Illustration by Belle Mellor
Maria Stubbings is dead, strangled by a former boyfriend and let down by the police who could have done more to keep her safe, but didn't. Maria Stubbings is dead and, it would seem, not much has changed since I began campaigning on this issue over three decades ago. The statistics are consistent, year after year: on average, two women die each week in England and Wales as a result of domestic violence, a number etched into the minds of those of us who keep asking why nothing has changed.
In calling on the home secretary, Theresa May, to set up a Stephen Lawrence-style public inquiry into why victims of domestic violence are not getting sufficient protection, the Stubbings family join a large number of feminists who have been arguing the same point for years.
We need a formal inquiry because investigations into domestic homicides often result in nothing but cliches: there were mistakes; opportunities were missed; communication lines were faulty; the police are sorry; lessons have been learned. But the fact is, domestic violence accounted for 10% of emergency calls in 2011/12, according to the Office for National Statistics, and there were 2 million cases of domestic abuse. Lessons were not learned. No amount of apologising is enough.
The Macpherson inquiry happened because campaigners insisted Stephen died not only of a stab wound inflicted by violent racists, but because there was a culture of racism in the police.
Maria Stubbings died not only of strangulation at the hands of a violent man, but because there is a culture of misogyny within the police and wider society – as the IPCC report five years after the murder so chillingly demonstrates. But as Davina James-Hanman, director of the charity Against Violence and Abuse, puts it: "We have had IPCC reports, assurances, and apologies for two decades, and yet we still have dead body after dead body and the same mistakes made over and over."