I thought a lot of progress has been made throughout 2013 to highlight issues surrounding domestic violence. And then, on the last day of the year, up pops one of the worst articles I have seen on the issue. The overall tone was to undermine the experiences of victims and to make light of what the police were dealing with.
Below I have attempted to re-write the article into something that is close to fit for purpose. However, I have written this with little time or research, using only what I know and what was already in the article. Of course, if I was a paid journalist for an establishment such as The Guardian, I would have taken much more care and attention but I hope it at least proves the point of how awful the original was.
What follows does contain text from the original article and I claim no right to it. I have tried to highlight these sections in italics to make it clear it is the work of the original author and from the Guardian article but admit I may have missed the odd bit and there are sections that have been reworded which is harder to highlight; the point was to do this to demonstrate the terrible tone the original used. Where paragraphs have been wholly unchanged this is just indicated with a comment such as “next paragraph mainly okay” rather than typing it all out. It is designed for reading alongside the original article to fully appreciate the differences (good old Windows 7 split screen function!).
Court 6 at Manchester Magistrates Court is a sad indictment of our society. This is the city’s dedicated domestic violence courtroom dealing with a mixture of scenarios such as parent’s violently attacking their children, children viciously attacking their parents, violence in same sex relationships and violence from wives or girlfriends on men. However, the overwhelming majority of cases are male violence on women; women they are supposed to “love”. The fact that a city has to have a court entirely dedicated to this should really send alarm bells ringing about the prevalence of domestic violence even today in the twenty first century.
In fact, so overwhelming is the issue, that whilst most courtrooms across England and Wales close over the Christmas and New Year festive period, courts such as this remain open to deal with the annual spike in domestic violence; a phenomenon repeated across the country. Whilst many of us are enjoying time with our families and relaxing, many others experience an increase in the abuse and violence they suffer.
Manchester saw a 75% increase in domestic violence incidents that required the court to extend their opening hours to deal with the 35 incidents. Remember that this is just one day, in one city. The court is still processing cases today.
(Next paragraph largely okay).
Some of the incidents attended by police officers were of relatively simple to deal with and were a result of the usual family arguments. However, others were far more serious and horrific. For example “on Christmas Eve a 60-year-old man threw a boiling kettle over his wife after a row which began after he ordered her to get him some clothes because he was cold. She ended up with a fractured neck after falling down the stairs” One has to wonder how many incidents of domestic violence were endured by this woman before culminating in such serious consequences and how incidents like this can be happening still today in our society across the country.
(At this point, I think I have to take issue with the quoted words from Detective Constable Sarah Harris unless the intention was to draw attention to how often these horrific incidents can be triggered by the smallest disagreements and her words have been lost within the tone of the article and way in which quoted.)
(Next paragraph is repetition of what has already been expressed and is merely distasteful hyperbole for entertainment’s sake)
Cases being dealt with in court today included:
• a 19-year old male from Eccles, in Salford, accused of spitting on his mother and smashing her windows. He will be standing trial.
• A chef with previous drink-related convictions held in the cells since 29 December after his girlfriend called the police to allege he had pushed her into a wall and dragged her down the stairs. He denied the charges and was released on bail pending trial, on the proviso he was not allowed back to their shared home.
• A 48-year-old mother from Longsight who has been held since Sunday, accused of assaulting her 23-year-old daughter in front of her three younger children. Defendant admitted the charges and will be sentenced next year.
• A 29-year old man from Morecambe, Lancashire, arrested after a night out in Manchester with his girlfriend. Police were called after two witnesses called the Police to report they had seen him push his girlfriend over a wall during a “heated argument”. The magistrate was informed that the alleged victim had not wished to provide a statement and the couple were still together. “However, the Crown wishes to proceed,” said Sabrina Sohota, senior crime prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). A trial date was duly set for March.
(Wording in the cases quoted above is mostly the same although I think the subtle changes are clear to change the tone)
(Next two paragraphs largely okay)
(The last two are awful and damaging. My rough suggestion follows…)
Whilst it can be hard for many, including the Police, to understand why victims of domestic violence do not report the perpetrator until they have been assaulted on average 20 to 30 times, the reasons are wide are varied and should be examined by society.
Often, the victim has suffered a variety of abusive and controlling behaviour previous to the physical assaults that, although widely recognised as part of the pattern of domestic violence, are not as yet a crime. (See @paladinservice on Twitter for more information on a campaign to change this). Women reporting such behaviour are left vulnerable and open to further abuse. Often the abuse can spiral further once reported and too often there is little protection or support for these women. We also have to examine our justice system that allows police officers convicted of domestic violence to again become serving officers or those who fail to investigate and understand the complexities of the issue believing myths such as, “Love’s a funny thing, isn’t it?” We also sadly, live in a world in which society will always seek to blame the victim and excuse the perpetrator. How often is an abuser offered help with housing and addictions whilst the victim is left to pick up the pieces?
To leave a relationship and place so much uncertainty into ones life, financially, emotionally, physically when your confidence and self-worth have been destroyed is nearly impossible. Maybe we should focus on recognising, tackling and making illegal the earlier stages of domestic violence thereby enabling victims much earlier and before it is too late?