Men! Let us in on the secret! When you reach 15 does someone give you a book that tells you how to abuse women?
I conduct domestic violence counselling assessments in East and West London amongst very disparate groups. The women I see are from all socioeconomic and educational backgrounds and a great many racial and cultural groups but the story they tell is strikingly similar.
He wanted to know where I was and who I was seeing all the time. It became too difficult to see friends so I stopped going out. He would argue endlessly until I agreed with him. It got worse when I was pregnant and when I had the baby he couldn’t stand me looking after her but when she cried he became outraged and demanded I shut her up. He wrecked our home, terrorised the kids, endlessly stole from me, arrived home unexpectedly because he thought I was having an affair and, when I managed to get a restraining order he ignored it, sits outside the house for hours on end and tries to break in. Sometimes he breaks in and beats me up again. If he gets arrested he's let out and then comes to get me. If he's put in prison I have to move because he has said he will kill me when he gets out.
Today the Director of Public Prosecutions will announce increased numbers of domestic violence convictions.
This good news demonstrates that prosecutors have been listening to and acting on DPP advice. Women’s organisations have been yelling all this from the rooftops for centuries but when the DPP takes it seriously things creak into action.
The bad news is 45% of women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, that she will endure 33 assaults on average before she reports them, that 54% of rapes are perpetrated by a current or ex-partner and one third of female murder victims are killed by their current or ex-partner. That’s two women a week.
The quality of convictions isn't discussed. 'Conviction' just means that a person is found guilty. A conviction might mean community service or an 8 week sentence. 50% of men convicted of DV are going to continue being violent towards women, very often the woman who gave evidence against them which is why so many women withdraw their evidence. When you hear of a man who kills his children and then himself you can guarantee that DV was part of the dynamic - death is a very real, very possible outcome for women and children in domestic violence situations. An 18 week conviction isn't going to change that.
Rather than consider these figures – and there are many more – a great many people will address violence against women by saying that men also experience domestic violence. They do. Here are the stats: 26% of men experience DV. 10% of that 26% experience more than 4 episode of DV while 90% of the 45% of women experience more than 4 episodes.
Happily, most men do not assault women and are repelled by domestic violence. That’s not something women should be grateful for. We should expect it of all men.
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