The fact that domestic violence is still endemic in British society
destroys the myth that feminism has won its battles.
The two women dying every week after violence at home are victims
of more than just terrifying attacks. They are victims of a popular
culture that objectifies and undermines women, a workplace culture
that still treats women’s work as less valuable than men’s,
domestic roles that have barely acknowledged women’s achievements
and responsibilities in paid work. Their victimisation is embedded
in society in countless small ways. It explodes into domestic
violence when other conditions are met: poverty, poor housing,
financial problems, lack of support services, the perpetrator’s
Those other conditions are daunting in themselves, but the fight is
far wider. The government’s investment in local strategies to deal
with the effects of violence is most welcome. But any policy on
domestic violence must look at gender relations in society as a
whole. And a radical education programme must start young. Research
has shown that a high proportion of boys believe it is acceptable
to use violence against a female partner.
As professionals in children’s services know only too well,
children themselves are traumatised by domestic violence
perpetrated on their mothers. And those growing up in violent homes
are more likely to pose a risk to others later.
Equality between men and women must be integral and explicit in the
national curriculum, including the effects of inequality such as
violence. Resistance to this is to an extent understandable:
campaigners sometimes treat the curriculum like a Christmas tree on
which remedies for all society’s ills can be hung. But in this case
the relevance of an approach that starts in school – for both
current and future victims – is clear.
The government’s new co-ordinator, to work with local government
and the police, should also be part of a wider picture. If ever an
issue cried out for a “tsar”, co-ordinating policy at national
level across agencies and government departments, this is it.