Living as I do across the river from the Royal Borough of Greenwich, I was alarmed this morning to find in my in box this poster, which is launched as part of a drive against domestic abuse. Alongside the poster runs the statement..
The Royal Borough’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Environment was joined by the Borough’s most senior police officer this week to launch the latest in a series of posters to highlight the campaign to tackle domestic violence and abuse.
Councillor Jackie Smith and the Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Helen Millichap officially launched the next phase of the publicity campaign which is aimed at highlighting the negative effects that domestic violence and abuse can have on young children.
The main message is “You can’t hide domestic violence from children.” This challenges the idea often held by perpetrators or victims that as long as their children do not see the abuse taking place, they are protected from its impact. The truth is that children in abusive households can be seriously affected as they do hear the arguments and shouting. They will also witness or hear violence taking place, and will often even blame themselves for what is happening.
Experiencing or witnessing domestic abuse as a child may lead to developmental, behavioural, emotional and social relationship issues which last well into adulthood. Children raised in abusive homes are also more likely to become abusers themselves, suffer from stress, depression and poor self-esteem and fall behind or drop out of school.
All well and good, kids suffer when they hear violence and blame themselves for what is happening, nothing to argue with there. But that isn’t what this poster is saying is it? That is not its main message. The main message this poster conveys is that children are harmed by the violence which is perpetrated by their fathers. And as we know that a picture paints a thousand words, the image can only be designed with the purpose of reinforcing a stereotype which the Office for National Statistics figures confirm is a myth.
This is the truth of violence in the home, plain and simple. These are not made up facts and they are not inflated, misrepresented or otherwise changed, twisted or tainted. This is the reality, taken from the Office for National Statistics in 2011/12. Out of every seven victims of domestic violence in the UK, four will be women and three will be men.
Which means that unless all those men are not fathers and all those women are mothers, the reality of who is responsible for perpetrating violence in the home in front of children is far away from the stereotype of the violent father and much much closer to the reality that both men and women are actively violent in the home and that as mothers and fathers they are each capable of being violent in front of children.
Imagine what those dads who have experienced violence at the hands of their partners in front of the children must feel like in Greenwich today. Invisible, invalidated, insecure? And imagine what those mothers who have perpetrated violence in the home in the Royal Borough of Greenwich must feel like on seeing these posters. Justified? Given permission? Encouraged?
Violence in the home is damaging to children whether it is instigated by mothers or by fathers. Disempowering fathers by relying upon lazy stereotypes is an institutionalised abuse which is unjustified in today’s society. I hope that those who fight for the well being of men and boys in London and across the country will tackle the London Borough of Greenwich and the Metropolitan Police on their lack of gender awareness and their perpetuation of a stereotyped idea of who is violent in the home.
Keeping our children safe by addressing the reality of what is happening in homes across the UK is an essential task of policing our country. Relying on stereotypes is not.
As a footnote – on analysing the services provided in Greenwich for male victims of domestic violence, it is clear that these are provided in the same way as all gender blind services which do not take into account the reality of the different needs of men. Bolt on services for men, which are provided by a women’s housing charity is a fine example of institutionalised stereotyping and lazy service provision. It is also contrary to the Equality Act 2010, which you can be sure I will be quoting when I write to the Royal Borough of Greenwich Councillors and the Metropolitan Police today.