Friday, March 6, 2009

DV Is Not A Gender Issue

Lucy Reed of Pink Tape has written an excellent post about DV following The One Show last night. If like me you missed the programme it is now available on BBC iPlayer here. I agree wholeheartedly with Lucy, DV is not about numbers although I do feel the plight of male victims was ignored far too long and there are lessons to learn.

Back in 1999 Erin Pizzey, who appeared on last night's The One Show, wrote in The Scotsman about the opening of the first refuge for women and children in London during the early 1970s. Erin Pizzey had become disillusioned after, she said, damaged women had become the leading lights of the women's liberation movement and projected their rage and their discontent,  onto ‘all men.’ The article continued;

By this time, I was very aware that while many of the women were indeed ‘innocent victims of their partner’s violence,’ many were not.   Of the first hundred women that came into my refuge, sixty two were as violent as the men they left.  They were not ‘victims of their partner’s violence.’  They were ‘victims of their own violence.’  Most of these women had  experienced sexual abuse and violence in their own childhoods. Not only were they violent in the refuge but they were also violent and abusive to their children.  They were the women most likely to go back to their violent partners or if they left, to go on to form another violent relationship.  These were the women who most need our love and concern.  I also saw all the men who came looking for their partners and their children.  I could see quite plainly that domestic violence was not a gender issue.

Certainly in my experience there are elements of truth in Erin Pizzey's account. In the 1970s there were a fair number of radical feminists and when I worked in mental health it was obvious DV is a complex issue with victims sometimes being abusive themselves. I would even venture to say that it felt as though the numbers of men who suffered emotional abuse I came into contact with may well have equalled the number of women.

Nonetheless, it is not possible to escape the fact that when it comes to serious physical injuries requiring hospital treatment women outnumbered men 8:2 the last time I looked. It is also quite ludicrous to hold feminists responsible for the issue of DV against men being marginalized, as was suggested in The One Programme last night, when men's groups are far too busy berating feminists to do anything constructive about it themselves. DV is not a gender issue and the sooner we move to groups based on issues rather than gender and practice gender egalitarianism the better.

The Men's Advice Line offers advice and support for men in abusive relationships.


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