Updated: Jul 22, 2020
By Emma Williamson
"I want to incite change and do so by encouraging discourse around a difficult topic"
When you start to research domestic abuse you’re often met with some interesting advice and comments, most of it comes as rather daunting statements like “be careful with that” or “you’re on shaky ground there”. It’s unnerving to say the least, especially when you genuinely believe you have the greatest intentions at heart. However we know the old proverb The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
What a wonderful way to stop you in your tracks. When I reflect on this I couldn’t help think it is a sentiment designed to dissuade people from action, actions they believe in. I will say from a personal and aspirational position that I want to act. I want to incite others to act. I want to incite change and do so by encouraging discourse around a difficult topic. However, what haunted and stunted most of my good intentions was the that overwhelming and potentially polarising word - GENDER.
There it is - the elephant in the room of every conversation about domestic abuse and it often begins with this fact - that men are much more likely to be abusers than women. For example, between 2014-2017 73% of domestic homicide victims were women. Repeat perpetrators were much more likely to be male - in a six year tracking period the majority of male perpetrators had at least 2 incidents of recorded abuse and finally over 80% of high frequency victims were women.
If these statistics indicate anything, it is that at the extremities men present overwhelmingly as the highest risk offenders. However domestic abuse is a multi-faceted problem which nearly 2 million people experience every year in the UK, and of that number 35% of victims are male. That is not a small number, quite simply put, men are heavily affected by this problem too and accepting that does not undermine that the risks posed to women are high and require ongoing intervention and support, especially when dealing in extremities.
These figures indicate that this is a human problem and men are affected by it as both victims and abusers. Even if we accept the hard fact that men are at the core of this problem, then we must remember that men are at the core of the solution too. I can’t help believe that an approach with blame at the centre will create polarities and that is the last thing that is needed, we want all hands on deck to tackle what is essentially a public health emergency.
That said, at the Feel Better Project we do acknowledge that gender inequality and toxic masculine culture contribute to domestic abuse. We also consider that those cultures in many ways harm men and boys too and cause long lasting suffering for themselves and devastatingly, for those that they are supposed to care for the most.
I'm aware we may find ourselves in difficult places at times, having to reach deep into ourselves to find empathy, especially with those that abuse and those more likely to abuse. However, if we cannot understand where it comes from, we are only fighting half the battle. It’s a multi-faceted issue and needs a multi-faceted approach. We do need to safeguard victims and survivors and plan for their long term recovery and we do need to stop this problem at its source through better mental health, education, intervention, rehabilitation and gender parity.
I believe my good intentions are that, good. I cannot say for sure where they will lead me but I’m sure that by not taking any action, not going any road, for fear of saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong question, is the road that would surely lead any of us to “hell”.
Thanks for taking the time to read this piece, I would also encourage you to check out The Feel Better channel video on gender.
I'm also excited to hear Elisa's reflection later in the week on a similar topic, inspired by all our wonderful conversations around Men's Health Week.
Hope everyone is thinking deeply and always remember Feel Better - Don't Hurt.