Yesterday, the Chair of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Children and Young People’s Committee publically stated that the police only prioritise domestic violence because it is “politically correct” and “fashionable”. We at the Women’s Quilt team are well aware of the damage that trivialising domestic violence in this way can do, and are, as such, disgusted and appalled by these comments. We know it is vital to prioritise domestic violence to protect the thousands of women harmed by partners and the two women a week killed by Male violence.
We call upon the individual in question to retract their comments and make a donation to a women’s refuge to show they understand the danger that the attitude their comments express places vulnerable women and children in.
Further, we call upon Nottinghamshire Conservative Party, the UK Conservative party and the Conservative Party leadership to make it unequivocally clear that they condemn these remarks and will act upon them.
It is when this vital issue is downplayed that more women’s lives are put at risk. We refuse to allow that and we hope that the Conservative Party will not allow it either.
~ The Women’s Quilt team
We at the Women’s Quilt team are well aware of the damage that trivialising domestic violence in this way can do and are as such disgusted and appalled by these comments.
We call upon the individual in question to retract the comments and make a donation to a women’s refuge to show they understand the danger in which the attitude their comments express places vulnerable women and children.
I wanted to be involved with the woman’s quilt. My heart went out to all the tragic victims but I also felt so lucky to have my daughter still alive.
She was in an abusive relationship and she didn’t say anything because she felt she was a failure. He was so clever, not many realised what was going on. I kept asking if she was ok, but it was when my granddaughter said “my daddy make my mummy cry” after one very violent episode that she called the police and, thank goodness, they took her seriously. We are two years on and my daughter is very slowly gaining her confidence, there’s a long way to go but she is alive.
My 4 quilt blocks are white and pink with small hearts in the centres. They are very orderly. She kept saying she never knew what was going to happen each day.
Well done to everyone who was involved in this project and opening people’s eyes to how many have and will continue to suffer.
I first came across the quilt project on Facebook, my friend Maria Barrett suggested it to me – she knows I enjoy embroidery. I got in touch and, even though I live in New Zealand, I was warmly welcomed on to the project. I looked down the list of available names and there was ‘Lorraine Williams’ which is my maiden name, so that was the connection for me. She died on April 3, 2009, at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil. She was stabbed by her husband who was said to be a violent ex-soldier with a history of domestic violence. He was jailed for life and will serve at least 15 years. The murder took place at their home in Abercwmboi, Rhondda Cynon Taff. He attacked her with a carving knife causing three lesions to her throat. A neighbour heard her screaming. She got as far as the front door but he dragged her back and didn’t summon help. It’s heartbreaking, she must have been terrified. In court, he claimed she had jumped on to the knife and it was an accident.
The Judge said that despite pleas from her friends and family, Lorraine had tried to cover up the long-term abuse out of love and loyalty and a mistaken sense of responsibility.
I could only find one picture of Lorraine but she was laughing and looked like a fun person to know. I didn’t have much time for my square given the postal delay, so I chose a lovely piece of fabric that spoke for itself – bright blue and black, with new Zealand motifs. I felt that connected me to her. I wrote her name in simple stitching, in black for mourning, but with a bit of gold for the life that she was. I also added a line of sequins. I don’t know why, but I felt she might have liked a bit of bling.
I want you to remember her and the 598 women who were killed by a current or former partner in the UK between 2009 and 2015. That’s approximately two a week.
My involvement with the Women’s Quilt was through my friendship with Roxanne who came up with the idea of making this quilt. Despite not having sewn since 2009 when it was a compulsory class at school, I wanted to make a patch to celebrate the woman whose life was, unfortunately, cut short. I felt like I was quite amateur in comparison to other patch makers who made wonderful creations. I hadn’t sewn in a number of years and, even then, I wasn’t top of my class! Yet, the importance of the quilt goes beyond its beauty to the message it shows and the lives the patches reflect.
The media had focused a lot on the gory and gruesome details of Cherylee Shennan’s death in 2014. Police were witness to her murder as they were investigating a report of domestic violence made by Cherylee; reports suggest they tried their best to keep her former partner, Paul O’Hara, away from her and fought with him in the attempt to save Cherylee’s life. O’Hara was sentenced to life imprisonment. Sounds like justice has been served, right? Well, unfortunately, I couldn’t feel so positive about this when I read that Paul O’Hara had previously served a life sentence for the murder of his ex–girlfriend in 1998, but was released on remand in April 2012. It is heartbreaking to see that this man was able to walk free in the first place. How can women feel safe knowing that former murderers are able to walk free again with such ease? It’s no surprise that many of us question how safe we truly feel and are worried about our security being protected by the police and the law. Fortunately, the National Probation Service has undertaken an investigation into the case and, hopefully, we will not see a repeat of these events. We should have never seen this happen in the first place and it must definitely never happen again.
To create my patch, I wanted to search for the positive things that had been written about Cherylee. I felt the media hadn’t focused enough on her as a person. I wanted to not just see her as another victim but a wonderful woman who was full of life. The following paragraphs are what I have found and collected from reading around different media. I decided it was best to not contact the family as their grief is private and should be respected.
“Cherylee had previously owned the Sheer Bliss beauty salon on Victoria Parade in Waterfoot and had also owned a second-hand furniture business in Haslingden and Heywood”1. “Nicknamed ‘Chez’, she set up her own beauty salon and vowed to make it one of the UK’s top 10 within two years – holding a champagne launch party and inviting her local newspaper”2. It, unfortunately, shut down and she moved on to her next endeavour. Cherylee pursued many great and wonderful opportunities. “In 2009 she enrolled on a foundation degree in forensic science at the University of Central Lancashire but failed to complete the course and ended up working as a carer”2.
