#203 #HerNameWasChloeHolland - A Mother’s campaign following her daughter’s suicide

April 17, 2024 FiLiA
#203 #HerNameWasChloeHolland - A Mother’s campaign following her daughter’s suicide
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#203 #HerNameWasChloeHolland - A Mother’s campaign following her daughter’s suicide
Apr 17, 2024

Tragically Chloe felt her only escape from the coercive and controlling behaviour she was subjected to was to end her own life. Her Mum Sharon wants the perpetrator held to account for her death and so is campaigning for a change in the law so that he could be charged with manslaughter by coercive or controlling behaviour. Hear about how they have developed their grassroot campaign and how you can help.

Petition please sign and share:

Link to the report mentioned:

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Show Notes Transcript

Tragically Chloe felt her only escape from the coercive and controlling behaviour she was subjected to was to end her own life. Her Mum Sharon wants the perpetrator held to account for her death and so is campaigning for a change in the law so that he could be charged with manslaughter by coercive or controlling behaviour. Hear about how they have developed their grassroot campaign and how you can help.

Petition please sign and share:

Link to the report mentioned:

Social Media:

#HerNameWasChloeHolland - A Mother’s campaign following her daughter’s suicide

 SALLY: So I'm really pleased to be joined today by Sharon Holland and Kirsty Mellor. I'm speaking to them as part of my role as volunteer and trustee in FiLiA and also as the global lead about male violence against women and girls, particularly because of the campaigning work that they've been involved in.

So perhaps Sharon, if I could come to you first. Unfortunately, this campaigning work that you're involved in came about because your daughter, Chloe really felt that the only escape that she had from the coercive control that she was experiencing was to take her own life. And that prompted you to think things need to change.

Can you tell us just a little bit about Chloe? 

SHARON: Chloe was full of energy. Very funny, wouldn't sit still she was very kind as well, and she cared about other people, sometimes too much, but, she was just a lovely girl that just got in with the wrong men, unfortunately.

SALLY:  I'm so sorry for your loss.

SHARON Thank you. 

SALLY:  Tell us what the campaign is about. As I say, this is spurred you into action. What is it you're hoping to achieve? 

SHARON: What I'm hoping to achieve is that where coercive control is concerned, that has then caused somebody to take their own life, that they should be charged with manslaughter.

SALLY: So currently It's not recognised directly, coercive control can be charged as but it's not recognized and linked directly to that death. And that's the bit that you want to change. 

SHARON: Yes, definitely. As my daughter's perpetrator, or monster as I call him, definitely contributed to her death by constantly telling her to take her life and the evidence was there that he should have been charged with manslaughter or under the suicide act. But unfortunately the CPS said no.

SALLY: Yeah. So you decided, oh, sorry. Kirsty do come in. 

KIRSTY: Yeah, no, I just wanted to come in there and just say that obviously, we are aware that the current laws can cover such prosecutions, but those prosecutions are few and far between. And there's no clear legal sort of framework to support the Crown Prosecution Service.

Sharon mentioned the Suicide Act and that lacks like clarity as well for cases similar to Chloé's case. And after the recent VKPP report (Vulnerability, Knowledge and Practice Programme) that, that's come out with domestic suicides now overtaking domestic homicides, there is an urgent need for legal reform to cover cases such as this.

SALLY: Absolutely. And so what does that look like? What has your campaigning meant? What sort of things have you got involved with? 

SHARON: We've met with a lot of we've met with a couple of ministers. We've met with different domestic abuse organizations. We are basically reaching out to everyone to support us and to help us push this through.

Plus, we also have a petition that is, it stops from the 1st of May. But we do have a backup plan so we will get there eventually. We've got more meetings with more ministers more charities. And hopefully by the end of it, we will have an army. This government has to listen. 

And I also speak to a lot of families that have had no justice, that have had exactly the same thing happen to them as what's happened to my family and with Chloe.

And it would be nice to get their voices out there as well. And the thing is also with the report that's come out, that is only suicides that have been logged connected to domestic abuse. These other families I'm talking to, they haven't been registered as connected to domestic abuse. So how many more are there really out there, if all these families are fighting so much to just get it recognized? 

