Bridging the Gap is a global project, aiming to change the written and verbal language that we all use, to discuss domestic abuse. I hope to bring people together, who support the idea, that no Individual sufferer, survivor or perpetrator of domestic abuse, should receive preferential treatment, simply because of their gender.
I believe that all sufferers and survivors deserve to be recognised and supported and all perpetrators identified, regardless of gender.I hope that we can achieve this, by using gender neutral and inclusive language, that fosters real equality. In turn, I hope that over time, this change in language, will help to break down the social stigma and stereotypes that surround domestic abuse and result in "minority" victims being discriminated against, by those that should be there to help them.
Language shapes our attitudes, beliefs, values, and understanding of what is truth. Our language is the ‘heart’ of who we are as a person. Language can both isolate us or bring us closer together.
(Not my words but those of an unknown author)
SO, WHAT'S THE ISSUE?
I'm relatively new to the domestic abuse debate but it's been clear to me from the start, that domestic abuse is a world riddled with bias, prejudice, discrimination and hypocrisy. The language that I've seen and heard used over the last eighteen months, has been adversarial, promoting discord, bitterness, rage and often, hatred.
There is an all pervasive suspicion of "minority" victims and an obvious willingness to overlook female (straight, gay, bisexual or trans) perpetrators. This is lodged deep within the domestic abuse system, based on some perverse notion that "minority" victims, by virtue of their masculinity, are unfeeling brutes, incapable of being impacted, as seriously as women, by domestic abuse. Many "minority" victims and their children, are being destroyed by a system based on these outdated social stereotypes. These victims are left feeling criminalised, worthless, belittled, powerless and irrelivent.
Currently, domestic abuse is seen by the majority of governments and other national and international organisations, as an issue that exclusively affects women and girls. "Minority" victims may get a brief mention at some point in a debate but their experiences are often immediately minimised with comments such as, "relatively small numbers of men,"men experience abuse to a lesser degree," Or worse, men are only mentioned when discussing the need for perpetrator programmes. This is flagrant prejudice and clear discrimination and bias. Men are not all violent and abusive thugs and women do perpetrate domestic abuse.
Each time a government minister stands up to talk about domestic abuse, or a new campaign is launched, a new law introduced, or another media article published, that only recognises women and girls as victims of domestic abuse, it sends out a very loud and clear message to ‘minority’ victims, that they’re invisible and that nobody cares about them. It also increases their (and their children’s) level of isolation and despair.
Gamma bias is running rife in the world of domestic abuse but what is gamma bias? SEE VIDEO HERE
Let's be clear, this project favours no gender and is not an attempt to deny the statistics or diminish the experiences of women and girls. According to the U.K.Office Of National Statistics, women make up the majority victims of domestic abuse, with 1.6million women being recorded as victims in 2019 and i fully support all efforts to protect women and girls, as long as it's not to the detriment of "minority" victims.
However, men make up a significant, one third of victims, (not a "relatively small number of victims" as we often hear repeated) with 786,000 reported cases in 2019. We should also remember that men, are widely recognised as being three times less likely than women to report their abuse. There is no doubt that both of these figures, are just the tip of the iceberg. But it's more complicated than simply describing sufferers and survivors as men or women. We need to understand that each case of domestic abuse is unique to the individual
Older women and men are less likely to report their experiences of domestic abuse.
Those with disabilities are more likely to experience domestic abuse and sexual violence than non-disabled people.
Ethnic minority women and men face additional barriers to accessing support. Their experiences may be compounded by discrimination. They may be unwilling to seek help from statutory agencies because they fear a racist response.
Women and men from different cultural backgrounds might experience abuse in different forms, such as so called ‘honour’ based violence.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual women and men, can be vulnerable to abusers who threaten to ‘out’ them to colleagues, employers and family members.
Transgender women or men have fewer services available to them, and can face similar emotional abuse.
Pregnancy can be a trigger for domestic abuse, and existing abuse may get worse during pregnancy or after giving birth.
Men experiencing domestic abuse and sexual violence find it more difficult to disclose abuse and often find more barriers to accessing support.
And what about male or female perpetrators, who may be very reluctant to acknowledge what they are doing and to ask for help?
OTHER TYPES OF ABUSE THAT YOU MAY NOT BE FAMILIER WITH.
Elder abuse - Elder abuse is a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. Typically, 60 or 65 years is considered the threshold of old age.
Reproductive coercion - Reproductive coercion is related to behaviour that interferes with contraception use and pregnancy.
Spiritual abuse - Spiritual abuse refers to psychological manipulation and harm inflicted on a person by using the teachings of their religion.
