The Home Office are currently holding a public consultation on widening the current definition of domestic violence to include the term “coercive behaviour/control” . The current definition is thus: The current definition defines domestic violence as: ‘any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse [psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional] ‘ and already encompasses a wide range of behaviour that are not violent, so why does the Home Office feel the need to further widen, and consequently dilute the definition?
I believe that such changes to the current definition are political, and to keep the feminists on-side. Not a statement I make lightly. The Home Office vision, on which this consultation is based, is called ““Ending Violence against Women and Girls” – hardly free from gender-bias is it? The consultation also seeks to include forms of abuse that only women can be the victims of, which implies that only men can the perpetrators of such abuses.
We, as a society, and politically, need to move away from the mis-guided concept that women are victims and men are abusers. A survey by Parity (men’s rights campaign organisation) claims that around 40% of domestic abuse victims are men – data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey back this up, and show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09. I would suspect that these figures are not a true reflection of the actual numbers, as men who do try to report domestic violence/abuse are not met with a sympathetic system. There is also the stigma of being a man abused by his partner, and many male victims find reporting incidents difficult.
The main issue that I have had with the proposed inclusion of “coercive control” is that the term itself is subjective and open to interpretation and misuse. Should this vague, undefinable behaviour become part of the Domestic Violence definition, then it will undoubtedly be used in making false and malicious accusations of “domestic violence” to remove an unwanted spouse or partner from the family home (usually the man) and will give added leverage to those who willfully and maliciously seek to block contact between parent (read father) and child. I struggle to understand how a definitive definition of such a behaviour can be written, and that won’t be open to interpretation or misuse. How would one decide if certain behaviours are actually coercive behaviour, or normal nuances within an adult and intimate relationship?
The term “financial violence” is used by Women’s Aid – which is quite frankly the most ludicrous term I have come across, it conjurers up images of someone being hit with a bunch of £5 notes. I do understand that what WA actually mean is financial control, but couldn’t they just have said that? Adding in terms like “financial abuse/violence” only dilutes a very serious criminal offence . Add the very loose term of “coercive control” into that definition and what you have is a watered down version of a definition that won’t actually aid those genuine victims, but will allow those who seek to manipulate both former partners and the system to their own twisted advantage.
Another issue I would like to highlight is that should coercive control be shoe-horned into the definition, and an accusation of coercive control is made, then an individual would then be labeled as violent when in fact they have committed no violent act at all. This would have serious consequences for those (mainly fathers) who are seeking contact via the Courts. Why should someone be labeled as violent, simply because of a politically driven change in the current definition? We are all aware, surely, that it is men who would suffer the most with such inappropriate and untruthful labeling. The whole changing of the current definition smacks of dancing to the feminist fiddle.
I would expect to see a rise in the number of false and malicious accusations made, especially against men/fathers. Coercive control can not be proved, not least because true coercive control takes place behind closed doors, and it then becomes a case of trying to prove who said or did what – with no evidence. What this means, other than the points I have already raised is that the Courts become clogged with “he said/she said” arguments, and those genuine victims are left hanging in the system, their needs somehow, lost among those who make false allegations. How can that be right?
It has been said that I lack empathy and understanding of the real impact of domestic violence. Far from it, as someone who has experienced both violent and psychological abuse within an intimate relationship I am only too aware of how damaging both types of abuse can be, and the far-reaching and long-lasting effects such abuses have on an individual. My concerns are for the genuine victims, of both genders, of domestic violence and abuse, and a desire to see a clear definition that is not based upon gender, nor one that leaves the door open for misinterpretation, or for misuse by those who are malicious in nature. Research into understanding why Domestic Violence happens is required – and a Zero Tolerance approach to domestic violence and abuse. Once we have a better understanding of why Domestic Violence occurs, and we change societal attitudes in that domestic abuse and violence has no gender/cultural/age boundaries can we begin to start to reduce the incidences. We need to ensure the Government puts first those who have a genuine need for help and protection – and receive such help and protection, and not to pander to a politically driven, gender-biased change in the current definition.