Much has been written of the Philpotts, mostly Mick, and how he’s a terrible benefit scrounger, using tax payers’ money to get stoned and play snooker all day. But that’s not the real story here; the real story is of a man who has a long, depressing history of violence and control where women are concerned. A man who, as pointed out by one blogger
, went as far as killing his children to get back at his ex. This is a story of what happens when a man gets away with years and years of control and abuse. This is what happens when society allows that to happen. When women feel they can’t leave, and they have to do as they are told. As is pointed out in the link above, Philpott is not especially evil or twisted; he’s just the same as every other abuser out there. Your neighbour, your work colleague, that bloke on the bus who is always so pleasant in the mornings.
Mick Philpott has been described in the Guardian as “a man with a history of violence and controlling younger women.” He has been described as possessive, controlling and abusive.
From what I have read of the situation, he had his wife and their children, plus a mistress and her five children, four of whom were his, all living in the same house. The mistress had left, and they were embroiled in a court battle to decide who would have residency of the children. Philpott set fire to his house with the idea of framing the mistress and either getting her to return home, or having the courts award him residency. This idea is not as far-flung as it sounds. All across the country, there are women whose husbands or partners have lied and cheated and been believed by Social Services and the courts.
The girlfriend who managed to escape has said she was treated as a prisoner during her time in his house, with no key to the property and having to ask permission any time she left. When she finally escaped, it was to a women’s shelter.
He treated the women in his life as possessions, to be used for sex as and when he wished, and to prove his manliness by bearing his children – all 17 of them.
Philpott has a previous conviction from 1978, when he tried to kill a woman who finished a relationship with him. He has a track record of attacking his girlfriends who didn’t do as he wanted. I read somewhere that he’d hit one of his girlfriends because she produced a child of the wrong sex.
This man had 17 children with five different women. All of the women, even those who didn’t live with him, were expected to hand over their money – wages and benefits – to him. The two who lived with him were driven to and from work by him, and were not allowed to go anywhere else without him. They have all said that they ended up in a position where they would say and do anything to keep the peace – even, in Mairead’s case, setting fire to their house while her children slept upstairs, and then performing sex acts on her husband’s friend to keep him on side.
One of the girlfriends spoke in court of how Philpott would attempt to make her sons violent, and had instructed the oldest son to punch and kick her. When she left, she won a custody battle against him. There’s a horrible story in the Guardian
about how every Christmas he would tear down the tree and decorations in his anger that those two children were not with him. Not because he missed them or wished he could see them at Christmas, but because their mother had dared to defy him.
The article also mentions that he would often not bathe for a month at a time – something that certainly rings a bell with me. In March 2007, the two women living with him were pregnant at the same time. And yet, people have been saying how he was a devoted dad, a perfect dad, he loved his children. Recognise anything? All of these things: the threats, the forced sex, the women and children being treated as possessions, the daily violence in which the children were encouraged to take part, the women saying they would say or do anything to keep him happy. All of this reminds me of things I would rather forget, but I have to keep remembering, in order to keep them from ever happening again.
This story has so many parallels, not only with my story but with so many others I have heard over the last year. When I speak to women who have been in the position I was in, it’s like we’re comparing notes on the same man. When I see the women in Philpott’s life, I think, There but for the grace of God… I was lucky I was able to cut the ex out of our lives when S was still very small, lucky that people like my health visitor and midwife could see what was really going on, and helped me to get away before it got any worse. Who knows where I might have ended up, had I not had that help and support, had I not found that strength from somewhere on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis to stay away.
I’ve met women whose children are in care, who have been told they cannot have them back while they are still in contact with their abuser… but they still find themselves powerless to keep away. I’ve met women who have moved to the other end of the country, who jump every time the phone rings, who know that just because they are out of the situation right now, does not mean they will be able to stay out of it. I’ve also met women who have gone back, despite dragging their own children back into the mouth of hell with them.
The Philpott story is one of abuse and manipulation. I hope this helps bring the issue into the forefront of the media, where it should be. There should be more support for women trying to leave these situations. There should be more done to stop these men from getting away with so much.
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