Institutional abuse - The term “institutional abuse” refers to neglect and poor care practice within an institution or specific care setting.
Dating abuse - Dating abuse is the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member in the context of dating or courtship.
Child to parent abuse - Child on Parent Violence (CPV) or Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA) is any behaviour used by a young person to control, dominate or coerce parents. It is intended to threaten and intimidate and puts family safety at risk.
Digital abuse - Digital abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. Often this behaviour is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online but also includes using devices for stalking.
PLEASE NOTE THAT ANY REFERERENCE TO VIOLENCE INSTEAD OF ABUSE, IS AS A RESULT OF THE DEFINITION ONLY.
WHY ARE THESE IMPORTANT?
Regardless of your gender, or the category of abuse that you're suffering from, If you're a victim of abuse, it's incredibly difficult to take the first step and reach out, to ask for help. There could be many factors holding you back and that's if you're lucky enough to actually realise, that what is happening to you, is abuse.
This is why 'it's important to talk about domestic abuse in broad, non gendered terms. This may help people to understand that they are in an abusive relationship and to ensure that all people suffering from abuse feel that they matter and that help is available.
LET ME GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE - CLARE'S LAW
Clare’s Law, also known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, allows people to find out if their partner has an abusive or violent past. It is named after Clare Wood, who was killed by her former partner in 2009.
Let's put aside the fact, that this law was given a women's name. And the fact, that it was launched on International Women's Day and let's look at the language used during it's launch:
The Crime Prevention Minister at the time, Norman Baker said:
"Domestic abuse shatters lives and this government is working hard to provide police and local authorities with the tools they need to keep women and girls safe."
The Home Secretary at the time, Theresa May said:
"I am determined to see a society where violence against women and girls is not tolerated, where people speak out, and where no woman or girl has to suffer domestic abuse.The implementation of Clare’s law and domestic violence protection orders, are among the successful measures introduced to tackle violence against women and girls and form an integral part of the government’s call, to end violence against women and girls’ action plan."
The above two statements don't exactly foster equality, diversity and inclusion, do they?
This law was created to help all victims of domestic abuse, regardless of gender. But if you were a male victim (gay, straight bisexual or trans) would you have known that this law was to help you? No, i doubt that you would!
What they could (or perhaps should) have said.
"Domestic abuse shatters lives and this government is working hard to provide police and local authorities with the tools they need to keep all sufferers and survivors safe. Regardless of their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability or social and workplace position."
I am determined to see a society where abuse is not tolerated, where people speak out, and where no person has to suffer from domestic abuse. The implementation of The Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme and domestic abuse protection orders are among the successful measures introduced to tackle domestic abuse and form an integral part of the government’s call to, "end domestic abuse action plan."
REMEMBER - Language can both isolate us or bring us closer together. It's not hard to see which is which here!
Point of note: Using the term domestic "violence" perpetuates the myth that unless you're being punched, slapped or grabbed, you're not a victim of abuse. Therefore, we urge everyone to change their language and only use the term, domestic "abuse" to help people to recognise that it's a more complex issue and you may be a victim even if there is no physical violence.
CAN YOU BE AN ADVOCATE FOR ONE GROUP YET STILL CAMPAIGN FOR THE LANGUAGE TO BE INCLUSIVE?
Yes, I believe you can. I'm a survivor of female perpetrated domestic abuse and I recognise the importance of speaking about my experiences, in order to help other men (and hopefully some women) to come forward and seek the help that they so desperately need. And I fully support any woman doing the same.
SO, LET'S BE CLEAR WHERE I STAND
Do I agree that according to the ONS, women are the majority victims of domestic abuse? Yes.
Do I agree that according to the ONS, men remain the majority perpetrators? Yes.
Do I agree that the number of male victims is relatively small? Absolutely not, men make up a significant, one third of victims.
Do I support charities and their staff, that support only female or male sufferers and survivors of domestic abuse? Absolutely!
Do I agree that men and women require different safety and support needs? Absolutely!
Do I believe that you can be an advocate for men or women and yet still support a non gendered approach to language? Absolutely!
Do I believe that funding and services should be proportionate? Yes!
Do I want to see funding and services removed from women, to help (Straight, gay, bisexual, trans) men? No.
Do I believe that charities claiming to support both men and women (and receive a percentage of funding for both) should offer balanced services? Absolutely! (eg, If your website has a page for men and asks if they are perpetrators, then your page for women should ask the same!
Do I believe that organisations should be stripped of male funding, if they claim to support men and yet call for the conversation to be gendered (therefore isolating gay,straight, bisexual or transgender men)? Absolutely!