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Domestic violence charity tells Michael Gove domestic violence is not a choice

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Domestic violence charity Women’s Aid has criticised a recent speech by Education Secretary Michael Gove, which they claim implies that domestic violence is a “life choice”.

In his speech, to the NSPCC, the Minister declared:

“In too many cases, social work training involves idealistic students being told that the individuals with whom they will work have been disempowered by society. They will be encouraged to see these individuals as victims of social injustice whose fate is overwhelmingly decreed by the economic forces and inherent inequalities which scar our society. This analysis is, sadly, as widespread as it is pernicious. It robs individuals of the power of agency and breaks the link between an individual’s actions and the consequences. It risks explaining away substance abuse, domestic violence and personal irresponsibility, rather than doing away with them.

The Education Secretary continued:

“Social workers overly influenced by this analysis not only rob families of a proper sense of responsibility, they also abdicate their own. They see their job as securing the family’s access to services provided by others, rather than helping them to change their own approach to life. Instead of working with individuals to get them to recognise harmful patterns of behaviour, and improve their own lives, some social workers acquiesce in or make excuses for these wrong choices.”

Polly Neate is Chief Executive of Women’s Aid. She responded to Mr Gove’s claims:

“Two women a week are killed through domestic violence in this country, and all the research we have shows that specialist domestic violence services are the best way to help women escape and rebuild. Good social workers are able to identify that domestic violence is not a ‘life choice’ that a woman needs to take responsibility for, it is an appalling situation she is trapped in by a perpetrator who manipulates, controls, threatens and harms her.”

She called on the minister to

“make clear that women experiencing domestic violence have a right to immediate safety and support and ensure social workers are fully trained to identify domestic violence and support women’s access to the services they vitally need.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Luke says:

    I have read the speech and it is excellent – the complaints by Women’s Aid are nonsense and they just seem to be squealing because Gove suggests some personal accountability (with help from social workers) needs to be introduced.

  2. Andrew says:

    It is a fact that some victims of d.v. go back to the same partner – without financial need to – or take him back – or find another violent partner. In which case why is it not a choice?

  3. ajlgirl says:

    I totally disagree with the commnets. It’s true a lot of women do have a tendency to be with violent men however this is generally not a conscious choice. These women could have experienced dv between their parents and therefore to them this is a ‘normal’ relationship. They have no experience or role,models for healthy relationships and therefore either don’t recognise the relationship for what it is or have such deep set insecurity that they see a man controlling them as him showing love.

  4. Stitchedup says:

    Two women a week are killed through domestic violence in this country, and all the research we have shows that specialist domestic violence services are the best way to help women escape and rebuild. Good social workers are able to identify that domestic violence is not a ‘life choice’ that a woman needs to take responsibility for, it is an appalling situation she is trapped in by a perpetrator who manipulates, controls, threatens and harms her.”

    The same old one sided story, full of self interest. How on earth can anybody justify describing this outfit as “THE” national domestic violence charity when they only cater for one gender????

  5. Stitchedup says:

    And what do we have in the news this evening??? one woman kills three men.

  6. Paul says:

    Not a week for Women’s Aid to be shouting their propaganda from the rooftops when one woman alone has confessed to the murder of three men.

  7. Nick Langford says:

    Neate wants to blame the patriarchy for domestic violence and present DV as a culturally-approved behaviour perpetrated only by men in which only women are the victims. Gove knows that this is nonsense and that the patriarchy is a myth. In reality the strongest predictor of a woman being the victim of intimate violence is her own perpetration of violence (Whitaker, Haileyesus, Swahn, & Saltzman, 2007); women are at greatest risk of violence from an intimate partner when they themselves initiate violence (Capaldi, 2009). About 60% of violence is reciprocal or bi-directional (Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Misra, Selwyn, & Rohling, 2012), and in 70% of those cases in which violence is not reciprocal the perpetrator of the violence is the woman.

  8. Stitchedup says:

    Nick, this is what Hidden Hurt has to say about research and stats that indicate Men are frequent victims of domestic violence.

