Domestic violence against women and children is back in the news following a couple of cases in Britain that have hit the headlines. It is a life threatening, pernicious reality in households up and down the country - but all too often hidden from the authorities and public.
According to national charity Women’s Aid one in four women experience this sort of abuse in their lifetime and between one in eight of them face it every year. Less than half of all incidents are reported as a crime to the police, but they still receive an emergency call about domestic violence every minute in the UK.
In a study of 200 women's experiences (Humphreys and Thiara, 2002) it was found that 60 per cent of the women had left the home because they feared that they or their children would be killed by the abuser.
Women's Aid was formed in 1974 and co-ordinates and supports an England-wide network of more than 500 local services who work to end violence against women and children and support more than 200,000 victims each year.
The organisation also works internationally on service development and is currently partnering projects with governments and Non Governmental Organisations in Russia and Uzbekistan. In Women's Aid's view domestic violence is physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and forms a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour.
This can include forced marriage and so-called 'honour crimes’. They believe that the fundamental ‘cause’ of domestic violence against women, which can include a range of abusive behaviour, not all of which are in themselves inherently 'violent', is to be found in the misuse of power and control within context of male privilege. Women’s Aid state that “male privilege operates on an individual and societal level to maintain a situation of male dominance, where men have power over women and children. In this way, domestic violence by men against women can be seen as a consequence of the inequalities between men and women, rooted in patriarchal traditions that encourage men to believe they are entitled to power and control over their partners”.
The most alarming and extreme end of the cycle of male violence against women and children is murder. No one could fail to be sickened by the recent horrific story, widely reported in the UK press and abroad, of Paul Hogan, who killed his six year-old son Liam by throwing him from a 50ft balcony while on a family holiday in Crete, Greece, before jumping off himself with his two year-old daughter Mia. In a bizarre suicide attempt, Hogan apparently cushioned Mia’s fall and she survived with only a broken arm and he remains in hospital. Claims that Hogan’s actions may have been primarily prompted by his wife Natasha’s plans to leave him, taking the children with her, rumours of an affair, violent quarrels and ingestion of alcohol and anti-depressant pills have been denied by the grieving mother. Astonishingly, Natasha has rallied to Hogan’s defence, describing her husband as a ‘caring’ father.
In yet another set of gruesome familial deaths, a country wide (UK) police investigation is underway into the murder of a woman and three children aged five to 11. Their bodies laid undiscovered in the family house in Cheadle Hulme, Greater Manchester, for up to four weeks. Police are trying to trace 36-year-old Rashan Arshad, the father and husband who lived in the house.
Many thanks to The-Latest
member who sent me this moving poem about domestic violence titled “I Got Flowers Today”: We had our first argument last night, and he said a lot of cruel things that really hurt me. I know he is sorry and didn't mean the things he said, because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today. It wasn't our anniversary or any other special day.
Last night he threw me into a wall and started to choke me. It seemed like a nightmare, I couldn't believe it was real. I woke up this morning sore and bruised all over. I know he must be sorry cause he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today, and it wasn't mother's day or any other special day.
Last night, he beat me up again, it was much worse than all the other times. If I leave him, what will I do? How will I take care of my kids? What about money?
I'm afraid of him and scared to leave.
But I know he must be sorry because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today. Today was a very special day. It was the day of my funeral!
Last night, he finally killed me. He beat me to death. If only I had gathered enough courage to leave him, I would not have gotten flowers today.......Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline
(run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge).
0808 2000 247