In Kinghorn, Scotland, a Magistrate called George MacKay fined a husband for hitting his wife in the face a small sum telling the husband “it is a well known fact that you can strike your wife’s bottom if you wish, but you must not strike her on the face”. When did this happen do you suppose, the 18th or 19th Century perhaps or even at a stretch the early 20th Century? Actually 1975, the same year that Susan Brownmiller wrote her classic “Against Our Will: Men Women and Rape”. In that year, females were forming organisations all over the British Isles and in Ireland to campaign for what was referred to, often derogatorily, as Women’s Lib and perhaps more seriously, The Feminist Movement. In that year also the December issue of Vogue magazine carried a fashion layout depicting a couple alternately fighting and caressing. One photo in the fashion spread shows the female with her face twisted in pain after the male model hits her. The caption merely notes that her jumpsuit could “really take the heat”. And while Susan Brownmiller and Diana E. Russell were writing serious works about violence against women and the women of Scotland England and Wales, not to mention Ireland , were organising themselves to fight the good fight, Brazil got around to passing a penal code which prohibited husbands from selling, renting or gambling away their wives. However, lest you think that Brazil was one thing and America and the British Isles quite another, think again, remember Magistrate MacKay and note too that in Italy after seven years of debate the government finally passed a law doing away with the ancient Roman concept of patris potestas which vested sole authority in the father. Wife beating was finally abolished…well in statute anyway, if not in fact, or at all…. Aargh you say that was thirty nine nearly forty years ago! The world has completely changed since then, technology, education, travel etc – the global village, all different. Really? Lets have a look at that, shall we?
Before we start, it might be a good idea to define what we mean by domestic violence. The terms Domestic Violence and Domestic Abuse are used interchangeably and that can often be confusing. Domestic violence seems to be confined to actual physical abuse, slaps, pushes, hitting, and beating whereas abuse embraces emotional abuse, ie put downs, insults, humiliations and vindictive or malicious behaviour, threats as well as financial abuse, ie deliberately preventing a partner from access to finances and using finances as a means of control. Domestic abuse which is also called spousal abuse occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate or control the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence and as it turns out it is fairly typical for an abuser to be violent perhaps not all the time but often on a few occasions to enforce the message of “Who is the Boss” so to speak. After that it is often not necessary to do anything and all the abuser has to do is look at the victim and the victim is terrorised senseless. The World Health Organisation defines physical violence as being slapped, punched, choked or being attacked with a weapon. Personally, I think violence is broader than that and am inclined to the broader term of domestic abuse with the sub heading of domestic violence knowing that truly, all of the above behaviours are essentially violent though some more extreme than others. Did you notice the word “slapped” in that definition and the word “choked”? Wasn’t Mr Saatchi photographed with his hand around his wife’s throat recently choking her which Mr Saatchi (PR Expert, art dealer and multi millionaire) talked down saying it was simply a playful tiff despite the fact that Ms Lawson(Chef, Author, TV Star) looks quite terrified in the photograph and not having a good time at all! And did not Denis Waterman(Actor), who after years of ensuring that his ex wife, Rula (Actor), was pilloried as a liar, finally admitted that there was violence in his marriage to Rula, state “She certainly wasn’t a beaten wife, she was hit, and that’s different”. Not according to the World Health Organistion it is not, Mr Waterman! That was in 2012! In his memoir in 1999 Ike Turner (Musician and Singer) seems to have been similarly confused when he says referring to Tina Turner(Pop Star), his ex-wife “….There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I have never beat her…”. And Sean Connery, (mega Film Star and idol of millions) in an interview in 1965 for Playboy said “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman – although I don’t recommend doing it the same way that you’d hit a man. An open handed slap is justified – if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning. If a woman is a bitch, hysterical and bloody minded continually, then I’d do it. I think a man has to be slightly advanced, a head of the woman”. Asked by Barbara Walters in an interview December 29th 2006, which you will find easily on You Tube, to say if he has changed his views some 40 years later, he, clearly irritated by having this matter raised again, resoundingly states that he has not changed his opinion. Interestingly, Mr Connery also mentions the need to have the “last word” something echoed by Mr Waterman, however, Mr Connery says that even when you give the woman the last word and she still wants to bring the matter up then you are justified in ending the discussion with a slap. Magistrate McKay is clearly alive and well! http://youtu.be/oo0d1zTAFKA
The list of female celebrities who have spoken publicly about domestic abuse is long. The list of celebrities who have suffered domestic abuse is also long as is the list of alleged, convicted and rumoured perpetrators of domestic violence. Clearly not all stars who get involved in domestic violence campaigns have suffered domestic violence but many have. It is heartening to note that many well known celebrity men have also become involved in campaigning against domestic violence. Men such as Daniel Craig who, rather ironically given Mr Connery’s views, is the new face of James Bond. Ian Somerholder who lent public support to the Women’s Aid Real Man Campaign in 2011 is on record as saying “Men have an important role to play in sending the message that real men do not hurt or abuse their partners”.
