Domestic violence must not become just another fashion for the famous

'To suggest such a thing is to tread into a nest of crocodiles, worse still when I call myself a feminist'

Share

It's taken a long time for domestic violence to become front-page national news, and the horror of a woman somewhere in Britain being raped, stabbed or beaten by the man she lives with, every six seconds, should shock us all profoundly. It gives the lie to the idea that marriage
per se is the key to happiness and that women should stiffen their quivering upper lips and stay put for the sake of everyone but themselves.

It's taken a long time for domestic violence to become front-page national news, and the horror of a woman somewhere in Britain being raped, stabbed or beaten by the man she lives with, every six seconds, should shock us all profoundly. It gives the lie to the idea that marriage per se is the key to happiness and that women should stiffen their quivering upper lips and stay put for the sake of everyone but themselves.

And not before time. The first recorded campaign against male abusiveness was led by Mary Wollstonecraft in the late 18th century, although administering punishment to disobedient wives was sanctioned in the Old Testament. But it has taken until the year 2000 for Scotland Yard to consider what for years has been shuffled aside as a private matter, "a domestic", the unfortunate fall-out of women getting at men until they snap, an important enough matter to commission a large-scale study based on police reports nationwide and information from various charities on calls they receive about domestic violence.

Given how many smaller but significant reports there have been - pleas, from the underfunded and oversubscribed refuges that offer women a way out, for us to understand the scale of the problem - it is scandalous that it has taken until now for it to be thought necessary to have a proper police strategy, or for the head honchos at Scotland Yard to say, as Detective Superintendant John Goodsave did, that "It is time this problem was properly addressed. The aggressors have to learn it is not acceptable."

Indeed. And it is precisely because the physical and emotional abuse of women by men seeking to subjugate and control them must, unwaveringly, be judged unacceptable so that women who are victims know they will be given support and help, that women should not seize upon this latest fashionable theme and use it for their own ends. I know to even suggest such a thing is to tread in a nest of crocodiles, and worse still when I call myself a feminist.

But we live in distorted times, with the media desperate for sensation and stories that tie in with whatever subject is blowing hard. In a time of heightened awareness, there is a particular interest in, and sympathy for, the person who has suffered. And, as many of us know, people can be persuaded to make more of something than they might otherwise have done.

This is brought to mind by Anthea Turner's allegations that her former boyfriend, DJ Bruno Brookes, was emotionally abusive and physically violent towards her. He denies it, she insists it is true. But what raises worrying questions about expediency is the fact that Turner's revelations were brought to prominence this week in a national newspaper to coincide with publication of Scotland Yard's report, and at a time when she has a book to sell and a somewhat battered public image to resurrect. In my jaundiced mind, the things we have learned about Turner in the past few years, which suggest that sensitivity to people's feelings is disposable in the promotion of her own interests, do not help.

We may never know the truth of what happened in that youthful relationship between Turner and Brookes, but I think it is very important that the truth of domestic violence in the very ordinary lives of women across the social scale, cowed into shameful silence, should not get muddled up with showbiz spin. The arguments about high-profile names bringing attention to a subject are well rehearsed, but there is a way in which their lives can also seem so different from those of women of all social classes who are victims of violence. Several times, interviewing women who have run from the most dreadful situations, I have listened to them saying that they aren't interesting like those people you read about.

That is one point; another is that, if we are to truly support and help voiceless women who are victims of domestic violence, it is vital that we are scrupulous about separating nasty incidents of male bad temper, for example, within an equal relationship and not different from what we are capable of ourselves, from abuse that strips women of all strength, confidence and sense that they are entitled to stand up for themselves.

Because surely there is a difference between what Adam Jukes, the psychotherapist and author of Men Who Batter Women and Why Men Hate Women (Free Association Books), sees as a profound hatred of women that consumes abusive men and drives them to find ways to ensure that they control women, and the occasional - or even isolated - outburst of frustrated rage which may result in a slap, a push, or a mouthful of nastiness.

I am thinking here of a relationship I had years back with a man who in no way intimidated me, but there was an occasion when he found me so infuriating that he slapped my face. Just as, on another occasion when he provoked wildly angry feelings in me, I kicked his shins - and harder than he slapped me.

This is not to be frivolous about such a serious subject, but I have heard women in situations like mine being told that if a man slaps you he is abusive, and no way must you remain with him - it's that simple. But it isn't. Relationships are complex, complicated, tormenting, rewarding, disturbing places to be, and the important thing is not to have absolute rules that mean a woman may feel she has to see herself as abused when she had seen herself as an equal participant.

Equally it is very important that women do not use accusations of domestic violence to punish a man who she feels has done her wrong. This is not an idle thought: unless we believe that every acquittal of a man accused of rape, sexual harassment or brutality is wrong, then, for whatever reasons, women do sometimes lie about these things.

All of this matters because, if we do dig up long-buried tales to aggrandise ourselves, make accusations to punish a man who has hurt or humiliated us, then we push the cause of women who are genuine victims of domestic violence backwards. Women have had to fight so hard to have their harrowing tales believed that we must think carefully about how we protect the progress that at last is being made.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links