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Monday, August 25, 2008


Today I turn to domestic violence. Let me make it clear from the start I believe in zero tolerance for any person who is violent to their partner. Sadly many of these cases result in murder and whilst in the vast majority of tragedies women are the victims in a few they are the perpetrators.

Instances of domestic violence have become major news stories in Spain because in recent years the government has introduced tough laws to protect women from abusive partners. This had led to far more women coming forward to denounce their partners and to seek protection but sadly society’s ability to keep them safe has not kept pace.

As a result we now see regular grim reports of the violent slaying of a woman by her husband, boyfriend or ex. I do not believe that men in Spain have become more violent merely that our awareness of these cases is now heightened.

In every community where these murders occur there is an angry reaction similar to that which takes place after a terrorist act. That is right and proper because domestic violence is domestic terrorism. We must never allow ourselves to write these murders off as just another crime statistic.

So far this year according to the Instituto de la Mujer there have been 36 deaths from domestic violence. This compares to 71 in 2007, 54 in 1999 with a peak of 72 in 2004. The revelation of these grim statistics has shocked the nation and placed domestic violence high on the social agenda.

I was therefore stunned to see a report by the UK group Refuge that says that according to Home Office figures an average of two women a week are murdered in England and Wales by their partner or former partner. That would make around 104 a year and does not include Scotland or Northern Ireland.

I will return to these statistics on future occasions. Today I want to mention a report of an incident that occurred in early August around midnight. A man of 85 years was arrested in Jerez after he attempted to throw his 83-year-old wife from the window of their sixth floor flat in the calle Cartuja. She called for help and the police arrived to save her but not before she had suffered severe blows to her body that required hospital treatment.

There was no mention in the media reports of any previous accusations of violence by the husband towards his wife. None of the usual claims by residents of ructions, bitter rows or disputes.

It is probably safe to presume that they have spent at least 60 years of their lives together. Given the Spain of the times this would have been through more thin than thick. So why did the husband not only become violent to his wife but also attempt to throw her to her certain death from their apartment window? I should add this is far from an isolated incident and the number of cases of such violence amongst elderly people, whilst not large, is regularly reported on. From the photograph of their apartment they did not live in a poor district but I have no information on their background just a simple question – why?

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