It would appear, that rather like the economy, the discourse around domestic violence has this week returned to the 1970s.
The week kicked off with The Mirror reporting an interview Dennis Waterman gave to Piers Morgan, in which Waterman not only puts forward his view that clever women ask for a slap because, being bright, they ‘win’ arguments by being verbally quick; he also attempts to suggest there are bands of domestic violence; the occasional slap being somehow different to being a ‘beaten wife’.
Demonstrating his complete lack of acceptance of responsibility in his own words:
‘It’s not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her. She certainly wasn’t a beaten wife, she was hit and that’s different.’
‘The problem with strong, intelligent women is that they can argue, well. And if there is a time where you can’t get a word in… and I… I lashed out. I couldn’t end the argument.
The Daily Mail, as the Daily Mail is wont to do, rolled out the estrogen factor in finding a possessor of a womb willing to act as a clumsy apologist in an attempt to explain away Waterman’s stance that violence is sometimes contained to one woman only, as if in some way, that makes it ok.
To demonstrate the point, the writer uses the example of her ‘fiercely clever friend’, Jean, who had three relationships involving violence. Apparently the men had never hit a woman before or after Jean, and Jean would never put up with ‘a proper beating’. Jean’s view was:
‘with a bit of a slap, at least you know who wears the trousers, don’t you?’
Did she, perhaps, encourage her friend to get some help examining her relationship model? Doesn’t appear so.
Quoting an unnamed psychiatrist, she develops her point, by telling us that apparently research shows that the common denominator in cases of domestic violence is women having an IQ at least 10 points higher than their partner. Additionally, she goes on to say that the psychiatrist told her that the problem is:
They don’t want to ‘wear the trousers’… It doesn’t make them feel womanly enough. However much goading it takes, they’d rather be slapped than be victorious. When push — quite literally — comes to shove, these women prefer to have a dominant man to whom they might defer as an authority figure.
Of course, she eventually pulls it back (she really has little choice otherwise) saying well below the line that we have to have zero tolerance in domestic violence and making the important point that:
Not every two-little-slaps turns into routine, full-blown domestic violence. But almost all routine, full-blown domestic violence began with two-little-slaps.
In fairness to her, she made the point rather more firmly on the Jeremy Vine show (today hosted by Aasmah Mir, available on iPlayer here from around 70 onwards), although she did also have a wee giggle about her friend ‘Jean’. So if she pulled it back, what is the problem?
Well, look at the front page. How many perpetrators do you reckon will have seen that and nodded in agreement? How many survivors do you think will have seen it and mentally added it to the ‘I deserve it’ monologue that runs through their minds, put there by the perpetrators?
Judging by the comments BTL on the Mail piece, and listening to some callers on Jeremy Vine, quite a few see this as endorsement of their views – that sometimes, a woman* deserves it, and the man* is justified if he is pushed into using his fists to make a point. We are unlikely to know how many survivors add it to their internal monologue because, of course, they are the last people who are going to speak out.
I know I have laboured this point in respect of rape, but can we please start to watch what we say, how we say it, and consider the impact the language used has on both perpetrators and survivors.
To challenge and to change the behaviour we have to change the mindsets. While not all of us can go out and do direct work with perpetrators and survivors, we can make a difference in our own way by taking more care of not only how we talk about it, but in refusing to accept the way the media do, too.
*I have used gender terms in the way I have due to largely talking in this instance, about male perpetrators. I of course acknowledge that domestic violence involves female perpetrators and male survivors too.