NO Excuses

taken from Restored's website

taken from Restored’s website

The National Domestic Violence helpline number is 0808 2000 247.

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about domestic violence and domestic abuse this week, particularly after an interesting day’s training with Restored. One of the things which really made me ponder was the notion of excuses. I have always assumed that men don’t hit women for the fun of it. I may be wrong.

Notice he doesn’t start hitting six foot blokes in the pub when he gets drunk, he waits till he gets home. It’s a choice.

Notice most men don’t hit women when there isn’t enough money in the household. It’s a choice.

Notice lots of men with anger management issues get help. It’s a choice.

Notice the vast majority of men prefer sex to be consensual. It’s a choice.

(And for the person who thought that ministry was particularly pressured and so men in ministry might be stressed into hitting their partners, err no. No about the particular pressure, and no about being stressed into hitting. It’s a choice.)

The second point which had me thinking was about power. The trainer said words to the effect of “Most of us don’t realise how much power we have until we have already relinquished it.” I’d like to add the usual reminder to that – power itself is neutral, it’s how we use it that matters. As a wearer of a dog collar, with a position in my community, I have power, and it’s up to me to use that power for the glory of God and not for any other purpose. It’s a choice.

The third point which gave me food for thought was the dynamic in the room. We had two female trainers (very good they were too), and twenty-eight people on the course, five of whom were men. By coffee break I was counting the interactions and interjections. The majority of the time anyone spoke from the floor, it was a man, often explaining that women needed to be given their voices. You and I, dear reader, both see the irony. I became very uneasy about how to respond – I am used to being a lone female voice, and am very happy to hold my own among men. But equally, I am aware that among women, I need to operate differently, to fight to be heard less, to give more space for response, listen more, and that is what I was trying to do in this session.  It’s a choice.

The fourth thing I will remember for a long time was listening to two women describe relationships which became abusive. Both of them described meeting charming men. Charming, generous, thoughtful, protective men. It was later that the charm stopped, that the generosity turned to bargaining and withholding, that the protection turned to isolating and controlling. It’s so very easy to be charmed. And the change in behaviour, from charming to abusive, is a choice.

Be in no doubt, I like men. Most men I have ever met are thoroughly decent, and I am proud to call some of them my friends. I do not think that the way to hear women is to silence men, and I am aware too that 13% of domestic violence and abuse is committed against men (I think I’ve got that statistic right, again, try Restored’s website). But 2 women a week die as a result of violence at the hands of their partners.

There is no excuse.

2 responses to “NO Excuses

  1. I’m well aware of the issues of domestic violence. In one of my roles as a Families Officer with the forces, we were trained about domestic violence and had to attend update training periodically.

    Domestic violence in those days in the Armed Forces along with marriage breakdown were worrying trends and the intention was to assist unit welfare officers to support families going through this situation, particularly where it was noticed, but spouses were unwilling to cooperate.

    Our trainer at Bristol University, which sponsored the training, concentrated on the instances of domestic violence against women, and excluded or seemed doubtful that violence against men was much of an issue, which led several of us to debate with them during and after the sessions. I felt quite strongly about this from personal experience.

    Fortunately, during the training a case came to court where a woman was charged with causing violence to her husband, both physical and emotional and was found guilty. We were able to introduce this case into the equation and I’m aware that training for future courses was better researched to demonstrate that while not as large an issue as violence against women, men were often the silent victims, where shame, was a major prevention in them coming forward.

    The shame as they as the supposedly stronger gender, were unable to defend themselves against the supposedly gentler sex. I know that this sense of shame does happen and had featured in the case I referred too earlier. It was only when the marks of physical violence became only too evident that it could be gently inquired into and some help offered.

    Clergy and laity have a real role to play in safeguarding in these cases, because violence is as you say a choice, not an action of passion or temper, many people have loud, bad tempered rows, but only a tiny minority actually resort to that choice of violence – and when they do, they destroy another bit of love and trust and create fear and shame in the person that they offer violence too.

    I pray that we will always be vigilant in supporting the victims but also the perpetrators of domestic violence, who often need real help from mental health professionals to overcome their anger which they describe as causing their violence, but also for them to make the right choice to walk away if they feel provoked enough to resort to it.

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