This article was written on July 9th. It was a tough article to write.
Trial by Social Media
A recent high profile video of a young woman with a black eye and her child in the background has gone viral. The young woman, tender and vulnerable, talks movingly about her decision to go public on her beating. She introduces her small child who is playing on the stairs and informs us that she also has a seven month old child by the same man.
Her video has gone viral and she has received widespread praise from women’s groups, individuals and the majority of media outlets. Her injury was allegedly received at the hands of her partner, a man who she tells us that she loved with all her heart. It is a very emotional and moving video.
However, and here I almost hesitate to write, I feel uncomfortable while watching this video. The first reason is that she talks about their life together and the affairs he is said to have had and even the fact that he has fathered other children. These affairs and additional children while horrible to the woman, are not hanging offences. It is not against the law to be unfaithful or indeed to father another child. I feel as though I am in a peep show, watching the intimate affairs of a couple, and it makes me shift uneasily in my seat.
It is enough to know that she has been beaten and was beaten in the past. This is unforgivable and is an offence. The why he allegedly beat her is not important, her coming forward is.
Abuse can only survive where shame and silence prevail. This woman, Emma Murphy, is reaching out to help other women who feel trapped in a violent relationship. She is right on many counts, not least of which is the emotional and mental abuse visited upon her. We know from many reports that domestic abuse victims do not leave for many reasons –fear, worry and often total lack of confidence. Often the direct result of the mental abuse is this inability to leave. The victim over time believes they are in part the cause of the violence, that somehow they are to blame for it.
In direct contrast, victims of domestic violence are often the most resourceful, strong women (and men) you can ever meet. To remain in a place of sometimes daily violence is stressful to a degree equal to that of soldiers on active service. Do not underestimate the power and strength of survivors of domestic violence.
People often ask why don’t the women leave. Why do they put up with it? Ironically this can also come down to strength. Women (and men – I am not neglecting men) do not enter into a violent relationship willingly. Often the violence begins subtly and with large gaps, only over time to become more frequent and more violent. Before the woman knows it, she is in the middle of a crisis and she cannot see a way out.
It is ironic that often the women in this situation do not leave from love. How mad is that? They think that since they once loved their partner that if they stay they can ‘fix’ them. Then a mixture of terror and fear and perhaps babies arrive and their escape routes are destroyed one by one.
In the same way, domestic abuse is accompanied by mental abuse. How else can one human being routinely be violent against another without fear of police intervention? Domestic abuse is rarely about violence or loss of control, it is all about maintaining control over the other person. The same man (or woman) who routinely hits his wife is unlikely to be out fighting with his mates in the pub on a Saturday night. He is not interesting in controlling them – just his wife.
So, I am a big supporter of women who come forward and talk about their experiences, who are strong enough to leave. Who are strong enough to know they cannot fix their partner and that only by leaving can they find a new and safe life for themselves.
The scariest fact is that leaving is often the most dangerous time for women. A study of domestic homicides shows that 75 percent of women were killed as they tried to leave or after they had left.
But I am still uncomfortable about Emma’s video. I do not doubt that she is telling the truth but I had rather she did it in a format where her ex partner had been tried in a court of law and not a court of social media.
The fact that he raised his hand to her is enough – I believe her. The fact that she is strong to leave – I congratulate her. The fact that her children will grow up with a violent father – I support her. But I wish she had not tried him on social media where he could not reply.