The celebrity world may often not offer much in useful instruction but one thing it does teach us is that domestic abuse is not limited to a Roddy Doyle novel. Domestic abuse is not confined to the poor or the uneducated. Ms Lawson may have remained mostly silent save for her testimony in the court case against the Grillo Sisters (December 2013), however, Carol Sarlen (21st of June, 2013) writing in the Mail Online states “Saatchi is indeed a volatile and physical man. Always has been. Back in the days when he began to make millions in advertising, there were tales of him hurling items of furniture around the office like so many missiles, the better to ease any fleeting frustration”. Picture the terrified office staff! Of course, Charles Saatchi and Denis Waterman are advanced in years and so we might think that things are different now with the younger generations. Not so, there was the famous or infamous dust up between Rihanna (Singer)and Chris Brown(Singer) in the course of which she was so badly beaten she had to cancel concerts. Halle Berry(Film Star) having witnessed and been a victim of violence against her mother, became involved in fundraising and support for a refuge in Los Angeles only to find herself also the victim of such violence in her own personal life. She has stated in interviews that she lost 80% of her hearing in one ear as a result of a boyfriend beating. Charlize Theron (Film Star) had an alcoholic father who was abusive and when she was 15 her mother shot and killed her father in self defence. She is now a celebrity campaigner against violence . Reese Whiterspoon, Oprah Winfrey (abused as a child) Nicole Kidman, Annie Lennox and many more are all tireless campaigners on behalf of women and particularly in the area of domestic abuse and violence. Nicole Kidman is the face of the online campaign “Say No to Violence”. Patrick Stewart (Actor, TV Star, Film Star and Campaigner) was also victimised as a child by witnessing domestic violence perpetrated by his father on his mother. He has spoken movingly about it in many interviews and now devotes considerable time to fundraising and consciousness raising around the issue as do many of the celebrity victims of domestic violence. http://youtu.be/SPzVUGE3dds
Just as the problem of domestic violence is not confined to a particular class, there is no particular type of person that is more likely to be a victim than another. The idea of a certain type of person being more likely to experience violence than another was prevalent in some of the writings around the Lawson and Saatchi situation. Nigella Lawson we were told was no “dormouse” presumably, since dormice usually get trodden upon and are seen as meek. Interestingly, it was often the advice of pastors and priests to women whose husbands beat them that if they were more submissive and meek it might not occur! Nigella was not that type of person so, therefore, she could not have experienced domestic abuse and violence the commentator suggests. However, this contrasts with Denis Waterman’s statement that Rula was very intelligent and sometimes the only way he could win an argument was with his fists! So Rula was intelligent and her own woman and she had to be “hit” to show her who was boss. Nigella is described as “affable, quietly ambitious and wholly able to stand on her own two feet” as if this description should somehow make her immune!