SALLY: Absolutely. it's probably, sadly, a small percentage where that link has been made. 

SHARON: Yeah, I think, yeah, I think there's a hell of a lot more out there. I wouldn't even be surprised if it was double, to be honest with you, because the volume of people that are taking their lives at the moment is just unbelievable.

And, a lot of them could possibly be connected to domestic abuse. 

SALLY: Absolutely. I'm really interested in how both of you, and I know Kirsty, you've been involved in activism for some time and very much, locally, always stepping forward to raise the issue of male violence against women, but how do you go from, thinking something's got to change and deciding what it is you want to do and what that campaign looks like and start it? As you said, you've met ministers, you've met with other leading groups. How do you make that happen? What have you been involved in? 

KIRSTY: Obviously I have managed campaigns at a local level before never anything like this at a national level.

And I've used the skills that I had used locally and applied that nationally. I firmly believe in grassroots campaigning. And I think it's really important that everybody has their voice heard and that's the beauty of grassroots campaigning.

And often those types of missions are fuelled by our lived experience. And obviously things are still very raw for Sharon because she only lost Chloe last year. Sharon is also survivor as am I, so this type of campaign in can be quite traumatic sometimes. But it's about supporting each other through that.

And amongst the tears and the stress and the: Oh my God, what are we going to do next? Where's this going? Is this working? There's a lot of, Solidarity and, and laughter as well. Yeah, grassroots, it is definitely the way ahead. And, some days it's been chaos. And we've been solidly at it for the past sort of six months. October you began the petition, wasn't it Sharon? 

SHARON: Yeah, 1st of November the petition started not long after he was sentenced. 

KIRSTY: Yeah and it's been quite full on. So we went to Portsmouth City Council Sharon gave a brilliant deputation there and we passed the motion unanimously in support of Chloe's law. And it's just grown from there. 

Currently there's three of us managing this campaign, which is Sharon, myself and Jacob and literally we're just working from a WhatsApp group and like pitching in ideas here, there, and everywhere. It's organized chaos, but it's working. And we're being heard and we're being listened to.

So that's the most important thing. 

SHARON: And it's not a nine to five job five days a week either. It's probably when one night I wake up, I'm sharing everywhere and trying to get people to sign the petition, share all over social media. And then right up until probably I go to sleep, I'm replying to people trying to get them to sign the petition. It is very full on sometimes but it will be worth it in the end, if I can get him. 

SALLY: Absolutely. And I think it really speaks to something that we recognize very much in FiLiA in that, when you bring women together, somehow that magic happens. And there's, it's like the, being more than the sum of its parts, the fact that you were working on it, what you produce together is way more than as individuals you could possibly achieve. 

SHARON: And the thing is as well, I find, when I went to the Emma Humphreys awards, I was feeling really low and it was taking me a good few weeks to bounce back because we just received the DHR, (Domestic Homicide Review) but just by going to the Emma Humphreys awards and meeting all those wonderful people, I came out there fighting again. 

So it's really good to have people the same as you around and seeing what amazing things they're doing. It really inspires you to get going again. 

SALLY: You mentioned there as well around the Domestic Homicide Review. And I know recently, the government has changed the naming of them. So they're no longer domestic homicide reviews, but Domestic Abuse Related Deaths. And this is really because of the recognition, that's so often now what we're talking about is a suicide that's been recognized has been because of the domestic abuse that, that woman's been involved in, usually a woman.

And it's caused that change of name, which I suppose is a small but important step. But do you think that there's a chance now that we've got that official recognition around it, that we will see more and more suicide cases that are related to domestic abuse coming forward? 

SHARON: Yeah, a hundred percent, because just by sharing on TikTok, the volume of families that are coming through, and a lot of them didn't even know they can fight to get the police, to accept that it was related to domestic abuse. They just thought they just have to accept it and just move on. So I think it's very important that the word is out there that domestic abuse is causing people to take their lives. It's very important. And the more the word gets out, I think it's going to come to a point that this government has no choice but

to act on that because it is, it is an epidemic now without a doubt. And it's getting more and more worse by the day. And the police must start and acknowledging it. They must because this has got to stop. 

