The prevalence of domestic abuse will never be fully known because most incidents are not reported. What tends to be officially recorded are the most serious cases: the deaths, or assaults that lead to hospitalisation. Even these are rarely deemed newsworthy. They happen, people shrug and try not to get involved. There is discomfort in asking about what goes on in the privacy of a family home. The most common response seems to be, if the situation is so bad then why does the victim not leave? The causes are rarely addressed.
It is the causes that interest me. The everyday sexism project has highlighted how so many in society view women. I doubt that any woman has been shocked by the contributions as most have lived with these attitudes for their entire lives. The benefit for me has been to see that I am not alone and to recognise that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable. I have sons. I do not wish them to grow up treating women as objects that exist for their delectation.
Another common responses when abuse of women is raised is, it also happens to men. When this is pointed out the implication is that what happens to men matters.
Statistics show that more men get murdered and beaten each year than women and the majority of these incidents are also not deemed newsworthy. However, it is my understanding that the majority of these assaults involve men attacking men. This is worth discussing but is not the issue that I am trying to explore.
Domestic abuse happens in the home, a place that should offer sanctuary. The perpetrators are family members who should be trusted to provide support. There is a spectrum of abuse, from constant verbal put downs to occasional assaults to significant violence and murder. It can happen to men but most victims of the domestic abuse cases reported are women.
In some countries and cultures this is seen as acceptable. In law, the husband is the head of the household and the women must do as they are told. Wife beating is seen as a method of control, frowned upon perhaps but rarely punished. In this country we are supposed to have moved on from such an attitude yet still too many men expect women to fulfil an approved role and will seek to punish them in some way if they do not conform.
I want to talk about women. I want to talk about how society treats women, what they are expected to put up with and how they are blamed if they become victims.
“She used to be a real looker, let herself go since the kids were born.”
“She should be grateful he provides so well for her and the kids.”
“Her house is a mess, what does she do all day?”
“I don’t blame him, she has a go at him every time he stops off for a few beers with the lads.”
“She was giving that one the eye, no wonder he flipped.”
Women are not possessions, not servants, not inferior. It is never acceptable to beat women into submission either verbally or physically when they do not conform to a societal ideal.
I have always been drawn to the intelligent which has resulted in me spending my life struggling to keep up with their wit and wisdom. There are times when I open a discussion but am incapable of doing justice to a topic that deserves a sound hearing, incapable of succinctly stating a case that would swing the debate. My inability to impress with clear and well reasoned discourse does not invalidate the point I am trying to make yet men dismiss it as female fuss and foolishness. I wonder would they treat a male friend with such obvious disdain?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”
Domestic abuse will continue until something is done to stop it. The recent killing of Reeva Steenkamp is a case in point. It is not a shame that a talented sportsman has risked his career, it is a shame that a women has been killed at home by her boyfriend. It is shameful that the world seems more interested in one celebrity’s rehabilitation than in considering why he and many others like him feel free to act in this way.
Yes, men have a right to expect the laws of the land to offer them protection from violent attack. So do women.
(Note: I reworked the original version of this opinion piece and submitted it to ReadWave where it made the front page. This is the reworked version)
I’ve sorry to say that I’ve known someone who remains a victim of domestic abuse and, from what she used to tell me, physical violence was a regular occurrence as well. Perhaps the most tragic thing is witnessing how one man can wear someone down in to complete submission. Through aggression and control, he’s unleashed a fear that has altered her perceptions. I have never doubted that she wants to be helped and she has known, for the past 2 years, that I have always been here… But she needs to take that first step. It’s one that no-one else can make for her. Plenty of help is available, from both the police and many charity organisations. But, as outsiders or friends, it’s unfortunately not a choice that we can make.
I was disgusted to read about Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi several months ago now. We may never known the complete truth, as the media will spin what they like (this is why I don’t read newspapers) but after revelations of Lawson’s suffering, they seemed to quickly shift everything in favour of Saatchi, even becoming critical of his wife.
That first step is terrifying. How to move from submission to control, even if only of oneself, when it has been drummed in how much the other gives, despite the abuse. Unfortunately there are too many who, unlike you, are not willing to encourage those brave and tentative first steps that a victim may try to take, and thereby end up complicit in knocking them back.