Domestic Violence is all about control. It is not about alcohol and it is not about substance abuse. It is not about inherently violent people or the uneducated poor and it is not confined to those who witnessed violence themselves. Alcohol and drugs may fuel domestic abuse and violence but they do not cause it. Domestic Violence is not confined to a particular type of man or woman, class background, country or profile. Domestic Violence is simply all about control. This cannot be said often enough! Many people who drink alcohol do not abuse or become violent. Many people who are uneducated and poor or either are not violent and many people who have witnessed violence in their own lives do not become violent. Violence and abuse are choices that people make. In his defence, Denis Waterman has said about his “hitting” as opposed to “beating” that “Its not difficult for a woman to make a man it her”. Sean Connery seems to believe much the same, justifying slapping a woman who is “being provocative”. Notice how both men are careful to use the term “slap” and occasionally “hit” as opposed to “beat” thus seeking to minimise the act. Chief Executive, Sandra Horley of Refuge says “ No one can make their partner hit them. However angry or frustrated Denis Waterman felt he could have chosen to deal with those feelings another way, he chose violence. He alone is responsible for his behaviour”. When Charles Saatchi desperately scrambled around to regain credibility and respect in the aftermath of the famous photo in Scotts Restaurant and lost the PR battle hopelessly he, in a determined effort to” take back some control” (Emma Barnett, The Telegraph, 10th July 2013) of his situation and failed marriage, publicly announced his intention to divorce without telling his wife, Nigella, first. Control is the key word but also note the malicious and vicious nature behind making a public announcement in this context without telling your wife first. And this from a man who, according to himself, was and is not abusive! When Denis Waterman speaks about hitting Rula he says that because she was very intelligent and knew how to conduct herself in an argument, it was often the only response he could make i.e., to shut her up with a slap! He was not drunk or in a violent rage, he was not taking drugs rather he made a choice, a decision to put an end to the arguments where he was not acquitting himself satisfactorily by lashing out with his fists. In an interview with the Daily Mail and which can be read on the Mail Online, Diane Cilento (Film Star) who married Sean Connery (Film Star) in 1962 chillingly described an alleged violent episode in her marriage in an interview given in her later life after 40 years of silence. It is a description of an alleged violent episode in their marriage which is entirely at odds with Sean Connery’s description of” acceptable violent behaviour” even allowing for the ludicrousness of such an idea. She describes how, when they married, Sean made it clear that he wanted a wife who would follow him and his career and not the other way around. Thus far so good as Sean himself seems to have held such views generally as summed up in the quote above from the 1965 interview where he says “a man has to be slightly advanced, ahead of the woman”. At the time of the marriage Diane was more famous than he. They were on the set of Sean’s film at the time of the alleged incident and cast and crew attended a wedding in the local hotel where many if not all were staying. Diane it seems was dancing and having fun and she noticed that Sean was standing on the sidelines watching her and glowering. Eventually he left, presumably to go upstairs to their room. She excused herself after some time and followed him and when she walked into the dark room she received a blow on one side of her head and then on the other. After one such blow she was unconscious for a few minutes but when she revived the beating continued. This description of the beating she says she experienced, and it is decidedly a beating and not a slap that is being described here, is very much at odds with Sean Connery’s view of acceptable levels of violence. Eventually she says she managed to crawl into the bathroom where she remained for the night in pain. Sean, it seems went to bed and the next day the incident was not mentioned and it was never mentioned again. Forty years later, Diane, long since divorced from Sean, disclosed this incident in an interview. As described by Diane this was a calculated, malicious and cold blooded attack on someone undoubtedly physically weaker and probably much smaller as Sean is 6’2”. There is nothing passionate, heat of the moment, red hot or arising out of substance abuse about this attack. It is somehow made even more terrifyingly brutal and calculated by having taken place in the dark. Sean Connery has never admitted to this incident to my knowledge and as far as I am aware he has never denied it either but his views on violence against women are recorded. No doubt he would not accept that what he condones is violence against women but the World Health Organisation might beg to disagree. Equally shocking is the violence experienced by Madonna at the hands of Sean Penn. In July 1987 Madonna was in the Cedar’s Sinai hospital for an X ray after husband Sean hit her across the head with a baseball bat. She decided not to press charges because Sean was on parole (for violent behaviour towards a film extra and a fan) which he had violated and was due to serve a short sentence and she did not want to add to that. In December 1988, however, Sean scaled