 999


- Credit: Archant

As Shadow Fire Minister, I spent many tiring, but worthwhile, hours last week driving to visit fire authorities in north-east England. So, on my return I was in bed and fast asleep before ten, but was awoken by a woman in distress outside my window. First, I thought it was the TV, but, as I slowly surfaced from a very deep sleep, I heard her begging “let go!”. She was “frightened” and wanted “to go home”. The man refused.

I roused myself and listened. She was very distressed. I fumbled on some clothes and went to the window. I couldn’t see the couple, but could hear them indistinctly. I grabbed my dressing gown, and made my way downstairs.

Again, I looked out the window. I could see nobody. Dragging boots on, I ventured outside, but still no sign and no voices. I had no idea where she had gone.

I was furious with myself. I should’ve dialled 999, when I first heard her. All that time wasted.

I dreaded a call from the police telling me of yet another woman murdered in the borough. The thought that I could have ‘‘saved’’ her hung heavy. I should have intervened.

In 2013, there were five domestic murders in Newham. In Britain, on average, two women are killed each week by a male partner or former partner.

I spoke to the police commander, following a death last year. He was clear. Some deaths could have been prevented, if neighbours had dialled 999.

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Sometimes, neighbours are loath to interfere in other people’s lives. Some believe the woman is somehow complicit in her own abuse. Others lack empathy for a woman who does not leave her abuser. The fact is, half-a-million victims are just too terrified to report domestic abuse. They could be our sisters, daughters or even our mums. A quarter of all women experience domestic violence at some point and keep it hidden.

If my sister, mum, daughter or friend was in that situation, I’d want someone to pick up the phone to keep her safe, just as I should have done. Let’s make domestic violence our business. Let’s save lives.