4 years ago, if someone had told me I was going to be in a relationship with an abusive man and that I would have to use something like Clare’s Law, I would have told them there was no chance. I would have gone on about how I was a strong woman, a loud and proud feminist, that the kind of guys I liked wouldn’t be capable of such things…
I would have been very wrong, and pretty ignorant too, because 3 years ago, I found myself in that very situation.
I found myself sitting in a police station room, as I listened to countless accounts of abuse, ranging over 20 years, to many women, by a man that I let into my life. A man that I had told my secrets to, a man I had shared my bed with. A man I cared about.
Until then, like many, I had no idea what Clare’s Law was, I guess I thought I didn’t need to know. Again, I was wrong. We should all know these things, because trust me when I say, it can happen to any of us.
Clare’s Law is a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme which has two main principles: The Right to Ask and The Right to Know.
What this means is, we can ask for information on an individual we are, or have been, in a relationship with, if we feel they could be violent, controlling, or abusive towards us or someone else. It also means that we could be contacted by the police if they felt there was information that we should know to help us to make an informed decision about our relationship.
Clare’s Law is open to all, regardless of gender or sexuality. It is also possible to use Clare’s Law if you have concerns about someone else’s relationship.
All you have to do is contact the police. You can call your local department, the non-emergency number 101, or as I did, use the online chat.
For the purposes of this blog, I shall name the man in question as X.
X was handsome and charming; he had a ‘good’ job and was friends with a lot of the same people I was. He had recently split from his wife, and I wasn’t looking for anything serious, but we got on and began seeing each other. Everything was fine. We had fun.
However, something always felt a little ‘off’. Looking back now, especially with all the experience and training I’ve received since working with Touchstone, I can see there were plenty of signs. The way he spoke of his past relationships, the way he subtly made negative remarks on my relationships with friends… but as many of us have done, I looked away from them. I focused on the fun nights out or the sweet messages he would send. Then, one morning, I could ignore those things no more and it was for such a small and, what felt like, ‘silly’ reason. A look. One morning he looked at me and for a split second, I saw a different man there. There was anger in his face and such coldness in his eyes, it really struck me. I was lucky that the feelings I had for him were never that strong so I was able to end it.
At the point, we decided to stay friends, there was no reason not to. So, we continued to be in touch and see each other often. He began seeing someone else and everything was great.
One day I received a message from his ex. She had heard X and I were together, and she wanted to let me know of the severe emotional and physical abuse she had received from him. She told me about Clare’s Law, and she encouraged me to speak to the police. I am so thankful to her for that.
I contacted the police via their online chat. I was asked to provide information regarding X, such as name, address etc. They asked what my relationship with him was like now- the fact that we were no longer together did not matter. While he was still in my life, in any way, I was able to request Clare’s Law. And that was it. They took my details and said they would be in touch if there was anything that I needed to know.
At this point, what happens is, they take all the information you have given them to a multi-agency decision making team. It is then their responsibility to decide if a disclosure should be made and if so, who to and what information should be disclosed.
In my case, they decided that they would disclose his past record of domestic abuse, harassment, and stalking.
I was asked to go into the police station and there I met a warm and kind woman that was leading my case. The two of us went into a room where she began to list off all the offences he had committed.
I was heartbroken. This man that I cared for had hurt, both physically and emotionally, countless women. He had put them in hospital, he had isolated them from their friends and families. And he did it, again and again. Once the heartache subsided, I was angry.
During this time, X had begun to see another woman, and I passed that information to the police. They then contacted her as they felt that she too could be at risk. That comes under the Right to Know part of the scheme. I do not know what she chose to do – that information is not shared. I just hope that she is safe.
After that day in the police station, I ended all contact with X and I told him all that I knew. He threatened me and I told the police. They put a tag on my phone number and my address, so any calls would be automatically treated as an emergency. I had to explain the situation to my workplace in case he turned up. I told my family. But I could not tell my friends, as I was not allowed to disclose any of the information the police had given me, so X shared stories of me, saying I was obsessed with him and wouldn’t leave him alone. Sadly, mutual friends believed him, and I lost a lot of friends. However, despite all of that, I was lucky. For me, that was the end of it. He never followed up on any of his threats and I was able to move on.
In my work now, I come across many domestic abuse cases, and my own experience, however small in comparison to the stories I hear, helps me to have a little understanding of what goes on.
I hope that none of you reading this today will ever experience such things. However, statistics and experience, tells us that some of you will, whether that be for yourself or for a friend or family member.
- From January to March 2022 within West Yorkshire, there were 562 requests for disclosure through Clare’s Law with 274 disclosures made.*www.westyorkshire.police.uk/ClaresLaw
- In the year ending March 2021, 30,108 requests for Clare’s Law were made throughout England and Wales. *Office of National Statistics
As you can see, my story is just one of many, but I hope, that in sharing it, others will not only become aware of Clare’s Law, but will also feel confident and able to use it should they ever need to.
Before I sign off, I want to just share a little information about Clare.
Clare Wood was a woman murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009. He had a history of violent and abusive behaviour and after Clare’s death, her father believed that had she known about this, Clare would have still been alive. That set off 5 years of campaigning which resulted in Clare’s father, changing the Law to allow the police to disclose relevant past convictions to those that may be at risk.
I would personally like to say thank you to Clare’s father, Michael Brown, as his hard work and determination helped to prevent me from being in, what could have been, a very dangerous situation.
Maybe it could help you one day too.
West Yorkshire Police Clare’s Law information
West Yorkshire Police – Clare’s Law – In a Relationship Request
West Yorkshire Police – Clare’s Law – Third Party Request