the wall of Madonna’s house in Malibu and climbed into her bedroom. Madonna announced that she was going to leave the house and he tried to stop her by attempting to bind her hands with an electric cord. Madonna ran from the room and he chased her. Catching her, he bound her to a chair and gagged her. He threatened to shave her head and was drinking alcohol, as he was talking, directly from a bottle. He slapped her and hurled abuse at her for 9 hours in addition to making her perform a “degrading sex act” on him. He then left the house to get more drink leaving her bound and gagged while he was gone for several hours. He returned and continued his attacks, ultimately, however, untying her. As soon as she was freed, she fled the house into her car where she phoned the Sheriff’s Office. While she was talking to the Sheriff, Sean who had followed her, could be heard banging on the windows of the car and shouting. Fifteen minutes later she staggered into the Sheriff’s office and filed a report. Sean Penn was charged with felony domestic assault a charge which he pleaded a misdemeanour. (Olivia Smith, New York Daily News). We might feel outrage that such levels of abuse could be pleaded to a misdemeanour however, we have to be grateful that such a charge was made and stuck and accordingly, we can write about this without having to say she alleges or it is alleged and simply state that it happened as does the acceptance of a caution by Mr Saatchi, however derisory in the circumstances, enable us to talk freely about this episode. Pamela Anderson (TV and Film Star) is also on record as accusing her ex husband Tommy Lee of beating her. He spent 6 months in jail. http://youtu.be/lNJjEZoRKqM
It is commonplace for perpetrators of abuse and violence to blame the victim even while ostensibly “owning up”. Seldom does the abuser take responsibility for their actions. Precedent shows that men caught in the act of domestic violence tend to make themselves feel better about the situation claiming that their woman also lashes out. Perhaps she does, but I bet it is mostly in self defence and given her likely physical stature and that of her partner not to mention musculature, I doubt she gets the “final blow” even when she has the “final word” graciously conceded by Sean Connery prior to the slap if she does not shut up at that point. Victim blaming was very much in evidence in the manner in which Charles Saatchi justified his behaviour after the event by trying to put himself and Nigella Lawson into the one basket, describing them both as passionate and tempestuous people. He also tried to minimise the fact that he was caught on camera holding her around the throat clearly choking her saying he was trying to make a point in their argument and furthermore, when he tweeked her nose it was to remove a piece of snot from it. Quite apart from the disgusting and disrespectful idea that he would remove snot from his wife’s nose in a public restaurant in the way a harried parent might a small child, it is clear that he is also trying to minimise and trivialise the incident. Sandra Horley CE of Refuge says “Women are four times as likely to experience serious, life threatening violence from a partner such as choking. Last year almost half of the women supported by Refuge had been strangled or choked by their violent partner”. Sad to say Charles Saatchi fits into a well worn pattern. In her evidence to the court in the case taken against the Grillo sisters, Nigella Lawson in her testimony finally breaking some of her silence said that Mr Saatchi was a “very controlling” person prone to occasional foul-mouthed rages. Referring to the public choking incident she says the “Choking row had nothing to do with my alleged drug taking” which Saatchi claimed. She went on to say that he “told everyone that he was taking cocaine out of my nose” and that “what actually happened was that somebody walked by with a very cute baby in a stroller and I said ‘I am looking forward to having grand children and he grabbed me by the throat and said ‘I am the only person you should be concerned with…. I am the only person who should be giving you pleasure’. Again we have the familiar patterns of jealousy and possessiveness.
Domestic violence is rooted in patriarchal attitudes which are as old as recorded time. Such attitudes encourage men to believe they are entitled to power and control over their partners. Many of the myths which surround domestic violence actively prevent the reality of the violence from being understood and indeed encourage violence. Such things as: blaming the victim, tolerating or condoning the use of violence, Relatives. friends and government agencies putting the idea of a family staying together before the safety of women and children, privileging men’s needs over women and children’s needs, and treating domestic violence as a private matter instead of the public crime that it is, all serve to ensure that domestic violence is not seen as a scourge and dealt with accordingly by the powers that be. Domestic violence is learned, intentional, behaviour rather than a consequence of stress, individual pathology, substance use or a dysfunctional relationship. Violent men typically justify or ignore their behaviour by: 1. Minimising the violence saying it was “just a slap” or “isn’t that bad” – hello Messrs Waterman and Turner. 2. Justifying the behaviour to themselves and blaming the victim – greetings to Messrs Waterman and Saatchi and 3. Denying the violence happened or refusing to talk about it and expecting the victim to just “move on” – Mr Connery’s alleged approach.
