Council meeting abandoned as numerous members reduced to tears on hearing how Banbury councillors suffered terrible domestic abuse
A council meeting was abandoned amid unprecedented scenes last week as numerous members were reduced to tears hearing how several councillors had suffered terrible domestic abuse.
At the end of the discussion at last Tuesday's meeting of Oxfordshire County Council, visibly disturbed councillors of all parties voted to abandon the rest of the meeting - the last before local elections in May.
During a discussion on a motion calling for a review of the council's policy on domestic violence, three members admitted being victims of domestic violence in the home - two as children who had been left traumatised.
In an emotionally taxing meeting, Cllr Eddie Reeves of Banbury described in distressing detail how he had been affected by violence for years,
Cllr Maurice Billington of Kidlington broke down on the webcam screens as he described a childhood tormented by violence from his father and Cllr Hannah Banfield (who uses part of her councillor's priority purse to fund a part time domestic abuse worker in Banbury) also admitted to being a victim of domestic violence.
Mr Reeves described how he had spent years trying to block out memories of the violence. He said: "On reading (the motion) I had first tried to block it out, block out the shame... the nightmares... block out the thud of Mum’s head hitting the floor."
Mr Reeves confessed to a 'false sense of complicity', for standing by, hiding in his room and only calling the police when it got really bad.
"... for thinking it might be normal, for trying to justify it, for blaming Mum... myself... my brother. Block out the rage... the depression... focus on the positives. There are always people worse off in life. Don't let it beat you like he beat my Mum," he said.
Mr Reeves, 36, told the meeting that instead, he had focused on getting to university, getting a job, gaining professional status and leaving home.
"No-one could see the misery or hear the screams behind the door of that bucolic idyll. I’m middle-class. I went to a good school, a good university. I have a good job. And violence was routine in my household. My stepdad was a violent man," he said.
"And it wasn’t until a rite of passage - our Granddad dying and the birth of my elder brother’s little boy about two years ago that he and I began to talk about it seriously again.
"Domestic violence is common. And it isn’t only women and girls that are affected - it is women and children of all backgrounds, in all places. It stays with you. You can’t block it out."
Cllr Maurice Billington said: "This is very, very upsetting to me. I've got six brothers three sisters. My dad was so violent and I had nowhere to go, nowhere to turn and I was so upset and frightened until I left when I was 17. He used to bash the brains out of me and all my family.
"My poor Mum; she unfortunately died when I was 11 and it was even worse. They didn't do anything in those days and I had nowhere to turn. I'm sorry, I'm getting emotional but it brings back so many memories and it frightens me to death. If I see anyone frightening or rowing it does upset me."
Tuesday's meeting was told that domestic violence was on the rise and even more so with Covid lockdowns containing families behind closed doors. Cllr Deborah McIlveen, who presented the motion, said homes should be safe places but were often the most dangerous places because of physical and sexual abuse, coercive and financial control.
"Every time I hear cases, I become more and more horrified at what people do to one another. We want to stop this and change things," she said.
"Women are assaulted over 30 times before they report to the police, then... most reports to the police result in no further action; only the very high risk takers get any support."
Cllr Mark Cherry of Banbury said lockdowns were making homes with domestic violence like prisons, with no escape. "The pandemic has made it made it easier for men to control women an abuse more. This abhorrent behaviour has to stop," he said.
Many councillors were reduced to tears and found it hard to speak after witnessing the confessions. The debate produced agreement by all councillors of all parties to support the motion and there was agreement to close the meeting after such an extremely emotional discussion.
To see the discussion follow the link - https://oxon.cc/FC230221 - click 'watch on the web' and the discussion begins at approximately 3.58.
If you are suffering domestic abuse or violence you can call the National domestic abuse helpline, 24-hours a day, for free help, in confidence. Call 0808 2000 247. If you cannot talk, you can also 'speak' to a helper online https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/ - the site has a 'quick exit' facility.