Imagine being attacked by a man with a cricket bat. The same man forces you to drink bleach. He throttles you and calls you a slag. Now imagine that instead of being able to run to safety, you have to sleep in the same house as him, likely even in the same bed. You might have to cook his dinner and wash his clothes. It sounds like a nightmare, but for Fakhara Karim, this was reality.

During Karim's marriage to Mustafa Bashir, he carried out all those acts of violence on her and more. She finally escaped the relationship and reported the violence to the police but yesterday, despite pleading guilty to occasioning actual bodily harm, he was spared jail.

Instead, he was given an 18 month suspended sentence, told to attend a "building better relationships" course and pay £1,000 costs. He has also been banned from contacting his victim.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Richard Mansell QC noted that he was not convinced that Karim was a vulnerable person because she was intelligent and had a good network of friends. The comments have been widely criticised and for good reason.

The judge was required to take into account  the vulnerability of the victim when deciding the sentence, so he wasn't wrong to mention this. What was wrong was his conclusion that she was not vulnerable. All victims of domestic violence are.

No amount of education, wealth or anything else alters that fact. The very nature of the offence means a victim is vulnerable. Violence is carried out in their own home. It's likely to come off the back of weeks, months or years of emotional abuse. And it's unlikely to be a one off.  One of the first things a domestic violence counsellor tells a victim is that if he's done it once, there's a good chance he will do it again.

How could she not be vulnerable?

I don't know how much of a part the vulnerability question played in determining Bashir's sentence, but the comments made by the judge on this point are damaging nonetheless.

Victims of domestic abuse are often asked why they don't leave. Why they don't call the police or tell someone about the abuse? The answer is usually fear. Fear of what the abuser will do if she does. Fear of not being believed. And fear of the shame that still surrounds domestic violence.

That fear is so bad that on average a woman will have been assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police.

The sentence given to Bashir and the comments made by Judge Mansell yesterday risk making that worse. There is every chance that there are women out there who have been building up the courage to report their abuse to the police who will now no longer think it's worth it.

After all, if a man can beat his wife with a cricket bat and force her to drink bleach yet still avoid prison, it begs the question of just how badly women must be beaten before they can expect justice and have their attacker locked up.

Natalie Bloomer is a journalist for You can follow her on Twitter here.

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