Over the years, I have had so many fierce VERBAL fights over domestic violence that it is not funny. I greatly appreciate the white ribbon campaign here in New Zealand, but equally hate the emphasis that it is men against women. However, this morning I took a step back, looked at the labels and entrenched views, and came up with points that maybe clarify the matter. I would like to share them here on the hope that this blog lays to rest some of the miscommunication that is occurring around issues of rape and domestic violence that is in turn making the whole issue not one we can unite to stamp out, but one that is causing an even bigger gender divide.
Before I begin, my qualifications to speak on this. As a teen I was raped by another man. I am open about this and am secure in myself that it was not my fault, that I am still me, but that the trauma and feelings around this are intensely damaging. However, if I can use this experience to help others through the same, then I am happy. Whilst at Law School, I managed a men’s refuge in Manurewa. I make no secret that the Trustees (with two exceptions) were mysoginistic, women hating chauvenists, as bad as the man hating extremist feminists, and that I was at odds with them as I believe in a holistic family based approach to resolving issues of DV. Since then, I have done some DV work as a Lawyer, and I think I have some ideas as to the issues.
So. My perspectives:
Violence is wrong.
Violence can happen from anyone to anyone.
It is generally agreed that MaF (Male Assaulting Female) violence tends to be more physical and FaM (Female Assaulting Male) more psychological.
MaF is more likely to end up with more severe immediate physical consequences than FaM.
Other areas of DV (Domestic Violence) are not considered as they should be, and stats are not collected hollistically around the issue of DV.
Gender affects the probable outcomes and types of DV to a significant degree, but this is a trend as opposed to a cast iron prediction.
What some people are saying is that DV is a gender issue, I believe because gender significantly affects the outcomes statistically.
What others are saying is that by focussing on gender, men are being victimised with no credible recourse as it is a ‘women’s issue’ and so there is a belief that men are never the victims of DV.
Some are also saying that by not focussing on women, DV is somehow watered down in seriousness.
I do not agree with the last point at all. DV is wrong and we all know this. Gender distinctions do not make it less wrong or more wrong, and do not excuse or mitigate DV in themselves.
Social conditioning has a view that men who are victims of DV are somehow less male, with terms like “weak”, “wimp” and worse, and with the attitude of “toughen up” from society.
My point is that until we get ALL the demographic and situational statistics around DV in NZ, we cannot look at the issue without a personal agenda.
People with disabilities are concerned about abuse against people with disabilities.
The senior communities are worried about elderly abuse.
Women are very active against DV towards women.
All of these issues need to be considered.
Men have no real group that supports their views, and so many men feel, quite validly, that their DV issues are ignored.
Many people active in their specific areas are so converned about their area that they forget to look at DV holistically, or feel that to do so will negate their work.
With all of this in mind, my contention is that until we take a holistic approach, beginning with neutrally defining Domestic Violence, and then identifying who statistically the victims and perpetrators are, and then tackle the issues from an individual AND family group perspective, the issue will continue to remain unresolved.
So as a conclusion and clarification to my view here:
I advocate collecting information and statistics.
I also suggest that the law and society victimise women in the very wording and emphasis of DV. Rape for example is specifically a man PIV raping a woman.
MaF in the Crimes Act or in the social conscience does not allow for tough strong women assaulting vulnerable males. It makes women into victims and men into monsters.
I hate with a passion DV. I have been the victim of sexual assault in the past, and violence without very good cause is wrong.
I respect people, women and men, with equal passion and sincerity.
If a woman has been raped, I am concerned and there for her. Same as if a man has been raped, though legally this is not possible which is a complete joke.
For me, my passion is high on the subject, but I really do think I am coming at the issue from a gender aware but gender neutral perspective.
Being gender aware means being aware that gender affects the issue. Being gende rneutral is accepting that DV can happen to anyone irrespective of gender.
Psychological violence can and often is far more damaging than physical violence, though that does not in any way detract from the severe trauma of physical violence.
Psychological violence is usually not spotted as there are no obvious symptoms, until the person basically cracks under the pressure.
As such, FaM can often be a lot more insidious and damaging in many ways.
Whatever one’s thoughts on this though, the over-riding issue is clear and I think we can all agree on:
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS WRONG.
With all this in mind, to speak up against DV from a different angle such as disability or elderly abuse, or from a male rape perspective is not in any way negating or minimising the impact or severity of more traditional views of DV. Far from mitigating violence, to know the issue more comprehensively is giving those fighting it more tools and knowledge to effectively combat DV permanently. As such, rather than having a politically correct view that DV is always males beating up their poor weak little wifey, which in itself is a patronising and degrading image of women, I am advocating for a neutral, holistic and complete collection of all data, demographics and factors of DV victims and perpetrators, along with reasons and background dynamics, so that a clear picture can be established to show what generally causes DV to be initiated, and what drives it along for years sometimes without the matter being resolved. We all need to leave our agendas at the door in the name of fixing the issue.
This post is on an emotive subject, and if people are not reasoned and are offensive, I will either delete their comments, or even worse, publish them to show how unreasonable that person is. I believe in free speech, but with respect and sensitivity. Please show such respect and remember that I am trying to find why this issue has caused so much disharmony between genders, and to see if some of that can be removed for the sake of once and for all getting rid of DV issues from our society.
PS. Please excuse spelling errors. WordPress does not have a spellcheck!