Domestic Violence: Not a battle of the sexes

Courtesy of http://www.care2.com/

Earlier tonight on Twitter I was involved in a short discussion, as you may have seen on my timeline on the blog or from your normal twitter stream, about domestic violence. Its one of those topics that demands care and attention when approaching the subject.

My views on the political, cultural and social have always positioned me with a desire to write on the subject but I’ve never felt comfortable about finding the right words to approach the subject or to express myself with enough sensitivity to all sides.

Women’s Aid’s views “domestic violence is physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and that forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. This can include forced marriage and so-called ‘honour crimes’. Domestic violence  may include a range of abusive behaviours, not all of which are in themselves inherently ‘violent’.

It has shocked me to find that more than 40% of domestic violence victims are men, courtesy of Denis Campbell writing for The Guardian in 2010,  and that there are 7,500 refuge centres for women and only 60 for men. The article puts forward that:

“Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09.”

The men’s rights campaign group Parity produced a report, Domestic Violence: The Male Perspective, and states: “Domestic violence is often seen as a female victim/male perpetrator problem, but the evidence demonstrates that this is a false picture.” So why is it that when discussing the subject in society that it comes down to gender rather than victim and abuser?

From my own experience of listening to debates on the subject whereby a viewpoint is expressed, in acknowledgement of the issue being more than just a woman’s issue, it is then followed by an individual who readily interjects to remind debaters of the statistics that solely affect women. As if it was a competition. That our care and compassion can only go out to one gender.

With the social progress in our society today has more widespread acceptance for the wide variety of the relationship combinations of genders and preferences. Hollyoaks, the teen soap on Channel 4, recently has had a rolling storyline with Steve and Brendan involved in a relationship that has been fraught with power, violence and control dynamics. This I think shows that both the subject is on the consciousness of our society and that it is not what society thinks it is. Its important that we as a society do more though.

Feminism is actively trying to fight for a fairer society where women are equal to their counterparts. Equally paid, equally represented in parliament, and equally successful and its right that it does but I am left wondering on the use of language in addressing female victims and the dialogue that we as a society engage in because it seems to me, at times, we play women as a weaker sex that has less ability to prevent domestic violence coming from their partner. And I don’t think that’s right. The quote from Women’s Aid earlier in this blog highlighted the psychological aspects of inflicting abuse onto a partner and with that ability.

The Home Office’s “This is Abuse TV advert”, shown below, published in February 2010 adopts the same language and dialogue to address the subject of domestic abuse. Take a look:

This video has focused on a young couple with the male pressuring the female for sex, using psychological tactics to influence her decision, and using force to make sure that she capitulates with his demands. All of the videos produced on the ‘This is Abuse’ YouTube account focus on the male aggressor – female victim dynamic.

Regardless of gender, social class, age, or any other categories or labels you may attribute to a person the fact remains that crime involves a victim and those who inflict the crime on them. The knock on effect is that tackling the problem of Domestic Violence is not as simple as man hit woman. We all need to recognise it and ensure that we support all who suffer.

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