2019-05-10

Mind the gap: #MeToo and Domestic Abuse Awareness

During IMPRODOVA's 3rd consortium meeting in Edinburgh (6-9 May) we dealt with a number of questions regarding victims and perpetrators of high impact domestic abuse. Why is the stereotype of the 'nagging wife' in opposition to the 'good' and 'deserving' victim so persistent, not only in the mindsets of media, but also among some first responders? Why do movie audiences feel entertained by the violence of iconic 'real men' like Russel Crowe (in L.A. Confidential), or Gene Hackman (in Mississippi Burning) when they beat the living hell out of male abusers? 'Why doesn't she leave?' seems a frequent question, asked similarly by onlookers and partly, also by professionals who act as first line responders.

The #MeToo movement had only a muted reaction when it came to domestic abuse victims. Pain, shame, despair of celebrity female actors as victims of molestation and abuse caused a wave of interest, sympathy for the victims, and contempt for the abusers. But this awareness does not extend to domestic abuse, although the latter is much more prevalent and frequent. Its consequences for women, children, families, and communities are much more grave and costly. Not only in Euro and cents but also in physical and psychological trauma. 20% of work of the Police Service of Scotland have to do with domestic abuse cases.

Women remain in abusive relations for many reasons. While #MeToo victims could rely on public and media support, in domestic violence victims 'haven't seen others hold domestic abusers accountable'. Abuse victimization is still attached to a 'heavy-duty stigma', writes Sarah Mervosh. Victims have 'serious safety concerns that keep them from sharing publicly'. Regularly, domestic abuse is not suitable for storytelling and understandably, instead of sharing on social media, victims prefer to speak confidentially. Character assassination, victim blaming, stigma, and safety concerns are quoted as additional factors that keep domestic abuse in a dangerous closet, a confined space exclusively controlled by the abuser.

For raising public awareness of DV and its costs, media interest is decisive. IMPRODOVA has the difficult task to achieve the long overdue objective of increasing reporting rates and to make it less easy for perpetrators to hide in the thicket of public ignorance and lack of empathy for truly deserving human beings.

by Joachim Kersten