As October draws to a close and yet another month of (promoted) ‘awareness’ comes to an end, are we really any further down the line of eradicating domestic violence?
One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute and on average, 2 women per week are killed by a current or former male partner. You may also be aware that “1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime” (source womensaid.org.uk) but how often do you hear; “about 2 in 5 of all domestic victims are men” (guardian.co.uk)? If nothing else, the latter statistic should help to contradict the widespread and common misconception that; it’s always women who are the battered and bruised victims of domestic violence…
As abhorrent as all these crimes undoubtedly are, domestic violence is not a new phenomenon. I have no desire to belittle the issue however; despite the fact our society appears to be getting more violent and there is a need to remedy the problem, perhaps the picture isn’t actually as it’s painted? In my opinion, although based upon mostly anecdotal evidence, it’s possible that domestic violence is no bigger an issue than it has always been? We just know more about it now than we have in the past. It is more widely recorded by police, reported in the press and talked about by the public in general conversation. In short, domestic violence is no longer the clandestine and mostly secret act it once was.
That has to be a good thing however; we must always be mindful that much of the ‘talk’ is by people who have little or no experience or knowledge about the issue. In addition, statistics are often published in a particular manner and then manipulated to highlight and evidence particular issues or simply, further the prominence (and funding) of a group or organisation. And all this before we even start to consider any political agenda of the situation.
October is/was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so it’s hardly surprising the media were quick to join the fray and fly their flag of (mostly) emotive and sensational hype. The government is now talking about the issues (but probably doing little else, unless there’s some political mileage to be gained of course). I suppose as they’ve actually offered up the Domestic violence disclosure scheme for consultation, where people could gain information about a new partner’s domestic violence history (see here), we should see that as progress.
Whilst on the subject of media input to the subject; have you ever noticed how, in this supposed age of multi-agency ‘partnership’ working, it’s often the police who appear to carry much of the blame when something goes wrong? The more sickening the circumstances, the greater media fuelled public condemnation of the police when things go wrong. Are the police the only ones responsible or simply, the easiest ones to attack?
I neither condone nor wish to protect any individual lacking in their responsibility and duty of care however; given the number of agencies and people involved in trying to resolve any case of domestic violence, is it fair to continually single out the police as a scapegoat for failures? How long are we expected to soak up the ‘woman ignored by police dies at hands of partner’ headlines, get angry for a moment, then do little else?
I want people not to be ashamed about talking about domestic violence if it is happening to them, and not to be silent when they fear it may be happening to a person about whom they care. This is our chance to change the culture in which violence is accepted and I want to hear the male voice right alongside those of good women and children. (Baroness Scotland QC, Attorney General – March 2010)
Something in the region of 100 women (AND some men) are killed each year by an abusive partner. The domestic violence charity Refuge puts this down to ‘an institutional failure by police’ to take the crime seriously enough. “Unlike other crimes, domestic violence is predictable and preventable,” said Sandra Horley, the chief executive of Refuge.
Despite several government reviews, a report two years ago by the Association of Chief Police Officers and repeated inquiries by the IPCC into failures by forces across the country, the number of cases in which women are killed following repeated contact with police about domestic violence shows no sign of falling… (guardian.co.uk)
Back to ‘blame the police’ again and then quickly move on, but why? If the problem of domestic violence is indeed “predictable and preventable” why aren’t we doing just that? As with most social issues, irrespective of the rights and wrongs or the ‘victims’ involved, the reasons for failure are often simply ones of a financial and/or political nature… Is the issue important enough and if so, assuming we can find the funds, can we justify the expenditure politically?
In short people (of both genders) are still being severely injured and/or killed each year… The actual number is probably no greater than it was before… Previously one of the main causation factors was a drunken husband coming home and bashing his wife but today, the total number is now also (partly) the result of financial competition within statutory agencies and voluntary organisations, along with all the political considerations!
- Looking At the Bigger Picture (timesunion.com)
- Father of woman murdered by ex-boyfriend calls for ‘Sarah’s Law’ for domestic violence victims (menmedia.co.uk)