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The reality of domestic violence

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New video shows the brutality of domestic violence

With 1 in 4 women suffering domestic violence (DV) in the UK and two women murdered – yes murdered – each week, the reality of DV for many women goes beyond the figures.

If you are lucky enough to not have experienced this, the odds are that you know someone (or more than someone) who has.

This is certainly true in my case: as well as being a survivor of DV in childhood, I also survived DV in at least two adult relationships, and currently have a close friend who is in the midst of trying to flee her own abuser, which began when she had to run from her own home, complete with children, in the middle of the night.

It was against this backdrop that I received a link to a new video about domestic violence, produced by Dr Kai Switgart, a US psychologist specialising in trauma working for a US counselling service.

The video was produced to raise awareness for October’s Domestic Violence month, and is in part a reflection of Dr Switgart’s experiences as a therapist.

The text that accompanies the video states:

“Once I began working with a woman after she had been nearly beaten to death, and the next time I saw her she had shot and killed her husband in order to save her own life.”

As a survivor of DV I am always interested in media that attempts to show how prevalent and dangerous DV is to women and children.

So I duly clicked on the link*.

Called ‘Don’t feel like Heaven Anymore’, what followed was a harrowing four minutes watching women being beaten by men overlaid with a soundtrack by singer songwriter Fire Prince.

The scenes in the video are taken from existing films, such as the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, Ike and Tina and The Burning Bed.

Horrified, I sat frozen throughout the four minutes of the film, appalled at the level of violence displayed.

Having seen at least three of the films, I perhaps shouldn’t have been shocked, but spliced together the effect punched through the mental defences I had built up around my own experiences and left me feeling sick from the adrenalin rush.

This effect lasted all day, and by that evening I was exhausted from the flood of emotions and flashbacks triggered by the video.

My first reaction was to email Dr Switgart and request that he put a trigger warning on any subsequent emails because it was so upsetting.

Also, given that we at WVoN made a recent policy decision that any stories about DV should not feature the usual ‘bruised victim pic’, to avoid perpetuating the image of women as victims ‘cowering in a corner’,  I also talked with a friend about whether this type of video should even be in the public domain.

After some thought, whilst I recognised that my reaction to this video was related to my own experience, this does not take away from the fact that this was because the scenes rang true.

As there is no context to frame the scenes, they are raw, violent and brutal.

As such, the video lays bare the reality of domestic violence without any accompanying contextual information, such as the ‘she nagged me’ defence.

For me, this type of defence obscures the fact that a victim of domestic violence is being violently assaulted and so should have no part in this equation.

Similarly, contextual information surrounding rape victims – ‘she was wearing a short skirt/drunk/flirting etc etc’ – should also have no part in that equation.

Violence against women is just that, and no amount of contextual information (victim blaming) should obscure the fact that women are being assaulted, beaten and raped every day.

This obscuration of the reality of DV is reflected by the law: as it stands there is no actual specific DV criminal offence in the UK; instead we have a ‘definition’, which refers to ‘incidents of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse’.

More recently, this definition is to be broadened to include: ‘those aged 16-17 and wording to reflect coercive control.’

But still this is not to be written into law.

Meanwhile, although – according to the CPS – DV prosecutions have ‘risen by 15,000 over four years’ many women do not come forward in the first place.

Even when they do, they might not want to see the case through or they withdraw their complaint.

And why?

Well, going back to the friend I mentioned at the beginning of this article – she is still trying to get the police to take her seriously: to date they have refused to arrest her partner for DV, a refusal that has led her to feel that the next event will be her death at his hands.

So, to sum up – we have contextual information that obscures the reality of DV, a police force that refuses to see DV as a ‘real’ assault, and a law that does not recognise DV as an entity in its own right.

And so, upsetting as the video is, I believe that it may play an important role in showing the reality of DV to decision-makers and help them move towards laying down a specific law, automatically enforced by police without the need for a woman – who may have suffered years of abuse and thus is experiencing battered woman syndrome – to press charges against her abuser.

I emailed Dr Switgart for a quote about the video and whilst he acknowledged it is ‘hard to watch’, he feels that it is a graphic representation of the need for us, as a human race, to evolve:

‘I believe that, until we have, as a race, evolved beyond the point of using physical size and strength to exert power and control over other human beings, we will be unable to effectively evolve any further, since this type of primitive behavior will continue to pull those of us seeking enlightenment back down into the lower level consciousness in order to survive.’

*Due to the graphic nature of the video, I have not linked to it, but it is easily searchable by the title on You Tube.  The search comes with a SEVERE trigger warning.

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  1. vicki wharton says:

    I too have got out of two relationships where my partners used violence to lay down their law. What I found interesting in going to various counsellors and friends about my experiences is how many people surrounding the woman will coerce her into taking responsibility for the violence or keep asking her to make excuses for the man’s behaviour/see it from his point of view. I think this largely helps keep a woman trapped in a relationship, as there is very little rational information backing up her viewpoint that she is in clear and present danger. I believe that a good many women are persuaded to redouble their efforts to solve the violence by this siren chorus of well wishers, family and institutions all dismissing the violence as not serious until the woman is removed from her home in a body bag. Then the hand wringing starts and the chorus of we didn’t realise how bad it was. Until women achieve full status as human beings by the removal of porn and other types of gender propoganda, I can’t see much changing. My six year old daughter is currently experiencing sexist violence at school and it has taken 11 meetings in 3 weeks for me to get them to even begin to act on her behalf.

  2. I hear you Vicki – that is my point about the contextual stuff – once you cut through this, there is a women being beaten. And no matter what she has done/not done/said/not said blah blah blah – she doesn’t deserve to be beaten. And the blurring of the reality is caused by not being believed: society simply doesn’t want to hear, let alone, accept a woman’s reality – that we live in fear of our lives every day.

    • vicki wharton says:

      I think what is ultimately being beaten is the reality that we are equal – that as a group of people we are just as smart, interesting, hardworking and honest as men. That is what most people don’t really want to challenge, the idea that men aren’t better than women.

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