Manweek: #MyFirstLove: How Fathers will prevent domestic homicides by @EVB_Now

Cross-Posted with Permission from Ending Victimisation and Blame (Everyday Victim Blaming)

At Ending Victimisation and Blame, we support all campaigns that seek to end the epidemic of violence against women and children [2]. We believe that the answer to this epidemic lies in both the education of men to prevent abuse and the non-judgemental support of women and children through the NHS, social services, police services, department of education and third-sector organisations. We believe all of the aforementioned organisations need better training in order to support women and children, particularly in terms of language that holds victims responsible for the abuse perpetrated against them.

We have grave concerns about a campaign designed to prevent violence against women and children that is entitled “Because we have daughters UK”[3]. We understand the origins of this campaign but we do not believe that a campaign based on patriarchal constructions of the family will help end violence. It is absolutely vital that men are helped to build healthy relationships with their children but ending violence against women and children should be based on the recognition that women and children are not possessions.

Predicating campaigns on the theory that “daughters” do not deserve to experience violence fails to understand the systemic oppression and violence in our culture. These types of campaigns reinforce a dichotomy between “good” and “bad” female victims of male violence predicated on male ownership. In order to challenge both violence against women and children and victim blaming, we need to ensure that all campaigns understand this systemic oppression. Women and children deserve to be safe from male violence because they are human; not simply because they may be someone’s daughter.

We also have concerns about this statement in the Feminist Times article by Deborah Owhin:

Girls who develop healthy relationships with their ‘fathers’ make better decisions in future relationships. This ‘first love’ or foundational relationship gives them a base line to measure against for future love relationships.[4]

Firstly, we need to recognise that the man most likely to abuse a daughter -emotionally, sexually, physically or financially – is their father (biological or step). The failure to include this piece of information is quite worrying as it ignores the realities of much of the abuse experienced by girls.

Secondly, the idea that a woman is trapped in a violent relationship because of “poor decisions” is victim blaming. It fundamentally misunderstands the nature of violence within intimate relationships and the grooming process whereby violent men slowly erode women’s reality and support networks. Violent men target specific women for a variety of reasons; none of which are due to “poor decision making” on the part of women. It is extremely worrying that a campaign designed to prevent male violence against women places the blame on victims for their “decision-making” process; and this is without acknowledging the fact that many abusers are fathers.

We are equally concerned by this statement:

Growing up in a nuclear family is no longer a norm for many young people, as a result relationships between fathers and daughters are suffering. This has directly led to a low sense of self esteem in young girls looking to the internet, social media, friends, the entertainment industry and Hollywood for an identity and to create their images of what a healthy and respectful relationship is – this is detrimental to our society.

This reduces a complex problem to what is colloquially referred to as “Daddy issues”. Growing up in a nuclear family does not equal a healthy father-daughter relationship. As we have already stated, this is the man most likely to abuse a child.  Secondly, having parents who are separated does not mean that the relationship between fathers and daughters must end. If it does end, one has to ask if the relationship was there to start with. We would be interested in seeing research that directly links poor relationships with fathers to low self-esteem in girls that then results in girls looking elsewhere for an identity, rather than it being a complicated response to being groomed by a culture which privileges girls who meet the criteria of “good girls” whilst holding 13 year olds girls responsible for their own rapes.

We are also worried by the lack of adequate information on the website “Without women, where would we be?” [5]. The program appears to be based on 4-hour workshops with fathers and daughters. There is no information as to who leads these workshops and whether or not they have training in recognising violence against women and children [6]. As Lundy Bancroft has noted in his seminal text “Why does he that? Inside the minds of Angry and Controlling Men”, groups for violent men become places where abusive men seek support to continue their abusive behaviour rather than preventing it. They become places where male violence is normalised and encouraged if the group organiser is not trained appropriately.

The definition of violence against women used by this campaign is taken directly from the UN definition but there is no information as to how they are implementing that knowledge within their practise [7]. There is also no information on the website about data confidentiality or ethical practise codes in case they are made aware of an abusive relationship.

We fully support all programs that seek to end violence against women and children but these programs must make their practises clear [8]. We also believe that men have the power to end violence against women and children but this must be about them changing their behaviour. Implying that women make “poor decisions” which result in their abuse at the hands of a male partner is victim blaming. It allows men to elide their responsibility for committing violence and it implies that victims bear some responsibility for being victims.

1http://www.feministtimes.com/men-as-allies-to-end-domestic-violence/#sthash.frwZNnrp.dpuf
2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22975103
3. http://withoutwomen.org/current-projects/bwhd-uk
4. http://www.feministtimes.com/men-as-allies-to-end-domestic-violence/#sthash.frwZNnrp.dpuf
5. http://withoutwomen.org
6. There is basic information about training programs on the American website for Men Stopping Violence who developed the “Because we have daughters” campaign, however it is not detailed and we cannot confirm whether or not men’s personal histories of violence are investigated before they are allowed to participate or even to train as workshop leaders. http://www.menstoppingviolence.org/training
7. http://withoutwomen.org
8. http://www.niaendingviolence.org.uk

– See more at: http://everydayvictimblaming.com/news/manweek-my-first-love-how-fathers-will-prevent-domestic-homicides-1/#sthash.tOC2bLgV.dpuf

Ending Victimisation and Blame [Everyday Victim Blaming]: This campaign is about changing the culture and language around violence against women and children.  We aim to challenge the view that men cannot help being violent and abusive towards women and children.  We want to challenge the view that women should attempt to ‘avoid’ abuse in order to not become a victim of it.  We challenge media reports of cases of violence against women and children where there is an almost wilful avoidance of the actual reasons for these acts.  Power, control, women and children being considered ‘possessions’ of men, and avoidance of personal responsibility all contribute to a societal structure that colludes with abusers and facilitates a safe space in which they can operate. This is what we are campaigning to change.