It is often said that women who marry violent men in some way welcome the violence or want it. This was stated about Doris Day (Film Star and Singer) who suffered horrific abuse at the hands of Al Jordan also a musician. Al first put his eye on Doris when she was 16 and he was 23 and despite her initial reluctance and her mother’s clear opposition, she eventually married him. The day after their wedding when Doris was 17 years old, Jordan saw Doris giving a fellow musician a kiss on the cheek to thank him for a wedding gift. He dragged her out of the theatre and through the street, then up the stairs to their hotel room where he beat her senseless. And, of course, it did not end there and most especially when she became pregnant the violence escalated considerably. Doris wrongly assumed that her husband would be pleased when she announced her pregnancy which despite the clear abuse she was suffering, she was happy about. He was not at all pleased and immediately made an appointment with a back street abortionist. Doris’s mother, Alma, was horrified when she heard this and told Al that if the abortion went ahead she would have him killed. Jordan then decided that the child was not his and beat Doris so badly she nearly had a miscarriage. Four weeks before the baby was due, Jordan bought himself a gun and stashed it in the glove compartment of the car. His plan was to kill Doris and the baby and then blow his brains out. Shortly thereafter he pulled the car into a layby and pushed the nozzle of the gun into Doris’s stomach. Somehow she managed to talk him out of it and instead he beat her when they got home. For the rest of her life Doris had a horror of travelling in the front of a car. Finally, Doris had enough and arranged with her mother, Alma, to escape Jordan. Alma got them a house big enough for the two women and forthcoming baby. Doris went into labour and produced a boy, Terry. Of course, Jordan then begged forgiveness and asked to be let back. Doris gave him another chance. Abuse followed . Jordan would arrive home drunk and burst into Alma’s room and proceed to rattle the bars of the child’s cot. Having woken him he would then bellow at the terrified child who would scream the place down. After this happened twice, Doris changed the locks on the door and filed for divorce. Again, this is another pattern that is quite familiar, escalated violence during a woman’s pregnancy.
Women do not seek out relationships with violent men. Frequently, men who will become violent do not reveal this aspect of their behaviour until the relationship has become well established ….and often not until after or during the first pregnancy. In an article written by David Bret for the Mail Online, he writes that Doris Day “by all accounts enjoyed a sex life where passion constantly merged into violence”. He also quotes unnamed associates of Doris who say that she “wore her bruises with pride”. He implicitly and explicitly criticises Doris for not leaving Jordan and says that she had poor taste and judgement when it came to men. This is classic victim blaming stuff as well as suggesting that Doris somehow liked the abuse and that she found it sexually stimulating. Doris was 17 when she married Jordan – what does a 17 year old know about life? David Bret however, seems to think she was no innocent and he states this and cites the fact that her father had multiple affairs as his reasoning. The fact that her father had multiple affairs might have made Doris more susceptible than worldly wise. The suggestion that Doris liked the beatings she got is almost too much to bear. Who would like having their unborn child not to mention themselves threatened with a gun, being publicly and privately slapped, kicked, constant abuse as well as constant beatings. When Doris had her baby she was only 18. In common with most young women, Doris wanted to have a family and she wanted her child to have a father. In Doris’s case these feelings were probably more pronounced as result of seeing and hearing her father conducting his various affairs and then her father and mother separating. In saying that Doris had poor judgement when it came to men, Bret implies that Doris could somehow have controlled or prevented what happened and that she was somehow responsible for it. In other words, David Bret is blaming her. It is one thing for abusers to seek to shift blame but quite another for a so called analyst writing about it. With this sort of commentary, is it any wonder that domestic violence is on the rise rather than on the wane.
Abusers use fear, guilt, shame and intimidation to wear their partner down. Abusers do not play fair. Domestic abuse frequently escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. The most telling sign of an abusive relationship is fear of the partner. Emotional abuse, as described above, chips away at the victim’s feelings of self worth and independence making it harder and harder for her to assert herself, look for help or leave the relationship. Examples of the manner in which abusers can control by using fear, guilt, shame and intimidation are: 1. Dominating the relationship. Needing to feel in charge. They will make all the decisions and expect their partner to comply. To give a specific example which is far more commonplace than you would think, controlling the finances and making all the decisions about what to buy, when and where often down to the clothes that the partner wears. Not only will the financially controlling man decide what is to be bought, he will often with hold money as a means of control. I tend to call women in this situation the “ fur coat poor” because this behaviour seems to be a speciality of professional and middle class men. 2. Humiliation: This is a stock in trade. Subtle put downs, insults designed to make the victim feel bad about herself and that she is defective in some way. Women who believe they are worthless are less likely to leave. Name calling and public putdowns are all weapons of abuse. A woman will be criticised because she is too fat and/or too thin, ridiculed for the clothes she wears, told she is stupid and lacking in any originality or cleverness, adversely compared to other men’s wives or her own friends, sisters and so forth. In public, if she has the temerity to express an opinion that is not his or to disagree with him, her way of expressing it may be ridiculed or the opinion itself viewed as derisory and so on. 3. Isolation: Again this is quite commonplace. The abuser will cut the victim off from the world gradually. Eventually the victim will have to ask permission to go anywhere or see anyone for fear of the consequences if she does not. Nigella Lawson in her testimony states that on one occasion she was ”punished” for attending a girlfriend’s birthday celebration. “I don’t mean that I was beaten…emotional abuse doesn’t have scars but it is still very wounding”. She further went onto say that her marriage was like being subjected to a form of “intimate terrorism”. Sandra Horley CE of UK Organisation, Refuge says “Abused women are typically very isolated women, abusive men are possessive and jealous.” 4. Intimidation: This generally takes the form of looks and gestures however, smashing ornaments or other items in front of the victim is also a favourite as is destroying property, harming pets or putting weapons on display. 5. Denial and Blame: Violent men are very good at making excuses for their behaviour. They frequently shift responsibility onto the victim and/or minimise the abuse. http://youtu.be/rp0h2fvQKDE
