The Prime Minister’s attack on domestic violence is unlikely to be successful if it is straight jacketed by a bureaucracy hamstrung by 1970’s dogma.
“Don’t blame the victim” is a mantra which prevents the exploration of victim’s characteristics and relationship with the perpetrator which could provide better tools to prevent domestic violence.
Since the book titled “Do not blame the victim” was published in 1971 it has been translated into: “do not explore the role of the victim” (you male chauvinist), but what about where the victim deserved it? ; the serious injury or homicide of a rapist by his target, the injury of an assailing drunk by his target, or a persistently abusive husband who is eventually seriously injured or killed by his wife?
Our criminal system decides things one way or the other. Guilt or innocence. Of course there are 100% innocent victims such as children who are sexually or physically abused, or neglected and victims of random or rampage shootings, and there are 100% responsible perpetrators, such as rapists and robbers of complete strangers, but in between these two extremes there are victims who seek, challenge, tease, or entice the perpetrator or who are willing participants in fights or duels.
Exploring the psychology of victims has become synonymous with blaming the victim yet remedies which dogmatically refuse to explore the victims psychology are demonstrably not working.
In the last 20 years there has been little effective reduction in domestic violence, little better protection for victims and little protection of future generations from continuing the cycle of abuse.
Domestic violence is complex, as is the relationship between men and women. Being hamstrung by 1970’s dogma that prevents exploration of this complexity by creating a fear against exploring the role of victims may be preventing the finding of solutions.
Victims, and their supporters can achieve moral superiority and simultaneously disown any responsibility. They are always morally right and entitled to sympathy.
Sending the husband to gaol is a temporary fix. Programs that require him to “totally accept all blame” will not help him because a proper analysis of the relationship may not bear this out.
Confirming the wife’s status as a victim may perpetuate further violence because it does not explore and explain her more subtle role in the violent relationship.
He leaves prison with more rage and she may simply find herself another abusive man.
While it is clear that abuse of women by men is unjustifiable under any circumstance, it is still important to differentiate between relative degrees of responsibility.
Dogma that victims are always completely innocent is absurd.
The denial of any victims capacity to predict or prevent, or even unconsciously invite abuse, is to reduce women to helpless, incapable creatures, and, re-victimizes them.
If a boy identifies with an abusive father, we can expect him to attempt to repeat the abusive behaviour. Similarly, a girl who observes her mother being abused is more likely to engage in such behaviour herself . It is not uncommon for a person to assume both roles and become an abuser as well as a victim.
When the culturally violent messages complement the familial ones, children may not have any other frame of reference, and are most likely to fall into the role of victims, victimizers, or both.
Instead of blame, what about another approach? What about ways to intervene and hopefully stop the patterns of violence.
Domestic violence happens in a relationship. Each participant's behaviour must be understood within its context.
The parties may unconsciously play mutually dependant and complementary roles.
Looking at the different roles of the abuser and abused is fundamental to unlocking this approach. It needs to look at the currently taboo and ignored role of the victim.
We must understand the interplay between husband and wife and how their behaviours contribute to the maintenance and escalation of violence.
The focus should be on the destructive system they developed and maintain in the context of their family history, probably of abuse.
Of course necessary protection should continue to be providing but this should not be the only focus. The long-term goal is to help the victim and victimiser to new behaviour.
Where appropriate, victims must be helped to develop an understanding of how they contribute to their own victimisation and to be able to break the dangerous and painful link between love and abuse while helping them realise that they deserve respect and dignity like any other human being.
Abuse of women by men is unjustifiable under any circumstance. At some point the physically stronger just has to restrain or be restrained. I have been lobbying for better prevention methods, changes to the law and the systems that seek to punish the perpetrators and protect the victims for a long time.
As a community we have not yet come up with any successful response. One Australian woman a week is killed by domestic violence. Repeating current approaches on a national scale offers nothing.
Not taking the psychology of both domestic parties into account seems to be an omission.
It is an omission that should not be prevented from exploration by dogma.
It’s inclusion in the PM’s initiative could be crucial to a successful outcome.
I attribute large parts of this article to: http://www.zurinstitute.com/victimhood.html