Politicians are great at making promises. Of course, whether or not the promise is deliverable is neither here nor there to them, so long as the electorate fall for it. On Friday I read a headline that said that a certain politician claims that we will never have gender equality until we stop domestic violence. Now, I know that this is not strictly a promise to stop domestic violence, but it obviously suggests that such a thing is possible. And it is far from the first time that it has been suggested that we can stop all domestic violence.
Of course, it is utter nonsense to suggest that we can stop all domestic violence, everywhere, forever. Despite the fact that all right-thinking people would want such a thing, it just isn’t ever going to happen, and to claim that it can happen is misleading in the extreme.
Let’s just think about this: how exactly are we going to stop all domestic violence? Short of putting a police officer (or two) in every household, I can’t conceive of a way that it could happen. We can have as many well-meaning laws or initiatives as we wish, but in the end we just can’t change human nature.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anti-domestic violence laws, or that I am opposed to initiatives that attempt to eradicate it. Of course I’m not. The war against domestic violence must continue, and must be fought using every available means. However, it is not a war that can ever be declared won. It is a war that will have to be waged as long as there are human beings forming relationships with one another, and to suggest otherwise is to mislead and to encourage complacency: by thinking that we are a short step away from eradicating domestic violence we are belittling a huge problem that we must always treat with the utmost seriousness.
At the beginning of this post I berated politicians for suggesting that we can end all domestic violence, but it is not just politicians who are at fault. I have seen domestic violence campaigners, family lawyers and others make the same suggestion (I have probably been guilty of it myself). It’s such an easy thing to say, like saying that we must stop all child abuse or that we must ensure that (for example) the Baby P tragedy never happens again, neither of which is possible either. It makes good headlines, but ultimately it’s trite, misleading and dishonest.
So let’s get real. If we have realistic, achievable objectives (i.e. to reduce domestic violence) then surely that is better than raising unrealistic expectations? The public need to be aware that domestic violence is never going to go away and must therefore be prepared to be in it for the long haul, not just for the duration of the latest anti-domestic violence campaign.
And one way that the fight against domestic violence can become a permanent feature in our society is for it to be included as a compulsory part of the school curriculum. If all children, especially of course those who have witnessed it, are taught that domestic violence is wrong then that is surely a huge step in the right direction, not just in educating and promoting awareness but also in making it clear that the problem is not going away and that we must never drop our guard.