Just as fear of a partner is often a sign of domestic abuse so too, in my opinion, is unreasonable jealousy. In my experience as a family lawyer this is a hall mark trait. John Lennon (Singer, Musician and Songwriter), also a self confessed wife and girlfriend abuser, was given to jealous rages some of which ended in violence against both of his wives and probably other women as well. He insisted, for example, that Yoko accompany him everywhere including the men’s toilet. Yoko Ono said in interview that she believed that he felt she might, even in the few minutes he was in the toilet, take up with someone else if she was not with him. Cynthia Lennon has claimed that she suffered violence at the hands of John Lennon during their marriage (and his general admission of violence in his Playboy interview would seem to confirm that) and she certainly suffered cruelty. In common with Charles Saatchi, John seems to have ended his marriage in an unnecessarily brutal and callous manner. Apparently Cynthia came home from a holiday in Greece to find Yoko and John sitting on her sitting room floor in matching bathrobes. After what is known in the trade as a “pregnant pause” he looked up and said “Oh….hi” and thus Cynthia found out her marriage was over. Sean Connery it seems was also decidedly jealous and used that jealousy as a licence to beat, at least accordingly to his ex wife!
Once again, abusive behaviour is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control. Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse and carefully choose when and where to abuse. Abusers are able to stop abusive behaviour when it benefits them. Note the number of abusers who do not abuse others in their lives, just their partners or wives. In addition, violent abusers usually direct blows where it will not show, again demonstrating calculation and forethought.
It is often assumed that men who abuse women do not abuse their children but the evidence for this assumption does not stand up to scrutiny. In the examples we have taken here, it is clear that Al Jordan, Doris Day’s husband not only made it clear that he did not want his son but he also directly tormented the child in a highly abusive manner. John Lennon appears to have treated Julian in an emotionally abusive manner, neglecting him, keeping him and his mother disgracefully short of money when he was earning millions and on the odd occasion when he did see Julian, frequently resorting to shouting abuse and put downs at him. Studies have shown that men who batter their wives also abuse their children in 70% of cases. And that is quite apart from the abuse perpetrated on the psyche of a small child who witnesses a loved one being victimised in this manner.
I am well aware in writing this essay that it will be criticised for speaking exclusively about male violence towards females and not treating female violence towards men. I am not naïve enough to think that women do not have the capacity for violence and I know that they can be emotionally abusive.
However, the vast majority of the victims of domestic violence are women and children. Women are considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of violence and sexual abuse. Over 30 years of data and research has confirmed that men are generally the perpetrators of domestic violence and that women are generally the victims. Irish and worldwide research – as well as data from hospitals and police stations all over the world – reveal a consistent pattern of violence in intimate relationships where men are the perpetrators 90% of the time. In 2007 statistics published by the National Crime Council and ESRI Research identified 1 in 7 women compared to 1 in 17 men. However, I am not trivialising the emotional abuse that many men suffer nor the fact that undoubtedly, some men do encounter actual physical violence from their female partners. Any violence or abuse is to be condemned whether it is 1 in 17 or 1 in 7. The World Health Organisation calculates that nearly 40% of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner and that being assaulted by a partner is the most common form of violence experienced by women. 30% of women worldwide are affected by domestic violence or sexual violence by a partner. In parts of the world the number rises to 37% and higher. I wonder if David Bret’s criticism of Doris Day would apply if he was aware of these figures and if she had been born in the countries where the average was 37% would she still have been blamed for having poor judgement in the men she picked. It seems to me frankly, that it is a bit of a lottery who you draw or partner in life and those of us who are violence and abuse free might well content ourselves with the old saying “There but for the grace of God go I”. http://youtu.be/8dNrb5fe7kY
In the Journal.ie on February 16th, 2013 it was reported that in Ireland, domestic violence is not listed as a cause of homelessness which means that women struggle to get housing places even if their lives are seriously at risk. I am sure there are many compassionate officials who take domestic violence into account and very possibly there are guidelines for officials on this also but I have seen at first hand the effectiveness of guidelines for many agencies and I do not think that something so fundamental and important should rest with the discretion of officials. Domestic violence is not recorded within HSE protocols as a form of abuse. Both of these factors make it difficult to record the prevalence of domestic violence quite apart from the clear fact that they minimise the importance of this problem and furthermore these factors potentially add to the suffering of women and children. To add to this, domestic violence cases are held in camera (Latin term meaning held in private) and this means no reporting. In recent years the in camera rule applying to all family law cases has been relaxed a little and there has been some carefully guarded and monitored reporting. While I accept that the victims of domestic violence deserve their privacy it is still the case that without some systematic level of reporting there is no real public knowledge of the prevalence or degree of this problem.
