Director of film about domestic violence faces criticism from mens rights activists for focusing on women

'I received comments and direct messages from men accusing me of having a fetish for violence against women and saying ‘you are trying to start a gender war’,' says Peter Giblin

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Monday 12 November 2018 19:49 GMT
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A director who poured thousands of pounds of his own money into a film about domestic violence has been bombarded with abuse from mens rights activists.

Peter Gibin wrote and directed If Love Hurts - a chilling short film which looks at the emotional dimension of domestic abuse and draws attention to the fact victims often love their abusers as well as fearing them.

The self-funded film takes a disturbing look at the plight of domestic violence victims who are being abused in what they may deem to be a loving relationship.

The 30-year-old filmmaker argues the fact it takes an average of up to eight abuses before a victim will feel able to speak out is evidence of how difficult it can be for a domestic violence victim to extricate themselves from an abusive situation.

Mr Giblin, who says he scraped together £10,000 from his own savings to fund the film, launched it to mark White Ribbon Day – the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which falls on 25 November.

White Ribbon charity was founded with the explicit mission of ending male violence against women and Mr Giblin’s film specifically focuses on the issue of domestic violence perpetrated by men.

According to recent figures published by the Office for National Statistics, the majority (70 per cent) of victims of domestic violence deaths are female. In 2013-14, 93 per cent of defendants in domestic violence court cases were male and 84 per cent of victims were female.

Every week in the UK, two women are murdered by a partner or ex-partner.

Mr Giblin said he had been subjected to abuse and “aggressive whataboutism” - the technique of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue - since sharing the film.

“It is impossible to have an open discussion about something as black and white as men shouldn’t be killing women,” he said. “All you get are so-called men’s rights activists shouting everything down and saying ‘what about men’, even though the statistics clearly show that six of every seven victims of abuse are women, and men use violence and kill far, far more often than women do.”

“I posted the film to Reddit, on r/twoxchromosomes, and watched the upvotes shoot up and down, and most of the comments had to be removed by the moderator because they were rank. I even started getting direct messages saying how terrible a person I am for making such a film.”

“I was brigaded [coordinated online voting] by men’s rights activists. I received comments and direct messages from men accusing me of having a fetish for violence against women and saying ‘you are trying to start a gender war’,” he recalled. “You can come back at them and say men are more likely to kill partners or ex-partners but they do not care.”

“You can tell these are well-worn accusations and insults. A lot of people thought I was a woman even though I had my real name. They would say I hate men even though I am a man. They have a narrative they are so bought into that they will ignore anything which goes against it and appropriate or twist anything into making them right.”

He argued some of the vicious commenters would go through “mental gymnastics” in the attempt to vilify him for making the film.

“It is akin to asking a cancer charity why are you not trying to cure HIV. Male violence against women is a specific problem,” he said.

The director said a lot of comments were so vile they were deleted by moderators but this did little to stop the problem as members were able to make other accounts and keep harassing him via them.

“They can wield a thousand accounts if they have the will and time and there is not all much you can do about it. I do not know how they have this much time,” he added.

Domestic violence charity Women’s Aid identify domestic abuse as a “gendered crime” – saying that while both men and women may experience incidents of interpersonal violence and abuse, women are considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of abuse, including sexual violence.

“Women experience higher rates of repeated victimisation and are much more likely to be seriously or killed than male victims of domestic abuse,” the charity explains on its website. “Further to that, women are more likely to experience higher levels of fear and are more likely to be subjected to coercive and controlling behaviours.”

Anthea Sully, chief executive at White Ribbon UK said: “For real change to occur, men must understand the systems in place that give rise to toxic masculinity and male violence towards women.

“This film powerfully shows the impact of abuse in all its forms in relationships. White Ribbon UK asks men to take responsibility in ending male violence against women by being active bystanders, calling out abuse and sexism among their peers; talking openly about the male cultures that can lead to abuse and why men must take a stand against them”.

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The director said many of the people involved in the film, which will play in parliament on 26 November, had personal experience of domestic violence. He said the film would have cost £100,000 to produce if people had not been willing to give up their time for free.

“Films about domestic abuse are often ‘Disneyesque’ – there is a clear victim or damsel in distress and a villain,” he said. “It will be about physical abuse and involve a man going off on one. A lot of men will see it and think that is not relevant to me and I’m not like that.”

He added: “It is easy for people to say ‘If I was in an abusive relationship I would just go’ but that is not how it is. Once you are in love and attached and your self-worth is tied to a relationship, or you have a mortgage or a kid, the far easier option is to sweep it under the rug and to forgive it or excuse it.

“When you are in love with someone, and they show you a different side of themselves, you want that side to go away, and not to have to think about it again. People spend so long in relationships that are abusive and it takes so long for people to realise that if they really love me then they would not be abusing me. It is even harder when the abuser has control over the money.”

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