“Cherylee was a precious and much-loved mum to Lucia, daughter to Betty and Tommy and special step-daughter to Karen and Johnny, sister to Chiyvonne, Ellen, Jordan, Declan and Toni and special aunty to Keilan. She was a life-long partner to Graham [her former husband and father to her daughter] and adoring owner of her five beloved Akita dogs Chan, Diva, Billy, Trooper and Mia”1 each dog is represented on the patch with a bone.
Neighbours said Cherylee had lived in the area for many years and was well-known and liked in the community. One neighbour described her as “really chatty on the street”1 and another neighbour said, “Chez was lovely, friendly woman who knew a lot of people in the area”2.
In a Manchester Evening News article her family describe Cherylee as “easy to get along with and used to be laughing all the time, everything was a joke even when she used her family as guinea pigs for her potions at her beauty salon”3.
“She loved to experiment with cooking and was famous for her cheesecake and bonfire night food which was fabulous”3.
“Everyone would go to Chez when they had a problem or anything and wanted guidance and she was always there”3.
From the words of those who know her, Cherylee was a friendly, welcoming, funny, ambitious, caring and helpful woman. Her loss of life is truly a tragedy.
Rest In Peace Cherylee Shennan, a wonderful woman and a precious life.
Kay Diamond was 52 years old when she died. Battered to death by her boyfriend within hours of him being released from prison for domestic violence offences. Kay had been punched, kicked & attacked with a weapon that was believed to have been a dog chain. Left with extensive bruising from head to toe and whilst a police officer fought to resuscitate Kay, Anthony Blye stood there and rolled a cigarette. Two months after Kay’s death, her daughter Rachelle Owen took her own life on the rail tracks near Hoylake Station, Wirral. She was just 16.
As tragic and heartbreaking as this story is, the chances are you’ve probably not heard of Kay, Nor her daughter. The case may not be a familiar one. Nor is this story and the issues involved with it an isolated one. 598 women were killed by a current or former partner in the U.K. between 2009 and 2015. That’s an average of two a week. Two grandmothers or mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, friends, neighbours. They’ve left holes in people’s lives that can’t be replaced. These women are more than just another statistic and their names deserve to be remembered. I’ve recently discovered and become a part of a project that hopes to do that.
This week when scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed a post stopped me. It was a beautiful patch for a quilt. With an accompanying post that really pulled me in. “I have finished my first patch for The Women’s Quilt, in memory of Sylvia Rowley-Bailey, who was attacked as she sat at her computer and whose body was found with 23 knife wounds. Her killer was only sentenced to five years for manslaughter (raised to 7.5 on appeal) because she was deemed to have ‘nagged him’. ” Adele’s post led me to join the Facebook group to find out more and so I became a part of The Women’s Quilt.
The aim of the group is to create a quilt made of patches decorated with the names of the women who have lost their lives between 2009 & 2015 at the hands of a partner or ex. Ideally, the quilt will be put together in time for International Women’s Day on the 8th March this year. The project is not just for those who can sew. You can paint the patch or glue. Not just strictly for women to be involved either! Anyone is welcome regardless of gender.
The idea came from Roxanne following the release of the Femicide Census, a database containing information on women killed by men in England and Wales since 2009. It was developed by Karen Ingala Smith and Women’s Aid working in partnership, with support from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Deloitte LLP. The census aims to provide analysis that can provide a clearer picture of men’s fatal violence towards women. The information pulled together into a report published in December 2016.
Roxanne told me: “Last year the Femicide Census was released and I just felt something needed to be done, a visualisation of all the women who have lost their lives. Something other than a number on a page that can be glossed over. Something that emphasised the names of the women, as so often it’s their names are forgotten, like with Reeva Steenkamp. When these things get to court the emphasis is on the man, not the woman. For instance one of the men had his sentence reduced because “she nagged”. So the project started with me adding friends, who added friends and from there it just exploded. We have quilting groups around the country who have put aside their normal work to make patches and people who have never quilted before learning. Even people who have said they have never sewn before.This project has really brought people together and, for many, it has been cathartic. One of the women murdered was the cancer nurse for the woman who made her patch’s husband. And another provided student support for the woman who made her patch and actually talked her out of quitting college three times.”
That’s one of the incredible things that strikes me about this group. The love & warmth I feel from it. The admin team along with Roxanne do a fantastic job in running the project. You see a real care from the people who are members and a constant reminder of the group’s purpose and a drive to succeed. I’ve posted on this blog before about that feeling of the “sisterhood” I’ve never felt it stronger than within The Woman’s quilt group. I’m enjoying watching people post pictures of the progress of their patch, passionately share the story of the women they have chosen to represent, explain their own experiences and post pictures of the completed patch and just like the women who’s voices their stand for, each patch is beautifully unique.
The Women’s Quilt now has the support of the wonderful Jess Phillips MP and together with those who run the project will work to get the quilt displayed. This is not a political group I may add. This is about the women themselves and ensuring they are at the very heart of this. No longer just a number but a realisation of a woman lost.
I don’t ask much from the people that read my posts. The fact that you take the time to read my musings is more than enough. With this post though I am going to ask. The names have now been completed but the work goes on to get the project funded so the Quilt can be displayed around the country.
Finally, this is dedicated to Kay. The much-loved mother to a daughter and a son. Younger sister and aunt. Beloved daughter. A woman who travelled the world in her twenties and was described as bright, clever and quick-witted. For Kay and for her daughter Rachelle. May they both be remembered and rest in peace ❤
Thank you for reading.