Claire Throssell writes about why change in the family courts is so urgently needed
On October 22nd 2014 it took just fifteen minutes for my life to end and my existence begin.
On an unsupervised, unsafe access visit my ex-husband barricaded my former marital home, set fourteen fires with petrol that he had bought just two days earlier and then joining my two precious beautiful boys in the attic waited as the fires quickly took hold with the full intention of none of them leaving the house alive. What he didn’t expect was the courage of my son Jack. Just 12 years old he pulled his brother Paul to the hatch of the attic and when he himself fell through and down onto the landing when cradled in the arms of the fireman he said “my dad did this and he did it on purpose”. He repeated this to the police …and these words were to become his dying testimony.
Despite Cafcass and social services being involved in the safeguarding of my sons regarding their “father” having contact with them, Jack’s wishes feelings and voice was never heard. Despite Paul – 9 being interviewed at school by Cafcass – the day Jack was due to have his interview was the day he fell eternally sleeping, wrapped tight in my arms and safe with my love.
There are many complex aspects to any relationship breakdown but all too often children’s voices, wishes and feelings become lost in the process. No more parents should have to hold their children in their arms as they die knowing it’s at the hands of the other parent – someone who should love and cherish them. No more children should have to say to a fireman, policeman or anyone else in a position of authority that one of their parents – perpetrator of domestic abuse – has harmed them on purpose.
I campaign for changes to the laws and procedures of Family Courts to ensure that Jack’s courage is not forgotten and to ensure that every child has a childhood and are protected within society and home, given a voice and kept happy and safe. There is no manual on how to raise children but there is no manual on how to exist without them either. Domestic abuse is a silent killer amongst society. We live in a democracy that stands against oppression and fear yet that is exactly what victims of domestic abuse live with every day. It must stop and it must stop now. There will be many organisations, who are vital in the struggle to combat domestic abuse, voices heard today to ensure this vital legislation is passed but I am asking you all to take a moment to reflect on a young boy whose voice was only heard when cradled in a fireman’s arms and by a policeman “…my dad did this and he did it on purpose”. And whose words became a dying testimony.
Remember the nineteen children who died at the hands of known perpetrators of abuse but who remain nameless and faceless except for Jack and Paul. Spare them a moment as their voices, smiles and laughter are lost forever.