KIRSTY: Yeah. I think also as well that, we appreciate the name change and we hope that name change brings about sort of some clarity for agencies that are conducting those reviews. DHRs are, really important. And they're designed to prevent further tragedies and further failures. But what I want to see is less tragedies so that DHRs become the exception rather than the rule.

Yes, they are vitally important in the work around domestic abuse and improving services. Here we are 2024 and women are still dying at the hands of male perpetrators. We need that prevention. We need the government to step up. We need the government to fund services adequately to support victims and survivors. So we can prevent further tragedies.

 And also, obviously part of this campaign is calling for a specific law, but also, Sharon's mentioned before in Australia and in France the sentencing around coercive control is much more than what it is in the UK.

 DHR is a one thing in the picture, but there are lots of other things around that need to be improved on by this government.

Words are words enough is enough, right? We don't want those words. We want action.  

SALLY: Absolutely. And I think, one of the saddest things is when you see in in my day job, we're involved in domestic homicide reviews. And what we see is across the country with reviews of women from different backgrounds, some of the very same lessons and some of the recommendations being made time and time again. And as you say, here we are in 2024 with those things still not changed. 

So the process of the review may help with some local learning, but what we need is that commitment nationally to actually fund services properly, do, work with young people so that they know what a good relationship looks like and what they can do if they feel uncomfortable about their relationship and have those things in place so that hopefully it doesn't happen, but if it does, women know where they can go to for support and they're able to access it because it's there and importantly it fits their needs. 

So if women come from different backgrounds, if they need it in a certain language if they need it to be flexible because they have issues around substances or that sort of thing that, that is just built into the system rather than being seen as something conditional that we offer. That's got to be basic, surely. 

SHARON: When we met up with the minister, Laura Farris, I said, the government is all about cutting this, cutting that, saving money. But if they want to save even more money, they need to get into schools. They need to start talking about coercive control. And because I honestly believe prevention is the key.

If we start educating the children. A lot of them could be in families. They don't even realize it's happening that the dad or the mom or whoever is behaving in that way. So I think definitely education will prevent more and more this happening. At least if kids know the signs they know to get out of that relationship, definitely.

And it is happening more and more to the under 25s, right down to probably 14 years of age. So we must educate these children and it has to be done. 

SALLY: Absolutely. And you mentioned families and that you've spoke to other mothers. And I know when we met, one of the really poignant things was the folder you have of photos where you worked with other families, chatted with other families and how many there were. 

SHARON: Yeah, I think there's about 20 of us now on the WhatsApp group. There's probably four that aren't on the WhatsApp group just because, they want to be separate. I'm always checking up on them, always.

And the best thing about the group is the new families coming in, the other families that have been doing this for a long time, fighting, whether it be the police or the IOPC or whoever, are all giving each other advice and telling each other what to do. 

When this first happened to me. I found Kelly Sutton's mum, Pam, and because I felt so alone, my children didn't want to talk about it. There was no one else to speak about it. So when I found her and had a conversation with her, I knew there was hope and I found her just before he pleaded guilty. So I always knew what my plan was going to be, and as long as he pled guilty to coercive control I knew I could go after him and I knew whether it be through this petition, whether it be through this campaign, but I definitely can hopefully get him on the inquest if nothing else. So she really inspired me and showed me that I wasn't all alone. There is more people out there and then through all the sharing, especially on TikTok, so many more families have come through.

SALLY: I suppose it's one of the positive sides of social media, isn't it, to be able to make those contacts and keep those contacts and supporting each other. 

SHARON: Yeah, because, some of the mums I've added onto the group, they're all saying, I'm so grateful to you Sharon for finding us and helping us and, you don't realize what you've done for us, but I don't want any thanks because we're all in this situation. And unfortunately we've had to lose one of our children for us all to meet up. 

