Domestic violence case

// 4 November 2005

In case you missed it (although it’s hard to see how), the editor of the Sun, Rebekah Wade, has been arrested for alleged assault on her EastEnders actor husband Ross Kemp.

Now, women are far more likely to be victims of domestic violence than men. According to the Home Office, it affects one in four women and one in six men during their lifetime.

But that is no excuse for the tenor of coverage this story has received. Even the Times ran the story with the headline: “Hard man of EastEnders is decked by the Ginger Ninja”. If this had been a story about Kemp beating Wade, that would never have been tolerated. The general consensus seems to be – Kemp just looks like a big sissy for being beaten by his wife.

Even the Guardian’s Zoe Williams joins in, saying Kemp “looks like a great big Jessie”, and comparing the attack to being “savaged by a shihtzu” or being “attacked by a vicious six-year-old wielding the surprisingly sharp end of a stick of candy-floss”.

Wade herself has tried to play down the incident as “just” a row – remind you of how all domestic violence was treated only a few years ago?

The truth is that the automatic assumption is that only women can be victims, and only men can inflict harm. Reactions to this story will have inevitably gloated on the fall from “grace” of the editor of a notorious tabloid – and one who has famously campaigned on domestic violence in the past. But in dismissing the incident in this way, they only betray lingering sexist attitudes and assumptions. This must end if we are to have true equality.

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