Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Domestic abuse.

Headline news today is that the Government is setting up plans for school lessons to tackle domestic abuse. Surely this is all right and good, isn't it?

Well, no. Firstly, domestic abuse is just a small but personally significant part of a wider problem - violence in society generally, along with a disrespect for others. Cure the larger problem and you will cure much of the smaller problem.

Secondly, and in my opinion far more importantly, is the way this has been aimed. You have to dig deep in the BBC article, but the BBC Breakfast News trails it more - girls are to be taught about what to do about domestic violence, whilst boys are going to be taught not to do it.

Hang on. That presupposes one thing: That men are the abusers and girls the victims. Unfortunately that is not the case. Men get abused as well, and this whole scheme appears to ignore that fact. True, the numbers of abused men may be smaller (around a quarter - see below), and the types of abuse may differ, but it should not be ignored.

Apparently the Government's focus on helping women and children is because 'women disproportionately become the victims of crimes because they are women.' This is detailed in an article on the BBC news website. Yet look at the figures: there are 106 deaths a year caused by current or former partners, and 72 of these victims are women. There are many things wrong with drawing conclusions from such figures:
  1. The most obvious problem: How many victims were men?
  2. How many were in LGBT relationships? (i.e. people in same-sex relationships killing their partners)?
  3. It assumes you can base policy on the number of deaths. The vast majority of domestic abuse does not lead to death, and surely it would be best to focus on figures for the entire problem, not the small subset of deaths.
  4. 72 out of 106 is not an overwhelming majority.
As evidence goes, it is not strong. Besides, if the assumption can be made that 34 men were killed, 72 compared to 34 is not overwhelming. Basically, and this is sickening, the Government and the media are saying that murdered men can be ignored.

Take this quote:
Lisa King, director of communications at Refuge, welcomed the government's plans but said there was an "urgent need" for services for abused women and children.
True, she speaks for Refuge, a charity for women and children who suffer abuse. Yet is there an 'urgent need' for services for abused men? Apparently not.

Go to the Refuge website, and go to the 'Useful links' section, then click on 'support for men'. It takes you here, i.e. to links for male perpetrator programmes. Say I was a man who was being abused, and in desperation I went to Refuge's website as they are the most famous anti-abuse organisation. I see that they deal with women and children; fair enough. I then think that they *must* link to similar men's organisations, and I go to the links, and I find... that they assume I am a perpetrator. Thanks alot.

Likewise, go to the left pane and click on 'Help for men' under the 'Get Help now' menu. What happens? Two links come up, the first of which is 'I am an abuser'. Fortunately they have changed the webpage that appears so that help for abused men appears at the top. Strangely enough, there does not seem to be a link for 'I am an abuser' for women.

Additionally, they spend more time talking about pets than men. Is Refuge guilty of misandry?

And it is not just Refuge. As I have mentioned before, the Home Office's leaflet on domestic violence is written in such a way that it assumes that women are the victims. For instance:
If you think a friend or loved one is being abused, try telling her that you're concerned, say why you're worried and ask if she wants to talk to you about it. Let her know you want to help.
How can this be right?

Additionally, from the Home Office's PDF, the National Domestic Violence Helpline is run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge. How will abused men will be adequately represented by either of those organisations? There is an advice line for men (the men's advice line), but only 37% of the calls to the line get answered, as it is only open for 18 hours a week! They are going to open it 30 hours a week soon, but that is still not good enough, A National Domestic Violence Helpline should be available for both men and women. If you are going to seperate it, have a 'women's advice line' and a 'men's advice line', and call them such.

Some figures can be seen on the dewar4research website, taken from Home Office figures. According to this, around 25% of all abuse occurs to men. This means that a quarter of the crime is being ignored by the media and the Government.

And this matters; this really matters. It is symptomatic of the way that the Government and media are putting their fingers in their ears and labelling men as 'abusers' and women as 'victims'; convenient labelling that does neither side any good.

Perversely, another headline today is that Jane Andrews, a woman who killed her boyfriend because he would not marry her, has been recaptured after escaping from jail. She fatally beat and stabbed her boyfriend to death. Was that domestic abuse? Of course it was. Positive proof that women can abuse.

I am not calling for equal funds for domestic violence against men and women - that is perverse. I am not even calling for equal accessibility for men and women - although that may be nice. What I want is for the media and Government to admit and understand that both sexes can be victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. Only then can we start tackling the problems.

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