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Cllr Charlotte Zosseder Dover tells of suicide after man on woman abuse in run-up to White Ribbon Day


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A councillor told a debate over domestic violence that she knew a woman who had taken her own life after harassment from an ex-partner.

Cllr Chatlotte Zosseder made the moving revelation during a debate on violence and abuse of women last night.

Cllr Charlotte Zosseder. Submitted picture
Cllr Charlotte Zosseder. Submitted picture

During the discussion at a full Dover District Council meeting, the murder of Sarah Everard by Deal policeman Wayne Couzens was also mentioned.

Referring to a case she had been close to, Cllr Zosseder (Lab) said: "She committed suicide after harassment from her ex-partner. She reported it and then ended her life."

Cllr Zosseder did not go into further details at the meeting but said ill-treatment of women starts with casual sexism.

She explained that just 11 days after the tragedy, while in a room with other councillors she'd made a minor mistake.

She said: "I said I'd had a stupid moment. Another councillor in that room decided to joke that it was because I was a woman. This is the 2020s not the 1920s."

Domestic violence "can start from casual sexism." Library photo using models by Barry Goodwin
Domestic violence "can start from casual sexism." Library photo using models by Barry Goodwin

She said that even today the attitude to females could be shown, for example by a group of men in a pub encouraging one to approach a woman. When the woman rejected that, she would be accused of being "frigid."

She urged men to call out that sort of behaviour, particularly if it was done in their presence.

Councillors unanimously voted to encourage all male members to take a pledge never to take part in, condone or stay silent about violence against women.

It had come from the charity White Ribbon, which campaigns to stop male on female violence.

The motion quotes figures from the Office of National Statistics saying that almost one in three women aged 16 to 59 will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Cllr Kevin Mills: "The statistics are terrifying."
Cllr Kevin Mills: "The statistics are terrifying."

The statistics also show that that two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner and more than half-a-million women are raped or sexually assaulted each year.

A YouGov poll also shows that a third of girls have experienced sexual harassment in schools.

The motion was put forward by opposition leader Cllr Kevin Mills (Lab).

He said: "We know what that means in this district, we have seen it in this district."

Cllr Mills afterwards confirmed to KentOnline that he was referring to the fate of Ms Everard, who was kidnapped in London and taken to this area to be raped and strangled.

"Some children do not see it is wrong when dad gives mum a slap on a Friday night after 15 pints..."

He told councillors: "I have daughters and these statistics terrify me. It is only men that can stop this as they are the perpetrators.

"Here we have areas of great deprivation where sadly this is prevalent. Some children do not see it is wrong when dad gives mum a slap on a Friday night after 15 pints."

Cllr Peter Walker (non-aligned) said: "Abuse begins at an early age, it exists in school age and goes on after 59. I am against abuse of any kind and it has to be stopped at an early age."

The motion adds that he global pandemic has led to more women and girls being vulnerable to domestic abuse. According to a BBC news report last July, the initial three months of the first national lockdown saw an 80% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

Cllr Peter Walker
Cllr Peter Walker

The motion also noted the end of EUFA Euro 2020 football competition in July, delayed for a year because of coronavirus.

It said that previous research by Lancaster University showed that reported domestic abuse incidents increase when home nations play in a major tournament, and it is worse when those teams lose.

Cllr Sue Chandler (Con) said: "There has been a prevalence of domestic violence, exacerbated in the last 18 months and that is not just on women but also children. They grow up and think that is normal behaviour."

There is a White Ribbon Day on November 25 when males are encouraged to take the pledge and wear a white ribbon that day and within the next fortnight.

The council vote was also to choose a male member as ambassador for that occasion and mark White Ribbon Day each year with a fundraising event and encourage participation among council staff and schools.

Cllr Sue Chandler: "Domestic violence has worsened in the last 18 months."
Cllr Sue Chandler: "Domestic violence has worsened in the last 18 months."
Sarah Everard: murdered in Dover district
Sarah Everard: murdered in Dover district

Councillors also agreed to a resolution that the meeting believed that male violence against women can never be condoned.

It added that Dover District Council should do everything possible to ensure women are safe.

As part of this, it should facilitate and encourage participation by councillors, staff and schools in the White Ribbon Campaign.

Sarah Everard, 33, was abducted in Clapham on March 3 this year and brought straight to North Military Road in Dover where her abductor, Wayne Couzen, changed cars.

He then took her to the district's rural area and it is believed it was there he raped and strangled her.

Couzens, 48, of Freemen's Way, Deal, was a serving armed Metropolitan policeman at the time.

On September 30 he was given a whole life jail sentence at the Old Bailey.

To get the latest updates in ongoing cases, police appeals and criminals put behind bars, click here

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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