A statement from the Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Andrea Simon, following reports that an MI5 agent used his powers and status to perpetrate abuse against his partner.
“Violence against women and girls is a broad societal problem rooted in women’s inequality and male power and control. There remains no institution untouched by abuse of this power – from police forces to parliament and security agencies. These revelations should therefore not come as a surprise but as an inevitable outcome of the unchecked power and inequality that is built into our institutions and social structures.
We warned government about the dangerous and unfettered powers contained in the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act before it was passed. This case shows how intelligence agencies, just like other agencies within the criminal justice system, are failing to adequately address how structures of power can mask and enable abusers, and how ineffectively vetting those being handed vast powers can create opportunities to abuse with impunity.
Women are systematically disbelieved and treated poorly when we report abuse, and many more don’t report at all due to the constant bombardment of messages across every sphere of society that victims are to blame for their own abuse. We know that when a perpetrator holds a position of social or institutional power, women are even less likely to be believed or see any consequences for the abuser. This must change.
We’ve seen mass resistance to abuse of police powers, and it is critical that our security agencies aren’t exempt from transparency and accountability. This case is very likely just the tip of the iceberg. From the SpyCops scandal to violence and abuse perpetrated by security agents against women overseas, no perpetrator should be able to use their power and status to abuse women and girls with impunity.”