So I'm not just campaigning for my daughter. I'm campaigning for all of them as well. So some of them can't go to the media just yet because of the perpetrator or various other reasons, but I will always advocate for them as well.

KIRSTY: I think that's the harsh reality of this type of campaign is, these are mothers, these are our daughters, our sisters who are being killed and families like Sharon's family are having to relive that trauma every single day. And, there are agencies there to support Sharon and families like Sharon's, but it's not enough. 

And again, it's that whole, as Sharon said earlier, that prevention, let's stop this from happening. Let's make a world where there is no domestic abuse. And it's really important that Sharon speaks to other families because we touched earlier on that kind of collective voice.

One person we can make change, but all together we can make incredible change. And I think it's really brilliant that Sharon has been able to hook up with these other families as well through such awful tragedy. 

SHARON: Yeah, but the thing is, the only way I could, the only reason I can do it is because we've got a conviction.

And if we hadn't had a conviction, no one would be listening, the press wouldn't be interested. So, while I've got this platform and the doors wide open, I have to use it to my advantage. 

SALLY: Absolutely. And sadly, as you say, there'll be many families where because of the criminal justice system that we have, won't have that conviction.

And I know from meeting you, this is, being in the forefront, like this is a really uncomfortable place for you. This is not your comfort zone at all. You're like taking it on, as you say, for the other families, because there is this opportunity to be able to hopefully make a difference.

SHARON: Yeah, I've always been a fighter for my kids, always, I've always stood up for them and fought for what's right, and I've taught them, they must stand up as well.

 Unfortunately, with Chloe, I didn't know everything that was going on, and so I couldn't, and because she was also over 18, I wasn't allowed to know everything either, so if I'd known, what I know now, I would have done more. But unfortunately she didn't want to worry me so I only knew little snippets because online you do get attacked like where was the family? What was the family doing? but unless that family knows what is going on, there's nothing we can do. I couldn't make the phone calls to the police, to make them do something because she was over 18, so I think people need to understand where domestic abuse is concerned is, these monsters cut you off from your family, your friends, your freedom, you can't wear certain things. They control your money. they control your social media. 

I used to have to be very careful what I said in Facebook messages, because things were being deleted. When I'm trying to have a conversation with my daughter, WhatsApp, I'd message her, someone would read it. There'd be no reply, and then that could cause an argument because then she would say, I haven't seen it, but you have because you viewed it. And it was him and it was him controlling and manipulating absolutely everything. 

SALLY: Absolutely. And as you say that, coercive control just it's like a cage that is around the woman that's experiencing it, and that cage gets smaller and smaller and you're more and more contained in it. And the only person that's responsible for that is, is the perpetrator whose behaviour is making it happen. It's very difficult to act when someone is purposefully stopping you from acting, as you say, isolating and changing messages and et cetera.

So as much as we all need to be vigilant and looking out for our families, it's really important I think that we remember it's the perpetrator that does this harm. 

SHARON: Yeah, a hundred percent. They manipulate everything. They manipulate arguments, so you end up falling out with your loved one they just manipulate everything.

So they leave that victim thinking they have no one, but them. And that's when they feel like they have no one, is when they get to the point that they do what they do to get away from this monster. 

SALLY: Which, just sadly and tragically sums up so well, how clearly it is the perpetrator's responsibility that, any one of these victims have taken their life because if it wasn't for what they were being subjected to on a day by day basis that wouldn't be a consideration for them.

So we have to hold them responsible, don't we? 

SHARON: Yeah, and a lot of people say why didn't they just leave? Why didn't they just go? But it's not as easy as that. If you're down on the ground, it's very hard to pick yourself up to fight and to leave. But if, with a lot of help from other organisations, you have that strength, then it's easy to leave.

But mentally and physically, if you haven't got that strength to just walk out that door, it's very hard. And also when you do leave, it becomes the most dangerous time because that's when they are really going to come after you. 

So if you're going to leave, sometimes you might have to leave the area. Leave your family, start again somewhere else like I did with my kids in 2010. I moved from Northampton down to Portsmouth, went into a refuge and you have to leave everything behind and your kids have to leave all their friends behind. So sometimes it's not an easy thing to do as just walk out that door.