Virtually all of the world’s societies view or have viewed women as less valuable than men. From honour killings of women for being raped or having premarital sex in some countries to selection of females for infanticide, abortion and abandonment at one end to being omitted for high office, as jurists, not given equal status as witnesses in legal cases, not accorded the same rights in employment, access to employment or to vote and often not given access to education or equal access to education. The view that women are somehow second class citizens encourages the mistreatment of women worldwide. Women are often looked at and indeed written about as if they were a species apart, i.e., incapable of the same feelings and without the same capacity for suffering, wayward and not very clever, fit for nothing only tending to men’s needs and so forth. Of course, all of this makes it easier to subjugate them and is the same sort of justification that is used to kill and maim, indigenous people down through the ages. Religions worldwide have tended over the centuries to place women in a role subservient to men. In the Christian religions the overall context was misogynist and patriarchal. Following on from that, in many Christian European countries legislation established women as chattels to be protected, chastised and controlled. The Christian Church advocated male dominance and wife beating was permitted in Canon Law. Woman was not made in God’s Image and therefore, it was natural for her to serve her husband. The husband is the head of the wife, the man’s head is Christ. I will not go into the other major religions as it would take too long but suffice to say that while the tone may be milder or stronger in some of them, it is all pretty much the same message.
I do not wish to classify women solely as victims or to lump them constantly with children. It is very difficult to write about this issue and not fall into that trap. There are nasty women, there are weak women, clever women, stupid women, beautiful and talented women and charitable generous and loving women. Women are not defined by any one trait or characteristic nor are victims always, nice loving people. Victims can also be nasty, spiteful people but they are still victims. We need to be careful not to wind up blaming the victim because she does not fit with our image of what a victim should be or look like or behave like. It is very important that condemnations of domestic violence and abuse do not come solely from women and women activists. Men need to speak out. In the last few years there have been systematic attempts to broaden the campaign against gender based violence by organising the 16 for 16 Campaign in 2011 where 16 celebrities join the campaign against domestic violence. At the launching of this it was stated “Men’s influence in the global push to stop gender-based violence cannot be underestimated and we strongly believe that men need to join forces with women to end violence against women”. Men need to see this evil for the slur on their masculinity that it is. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke). http://youtu.be/ElJxUVJ8blw
I do not know why men feel the need to exercise power and control over women by hitting slapping, beating and insulting them. I do know that it has nothing to do with Women’s Lib or Feminism as has occasionally been suggested and hinted at on the basis that men are confused about their role as men because of feminism, or confused about their gender identity and therefore they lash out. Hitting and beating women has gone on for centuries at times when women were entirely subjugated and it continues to go on in countries where that remains the case. It is concerning however, that it does not seem to be on the wane but rather it is increasing. It does appear that men seek control over women by hitting and slapping arising out of an impoverished concept of their own masculinity. I would posit that masculinity is understood by some men to mean power, control, machismo and does not embrace empathy and compassion. Men are seen as hard, tough,and conflictual. This view of men especially when viewed as natural, empowers violent behaviour and excuses it because after all it is natural. However, many men do not resort to violence and abuse and are no less men for that. Indeed, despite the rising figures we can still say that the majority of men do not visit violence and abuse on their partners. It is time for those men to speak out and actively demonstrate that “Real Men do not hit women”. http://youtu.be/lNJjEZoRKqM