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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 15:19 GMT
'Seismic shift' needed over abuse
Domestic violence
A woman is murdered by her current or ex-partner every three days
A "seismic shift" must be made in the approach to tackling domestic violence, according to campaigners.

Statistics have shown that a woman is murdered by her current or ex-partner every three days in the UK.

An Edinburgh conference to mark the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was hearing about ways of tacking the problem.

Councillor Sheila Gilmore said violence was a deeply embedded problem and that major changes were needed.

The Edinburgh Violence Against Women Partnership, which organised Friday's conference, said the barriers between the various agencies working to end domestic attacks must be broken down.

'Great strides'

The group has recommended closer links between police, social services and other bodies and a greater sharing of data.

They also want more effective support for victims, helping women and children who have been affected by violence to rebuild their lives.

Councillor Gilmore, chairwoman of the Edinburgh Community Safety Partnership (ECSP), said: "Quite frankly it is disgusting that 30 years after the formation of Women's Aid we are still having to discuss how to deal with domestic abuse.

"Certainly there have been great strides made both in legislation and service delivery since the 1970s.

Johann Lamont
Sixteen Days is an important part of highlighting the global experience of violence against women and re-energising our determination to eradicate it
Johann Lamont
Deputy Communities Minister

"Just as certain though is the fact that this is a problem deeply embedded in our society. We must try to make the seismic shift that the city needs."

The Scottish Executive has recently committed to supporting a new violence against women fund.

It has been set up to support and develop local measures around the key themes of prevention, protection and provision, with help also provided for children and young people affected by gender-based violence.

In an article for the BBC Scotland news website, Deputy Communities Minister Johann Lamont highlighted the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, commencing on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ending on 10 December, International Human Rights Day.

She said: "Sixteen Days is an important part of highlighting the global experience of violence against women and re-energising our determination to eradicate it.

"It makes us visit afresh the horror and appalling crime of violence against women, acknowledging that violence against women is still taking place and challenging why."

We asked you for your views on tackling a problem which has been described as "deeply embedded" in society. The following represented the balance of opinions received.

I don't know where to start, but I still find that some male attitudes are stuck in the dark ages. I work in a respectable accountancy practice and was appalled to hear one of the (30-year-old) tax clerks comment "she should be whipped" because a co-worker's partner had got drunk at a party and been ill. He was actually serious! It is still acceptable in a lot of quarters: somehow we have to change attitudes, legislation will not cure the problem. And regarding Robert's point: I've been emotionally abused by my partner, blackmailed about children, etc., but walking away is the only acceptable way. That being said I have every sympathy if someone just snaps - I was so close it scared me.
Alistair, Northumberland, UK

So, Rob's concerned about 'busy bodies' finding out too much. The language he uses and the opinions he offers suggest he's a 'do nothing' on this issue - is that because he's indifferent or thinks it's not really a problem. Personally, I have found many of the recent 'restrictions' introduced into our lives very liberating. Less smoking in public places? Great for the majority of people who don't want smoke forced upon them. Speed cameras? Fantastic - they only catch people who choose to break the law and if that means that fewer people speed, so much the better for the rest of the road users. I've been caught - but that's because I chose to break the law, so I didn't squeal about it when the notification came in the post. I don't think anyone is advocating cameras in homes, but effective ways of exposing bullies who batter their partners is exactly what we need to get busy about.
Andrew, Edinburgh

There are many biases present in this country. Some people believe they have the right to abuse and belittle others because they are better educated and more intelligent. They regard others less fortunate as stupid and weak. This kind of arrogance is often shown as "cool" on TV. One of the programmes that glamorises this sort of arrogance and promotes verbal and emotional abuse is The Weakest Link. How can we successfully tackle bullying and violence if respect for one another is no longer the attractive subject on national television?
Gina, Chesham, UK

I'm a strong believer that women don't ask for it but I have abused a woman once about 10 years ago. I was so upset with myself that I got out of that relationship straight away. The point I need to make is that almost all men are capable of abuse and circumstances have more to do with it in most cases. I'm older and wiser now and it would not happen again.
Anon, Newbury

I feel compelled to respond to Robert Geake. So, a man who beats his wife whilst drunk should be locked up, and a man who beats her stone cold sober is merely 'sticking up' for himself? In the case of a man who has 'his temper pushed to the edge by a pushy, aggressive partner' - surely the best response would be to get out of that situation and seek help to do so if necessary, rather than resort to violence? I believe that there is never an excuse for domestic abuse, whether perpetrated by a male or female and am repelled by such outdated notions that victims of such abuse are in some way 'getting what they deserve', or must have been 'asking for it'. Such views, in my opinion, only encourage a culture where victims are ashamed to speak out and abusers feel no compulsion to face up to their actions.
Withheld, Glasgow