KIRSTY: I think as well, for years, the onus has been on the victim to make those changes, mums scooping up their children, going to refuges, children having to change school, leaving family pets behind. Let's flip that around and as you say, put the onus on the perpetrators because it's because of their behaviour, and their coercive control that this is happening.

We have been speaking a little bit with the Centre for Women's Justice, and they sent over some information the other day about the laws in France around domestic related suicide. And one of the things in that particular bill, and Sharon and I have discussed this, and we actually quite like the idea of this is they are tagging the perpetrators with an alarm and they're giving an alarm to the victim.

So if that perpetrator is in a certain vicinity in the surrounding area where they're not supposed to go, that victim's alarm will go off and it will prepare them for making themselves safe or, calling the police or get into a place of safety. Again it's putting the onus on the victim, to do that where we should be challenging the perpetrators and preventing them.

It is another option that we've been thinking about. Isn't it Sharon, 

SHARON:  It’s a bracelet that they wear, victim wears, so if the perpetrator is in the area, lets the victim know that they're close by. So I think that's a really good idea, France, is coming up with some really good things for victims of domestic abuse.

SALLY: To be able to put their safety first and yeah. And I suppose, as you say, although the onus may be on her to report it, the reality is it puts the responsibility on him moving away from that area and not being able to be near. 

And I know we're talking about coercive control here. And I think sometimes when we're talking about domestic abuse, people, in their heads, when they think about physical violence, and I know in my work with women who've been subjected to abuse, they'll often say that actually the physical stuff, they heal from fairly swiftly, the bruises disappear, et cetera, things heal, but it is that Coercive control, it is that emotional and psychological harm that takes the longest time to, get to a place to even thinking so what is my favourite colour? Cause I can't remember. I was told it was red or it was blue or it was green. But what do I actually think now? Because I’ve been so controlled for so long, I'm not sure and that can take an awful lot of time in to get to a place where you're feeling yourself as a whole person again.

SHARON: Yeah, I think lots of counselling helps, to be honest with you. You go to the doctors and they're all happy to dish out the medication, but that just masks what's really going on, and counselling is brilliant. And we said, the other week about the freedom project is amazing as well. Once when I shared it on TikTok about the freedom project, the amount of women that come across and said how amazing it was, was unbelievable.

There is things that you can do. Unfortunately, counselling do have to wait for, but it really works talking about the situation 100%

SALLY: I think from what we've said, we want to, it is like looking at that, looking at the whole issue. So right the way from prevention to being able to have good well-resourced services available when you need them and then support to help you recover and move forward while at the same time holding that perpetrator to account. And obviously that's going to take a lot more lobbying from all of us with to get those things in place, but I think we're up for it.

SHARON: Oh, yeah. I once said to the domestic abuse commissioner that, if all else fails, I'll be chaining myself to the railings at some point. That something has to change. They need to start listening. It is getting beyond ridiculous that you talk to these ministers and they just don't seem Interested.

They talk the talk, but they're definitely not walking the walk without a doubt, they're just fobbing you off with rubbish to get rid of you. 

SALLY: And we sadly, and this week has been no different at all, but consistently we keep hearing these stories on the news, don't we, about a woman who's, either been killed at home or killed on the street by, and what was it they say, someone known to them.

And then the one that really winds me up ‘an isolated incident’. That's funny how we have so many ‘isolated incidents,’ throughout the year. 

SHARON: So yeah, and the police releasing them out on bail knowing they've made threats to kill. And then you end up with a woman dead in front of her child. It's just getting absolutely a joke at the moment with the police, to be honest with you.

You get some really good police officers that really care, but that's probably one in 10, do you know what I mean? The other nine need to start acting on defending women against perpetrators and actually start doing their job. Because the volume, yeah, again, the volume that people will have come across to me on TikTok, the pictures they've shown me and told me what's happened to them and the perpetrators got away with it, or they've gone to court and they've walked away from court with nothing.

