Today the news headlines are awash with the latest domestic homicide figures. In many ways the headlines are difficult to comprehend. Far too often the victims of these crimes are invisible. Their stories don’t make the front pages of the newspapers. They rarely make the headlines on our televisions. These are the invisible victims that society knows little about until days like today when their demise forms part of the story.
In responding to these statistics, we have a Government claiming to put priority on a long-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill. We have a Prime Minister committing to an extra 20000 police officers. We have people calling for longer sentences for perpetrators. Whilst there will be some progress made from all of these, there is one response missing, A SOCIETAL ONE.
A reliance on laws and systems has been the safe and go-to solution for far too long. Such a reliance, in many ways gives society a way out, a reason not to get involved. If we are to make a real difference and reduce incidences of domestic abuse, then Society itself must pull together against domestic abuse. We can’t rely on legislation to protect victims, including children. Policing has a clear role but it’s not going to solve the issue. Again, tougher sentences will display a swift and visible response to justice but just like policing they won’t bring about the reductions needed.
In contrast a societal response will bring about the reductions needed and here’s how.
- In a society with a greater awareness of domestic abuse we will see more compassion and support for victims and their children.
- In a society equipped to respond to victims we will see people with the courage to lean into issues when they observe abuse within the relationships of their friends, colleagues and neighbours.
- Victims are routinely blamed for what happens to them. In a society with greater awareness the focus will be on the perpetrator rather than the victims.
- In a society activated to respond, perpetrators will clearly see that their actions are not the norm but more a transgression against the norm.
- Whilst men are victims of abuse it’s clear that the main perpetrator group are male. A society where men routinely speak up for domestic abuse victims helps send out a clear message that the behaviours of their abusive male peers is not accepted.
- A society with the tools to speak up will help guide the future generations, communicating ideas of healthy behaviours that form part of a healthy loving relationship.
The question I often get asked is why should I do more? I don’t abuse so it’s nothing to do with me. In my view this is a very short-sighted response and one that actually supports perpetrators in their behaviours. So why should society do their bit?
We now know more about the impact of abuse not only on victims but on the children of victims. Children don’t just witness abuse they experience it. Their body produces the stress hormone ‘Cortisol’ which poisons the body. Pro-longed exposure to cortisol can actually wire the brain in a way that can lead to future ill-health in their adult lives. Furthermore, the messages received by children can lead to them seeing violence as a way to get results. It can also lead to future victimisation. This circle of violence isn’t inevitable, but the risks are real.
A lot of the violence we see on our streets and in our communities often has a backstory rooted in domestic abuse. In many ways we will never have peace on our streets until we have peace in the home
There are many reasons why society needs to come together to tackle this issue. A main one for me is that the statistics within the media story today are real people. The story highlights that around 75% of victims are female. These are our sisters, mothers and daughters. Around a quarter of victims are male. These are our brothers, fathers and sons. Surely this is reason enough for society to lean into this issue and take some responsibility in addressing the issue.
With around 87% of perpetrators being male there is a clear role for men in our society to set the norm for masculinity. Our sons are watching, we owe it to them to respond.
See following for link to domestic homicide figures https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49459674
If you or a friend need support in dealing with domestic abuse the following helplines are available:
Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 802 3333
Abused Men in Scotland – 0808 800 0024