    “Let me first include a caveat: don’t always trust domestic violence statistic, as they can be very missleading indeed. Some of the abuse statistics have even managed to come to the conclusion that there are more men terrified of being killed by their female partners than vice versa and that far from there being a very real issue with male to female abuse and violence, the actual facts (shown by warped statistics) point to the men being by far the most victims of the genders. While anyone who has worked with domestic abuse victims and survivors for many years knows, yes, there are male victims of abuse, and each and every one of these needs validation, support and help, but for each of these, there are countless mothers and children who literally flee for their lives for real fear of death from their parters or ex-partners. ”

    In other words, they simply dismiss any research that doesn’t fit their view of the world. Also note that they talk of Domestic violence in terms of murder and physical violence, yet we all know DV now also includes “emotional” abuse, something which women are more than capable of dishing out.

  9. Stitchedup says:

    I’ve just taken a look at the speech and Gove probably upset Women’s Aid from the outset, all the children he mentioned died as a result of neglect or murder by the mother.

    ajlgirl, you portray a picture of women as pathetic, helpless creatures, incapable of being responsible for their own actions… I don’t buy that. There are plenty of alpha women out there, capable of holding high profile jobs and board room positions. There are weak women like there are weak “hen pecked” men who may be emotionally and physically abused. Children are at least as likely to be abused or murdered by the mother as the father, so blaming one gender for DV is not only out-dated it is positively dangerous.

  10. Andrew says:

    ajlgirl: adult women like adult men must take responsibility for the natural consequences of their own actions and that includes going back to a violent man or taking him back.

    To be sure a lot of it is in their nurture – but you know what, that applies to many of the men too, they are the sons of violent relatioships, but that doesn’t excuse what they do to their wives and partners. They must accept the blame and take the consequences for their own actions; and so must the women. Women will not find true equality while they are encouraged – when it suits – to present themselves as victims of what they could and should have prevented. That does not apply when a woman cannot get out of the relationsship but it does when she lets it start again.

  11. JamesB says:

    Very interesting Nick and certainly backs up my experiences and hearing on the matter. Specifically a relative of mine is a landlord and had a tenant who kept arguing with his partner (we don’t know who started it), except that the rows got to involving knives, then neighbours and then the police. A lot of the politics behind this and female victimhood I do not understand. It is accepted that by far the biggest victims of violence are young men. That is accepted fact and I have seen that to be the case. That should be more looked at instead as there is a real issue there with young men being hurt day in and day out where they should not be by other young men usually and sometimes by young women. Example, all these fights on foreign holidays.

  12. JamesB says:

    With re to this article, If you dont like your partner being violent, leave him or her and call the police. Simple, save the country a lot of money.

  13. JamesB says:

    It shouldn’t matter if you are male or female if you are the victim of violence you are a victim of violence. Violence is not acceptable against men or women.

    I am proud my son’s school has a no touching rule and zero tolerance of bullying policy, for too long young men have to be so careful not to get beaten up at school age in particular and up until their 40s probably.

  14. JamesB says:

    Lots of young men in Greece in particular being beaten and stabbed and killed or injured on foreign holidays.

  15. Stitchedup says:

    The article linked below is a good example of a woman that has broken away from an abusive relationship but then chooses to walk back Into it.

    Who’s right and who’s wrong here?? Personally, I feel it is horrendously controlling of a judge to tell people who they can or can not speak to. These are draconian orders that violate a person’s right to free speech and freedom of expression.

    Having a disagreement about the selling price of the family home, or asking for personal property to be returned shouldn’t amount to harassment and result in a restraining order that gags a person.

    Women’s Aid however seem to favour women being told who they can or cannot mix with/speak to, yet shout from the rooftops about their perception of controlling behaviour from men.

    The ironic thing is men in general can not control women, women are free to do as they choose, unless of course they’re literally chained to the walls. It appears the only people that can control women and stop them from mixing with and speaking to who they choose are the police and judiciary/courts.

  16. Paul says:

    On some of these sink estates there’s nothing else to do these days other than domestic violence. Apart from boozing that is. Look around you at some of the new estates going up at the moment to meet the housing need. A developer gets outline consent for 500 houses based on pretty pictures of what it’s all going to look like, complete with faux green spaces and punters riding on their bikes to work. By the time it’s built, 500 homes is now 900 and the social element has risen to 75% as they struggle to find private buyers. These estates just become a cauldron of human discontent where the most frequent visitors become the police and the social. No one else goes into them voluntarily. When was the last time you visited such a place?

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