You like, in our situation, we had a very good police officer and the judge was so apologetic that he couldn't give him more. So I can't blame her, our police officer. I can't blame the courts, it's the CPS and the government without a doubt. 

KIRSTY: And I think when you look at the sentencing that a monster, scumbag, whatever we want to call him, is three years and nine months, which means he's going to be out in January. The sentencing that he got compared to the horrors that he put Chloe through is nothing. And in January there is going to be another dangerous man walking the street and abusing women again, without a shadow of a doubt, because, he's free to control again and perpetrators don't change their behaviour, regardless of, the fact that we do have programs in place now to support perpetrators to change their behaviour.

I think that's that, that's quite rare. It's, I think it's disgusting actually, that this man has coerced somebody into taking their life. Chloe felt the only way that she could get out of that abuse was to end it all. And he's going to be walking the streets again in January.

SHARON: And he's not even going to be on the dangerous persons list because he got, he needed to get four years to be put on that. And this man we're talking about is a psychopath. One hundred percent, because I watched my daughter's two-hour video statement, and she said, He really lost his temper, his eyes went from blue to black. If you google that, it’s a psychopath.

He will do this again. He's up in court next month for another girl, a previous ex. Unfortunately, if he gets sentenced for her, he could run concurrently alongside the sentence for what he got for Chloe. So he could still be out January next year. And as one of his associates said, I won't say too much, said he will be out living his life, getting on with his life while my daughter's dead and my grandson doesn’t have a mum.

SALLY: It's just beyond appalling and it shows not only how women aren't believed by the system but also how our lives aren't valued. How can that be the case for a woman's life? It just makes no sense. 

SHARON: The thing is, it has a massive knock on effect because it's all of us left behind as well, we're all, we can't wake up in the morning anymore and think, everything's going to be all right.

Because every time you wake up in the morning, this nightmare is still there. It's not a dream anymore. He took my daughter away from me, but he's caused absolute destruction across my family. When my little grandson gets old enough, I've got to explain to him what's happened. And then that's going to affect him. Do you know what I mean? it's not just one person. It's not just Chloe. It's going to affect everyone. 

SALLY:  It's the ripples that, that come out from that isn’t it. 

SHARON: Yeah. 

SALLY: So you mentioned the petition and we can absolutely put a link to that with the podcast so that women can get involved with that.

Through that as well, find your page and see what else is going on. Is there anything else that you'd like to ask of women, ask of our listeners that they can do to support you and the other mothers in going forward? 

SHARON: At the moment it's the petition.

We've got till the 1st of May to try and get all these signatures. But after the 1st of May, we have a backup plan, with an open letter. And so even though the petition will be finished, the campaign will still be going and we do have other things in the pipeline that we will need people to help us with so and hopefully grow the campaign even more. 

KIRSTY: Yeah, I think just to say obviously, we need to reach those hundred thousand signatures by the 1st of May, in order for the petition to be debated in Parliament. At this stage, we want people to sign, share with friends, family, colleagues, just share it everywhere on all their social media platforms and also use the hashtag. #HernamewasChloeHolland. 

As Sharon said, we have got phase two of the campaign for post-petition date. And that will be us potentially going in through the criminal justice bill at clause 11 and tabling an amendment of Clause 11 A. We are, we're not policy writers are not government officials or have a Scooby do about law and legal wording.

We've given it a good go and we've drafted this clause 11 a, we've, as we said earlier, we've spoken to some people at the Centre for Women's Justice who's going to put us in touch with a Pro Bono, barrister to help with the wording of that clause, and then from that, we want to put together this open letter and get as many people as possible to sign that letter to encourage the people on the criminal justice bill to include that amendment 11a.

Yeah, although the petition is on the 1st of May and please everybody, sign and share it, get Sharon those signatures. This campaign is not going away, even if we don't make those 100, 000 signatures. 

SALLY: Thank you both so much for what you're doing. We'll help wherever we can and keep in contact as well as the campaign goes on, but for now, love to you both. And thank you so much for what you're doing to make the world better for women. 

SHARON: And thank you for having us.