Welcome to this week’s blog on domestic violence…
Today, when I walked by the newspaper stand, I was shocked to see a photo on the front cover of one of our celebrity sweethearts with her husband’s hand around her neck in a restaurant. There were more images inside the paper of her husband hurting her nose and then of her leaving the restaurant in tears. This has now fuelled a public debate about whether we, as the public, should intervene if we witness such behaviour from men. This blog is not about pointing the finger at all men because there are many wonderful, kind, gentle men who wouldn’t dream of hurting or intimidating a woman. (Men can also be victims of domestic violence). This blog is more about raising awareness of domestic violence towards women, who still experience a wide range of abuse even though we live in this assumed new age of gender equality. Domestic violence is about power and control and helps to perpetuate gender imbalance. It is only in the last fifty years that women have received a more valued status alongside their male counterparts and on many levels have achieved success in lots of areas including high profile celebrity status for their work. However, this does not make a woman exempt from domestic violence as it affects women from all walks of life.
Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence isn’t just about getting hit or hurt but includes, often, long term emotional and psychological abuse. The new government definition is as follows:
‘Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.’
Government Home Office 2013.
- One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime
- About two in five of all victims of domestic violence are men
- One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.
- On average, 35 assaults happen before the police are called
- 12% of under 11s, 18% of 11-17s and 24% of 18-24s have been exposed to domestic abuse between adults
Domestic violence also increases during pregnancy and according to Refuge:
- Over a third of domestic violence starts or gets worse when a woman is pregnant
- One midwife in five knows that at least one of her expectant mothers is a victim of domestic violence
- A further one in five midwives sees at least one woman a week who she suspects is a victim of domestic violence
Domestic violence during pregnancy puts a pregnant woman and her unborn child in danger. It increases the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth, low birth weight, foetal injury and foetal death (Refuge).
Relationships will often begin happily and then gradually a woman will be worn down by persistent comments, mild threats, control, paranoia, accusations, etc from her partner which will cause her self esteem to deteriorate. Sometimes behaviour can be so subtle that one can hardly detect it and will not necessarily lead to physical violence. Women can end up always trying to please people because they are afraid, on a deep level, to assert themselves in case they are told off, hurt or more covertly receive emotional disapproval. Emotional control is so common and yet it is a slippery slope and by the time a woman receives physical violence, she will have been experiencing emotional manipulation for some time. When she is physically hurt, she will assume it is her fault. That is why it is not so easy to ‘ just leave him?’ Her objectiveness will have diminished and instead fear and compliance will be dominant or she will have developed coping mechanisms for fear of harm or even the threat of death. If she does manage to leave an abusive partner, unless she starts to heal her self esteem, it can be easy, once again, to perpetuate the pattern of abusive relationships.
This is a very complex subject and it would take too long to analyse in a short blog but I think it is important to raise awareness of domestic abuse because it affects so many women and girls. Organisations such as Refuge and Women’s Aid offer fantastic information and support. So, coming back to the original question whether we have a social duty to intervene… the answer is YES. Violence or abuse towards women is a crime, full stop. Let us all work together to end this behaviour towards women once and for all and help women who have experienced domestic violence to rebuild their lives.
Love and gentleness,