I am not a professional. What I have written here is a snapshot of my own experiences and what I have researched or witnessed. It is nothing more than my opinion supported in part, with evidence.
I watched the excellent BBC documentary Behind Closed Doors with a growing sense of dismay this week. It resulted in my throwing a paint brush at a wall I became so incensed. Why, because despite changes in attitude by the police and social services towards victims of DV, despite of what I say are misinterpretations of the law, the cases failed at the most important hurdle. The courts.
I cannot grasp the concept that if in other criminal scenarios, the one punch that kills is prosecuted as manslaughter with the “fist” being presented as the weapon, how it is the numerous punches over a 6 hour period, whilst keeping Sabrina hostage, was prosecuted as actual bodily harm (because “no weapon ” was used) and not attempted murder (which could then be dropped down to GBH) and kidnapping. I just don’t get it. It fails victims, it fails society and must frustrate the agencies that deal with the victims to the point where they wonder why they bother gathering all the evidence at all.
I sat on the North Wales DV Forum, newly set up back in 1997. I had volunteered to help having experienced DV both as a child (boarding school) & within prior relationships. Text book. I formed a strong bond with the person who appointed me onto the panel, a DC, who had also experienced a coercive controlling relationship. Between the two of us, we “got it”.
At the time I became involved, a new concept for dealing with DV was being rolled out in Minnesota in the USA, called the Duluth Project.
Whilst we did not agree with the thinking behind the project, “patriarchal acceptance of violence towards women”, we felt the concept could be extrapolated on and put effectively into place in the UK, in particular getting the offenders into therapy. My view then, which remains today, is that it is pointless picking up the pieces of DV if the perpetrator has multiple victims, far better to prevent the offender from reoffending. We were soon bought don’t win to earth with a bump. Whilst I did get the perpetrators referred to me, nobody would take on board, or pay for therapy. Furthermore, there was a reluctance to accept female on male DV and same sex partnership DV at that time. Bang went my Martin Luther King strategy “I have a dream”. But we did what we could with the limited resources (free) we had and tried as best we could to change the lay of the land. We “saved” (got them out of the house and into a hostel, if you call that saving, rendering them technically homeless!) some victims and helped some perpetrators into getting voluntary anger management via their GP’s. We did not change the world.
The Duluth Project, even in it’s crudest form, is successful. It reduces offending. There is nothing like that in the UK. Plenty of picking up the pieces charities, but few preventative measures. It falls to the already under resourced police and social services. A bizarre scenario when DV is responsible a significant amount of murders in the UK. On average 2 deaths a week for women and 2 deaths a month for men. That’s 10 deaths a month. Those stats will go up if you include Scottish stats or “honour killings” (which is a euphemism for DV) and the family annihilation scenarios in which children die too. I would also argue that intrafamilial child murders should also be classified as DV murders. It is endemic.
What Behind Closed Doors evidenced in one case was the difficulty one of the victims Helen, had when she had split from her partner. When asked why she had gone to meet him she said “I don’t know, he is like a drug” – She still loved him, she still thought he could change, in part, she still believed she could “rescue” him. She was “addicted” to him, these are powerful motivators for returning to the abusive partner, amongst other things like homelessness (another massive problem for DV victims). But what if there is a truth in what she said about him being like a “drug”, what if the psychological approach, that does not take into account the “addiction” is based in science as opposed to psychology, what if the approach in some cases needs to be a medical one as opposed to a therapeutic one alone? And what if, given that men’s chemical levels are variable, the higher levels of the addictive chemicals there are, the more “addicted” the women becomes? It is a hypothesis, but one that is now being supported with scientific evidence. Semen contains “feel good chemicals”, the very same chemicals that are synthetically manufactured to combat depression.
“Semen addiction” is in fact starting to be supported as a scientific fact, http://ezinearticles.com/?Can-Women-Become-Addicted-to-Semen-Like-a-Drug?&id=3450267 It is in its infancy, but the evidence so far does support that a woman can become “addicted” to their partner, in which case, we need to look at this with fresh eyes. A scientific one and adapt some of the other addiction processes to the problem.
I don’t have the answers, all I have is an opinion based upon experience and learning. The current system is not working. DV deaths have not been reduced by any of the current methods. I also take at face value, what people say, Helen said “drug” not the first time I have heard that phrase, this time though I immediately thought, maybe that is not an analogy, just maybe there is some truth in what she said. And there was.
Now is the time to explore this important factor and stop dismissing the evidence that has been staring us in the face for so long. Wean them off their partners. Now is the time to put buddy systems in place, now is the time to ensure a woman or a man is not rendered homeless as a victim and now is the time to force perpatrators into therapy via the courts.
Prevention is better than cure!