It is puzzling that Councillor Gilmore is disgusted that "30 years after the formation of Women's Aid we are still having to discuss how to deal with domestic abuse". Domestic abuse is a criminal act which happens in a family/domestic setting. It is not an illness which you can inoculate people against, nor is it likely to be something subject to attitudinal changes. Thieves, after all, despite the general opposition to theft, are unimpressed by general social condemnation and apparently by all the money which is spent trying to combat their activities. If the level of hostility against theft doesn't seem to affect the level of theft (except in times of high unemployment when crimes of theft increase) why should domestic violence be any different? Moreover we are still talking about how to deal with theft despite it having been recognised as a crime since human society evolved. The real issue for us therefore is not that it continues to exist or that the level causes concern, but whether we properly detect it when it occurs and how easy it is for women or children or partners in general to be able to report it to the authorities and gain adequate protection from reoccurrence in particular instances. There is a further point. We only discuss things, advocate practical solutions, when we are concerned about things. The real problem therefore for domestic violence is when we cease to discuss it.
Stephen Hatton, Scotland

When programmes like EastEnders have made popular heroes out of violent characters, why are we surprised when such behaviour persists in the real world too?
David, Turkey

This is not about gender or specific abuse, this is about our attitudes to personal violence in all settings. What is it about bullies in the UK? It seems that violence is and has always been an acceptable part of life? My sister was a victim of domestic abuse, her children have been bullied at school. When will Britons take a stand against personal violence? It's about time we taught ourselves and our children respect for each other, maybe then the cycle of violence would stop.
Lucy Power, Tunbridge Wells

I think it's about high time this government started making a real effort too with males as well in this respect. We are discriminated against at present even though gender is supposed to be neutral. I am a survivor of both mental and physical abuse and there was no one organisation available to help me and my two kids. My kids were then subject to abuse from my ex-partner too. Big failures at our cost. It works two ways. Please wake up, it does happen to men as well.
J, Falkirk

With reference to Derek's point about male rape -I don't think we should underestimate how difficult it is for anyone, male or female, to seek help after a rape or other violent attack, and that we cannot know how many attacks go unreported. Violence against anyone is wrong.
Elizabeth, Edinburgh

Let me guess what law will be brought in to combat domestic violence. Police cameras in the home I bet. Be careful before jumping on any bandwagon here, it's just another excuse for the busy bodies to get their claws into everything.
Rob, Chichester

A man who methodically gets drunk and beats his partner should be locked away. But what about the man that has had his temper pushed to the edge by a pushy, aggressive partner. One day the man snaps and lashes out. Does that make him an abuser or is he just doing as our parent told us, sticking up for himself?
Robert Geake, Whitstable

I agree with the fact that it should be all types of abuse and not gender specific or biased towards women. There seems to be a growing band of abused men perpetrated by women. What if the problem was reduced amongst women - would the pendulum swing to recognising the need for men to get help? Many men do not report or talk of their abuse therefore the figures will never be truthful. Think of a guy abused by the drunken, depressed or unstable partner who puts up with it silently for years and then either leaves or explodes - who then sympathises? And if he leaves he generally loses everything through vindictiveness. All domestic abuse is wrong
George, Wishaw

I think it would be a good start to recognise that up to a third of victims of domestic violence are men (according to the BCS). Whilst a lot more needs to be done for all victims of domestic violence, at least the plight of female victims has been exposed by the media and support groups. Male victims, on the other hand, are generally left with nowhere to turn. A growing number turn to suicide.
Laurence Hopkins, Leek

We have to change attitudes, not just of men but of the women who take it day in and day out. It's all about breaking the cycle, a woman who takes it with her children in the house, watching, or in another room is just reinforcing the cycle. As a victim of violent abuse for 17 years from my father and watching my mother taking it and knowing she is still taking it - makes me feel sick.
Lynn Mollan, Dunfermline

Domestic violence in all forms is abhorrent. I actually think that it's harder for men suffering from domestic violence to seek and then receive help than it is for women. I find it sad that this campaign is so gender-specific and feel that it should be a strong campaign against all domestic violence, whether perpetrated by men or women.
Alison, Dumfries

The real shift required is for the recognition that women are abusers too and we need to rid ourselves of the "deeply embedded" notion that they are always the victims. Women are able to conduct quite horrendous campaigns of abuse against men, safe in the knowledge that if they are reported they can simply allege they are the victim who is simply defending themselves and the police will always take their side and further victimise the male victim by arresting and prosecuting them. Only when there is equality in the approach to domestic abuse will there be an improvement - with all the effort being biased to protecting only women and no interest being shown in protecting men, the situation will never truly improve.
Alan, Glasgow

Too many people, irrespective of gender, appear to think that violence is an acceptable behaviour. This is what needs to be challenged, not some subset based on gender, race or anything else!
Megan, Cheshire

My sister was the victim of domestic violence in 2001 and the police were disgraceful. After arresting her violent ex, they left papers out in clear view of him showing her new address. Not surprisingly, he went to her house and smashed through the doors and attacked her in front of her two young daughters. It is shameful that it is always the victim who has to leave and my sister can't even attend her school reunion because her ex lives in that borough. More support should be given to the victims.
Caz, London

The recent survey about rape and a third believe that women encourage/cause this, clearly shows this country's attitude to women. If male rapes were as common as female, then attitudes would be completely different. Society is still to biased very towards men (legal system, pay, promotion, etc) and this ensures that the 'she was asking for it' culture lives on. Any violence against women is wrong and it is our responsibility to change this. Like racism, if you don't stand for it, other people won't stand for it.
Derek, Edinburgh

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