New Home Office campaign against teen domestic violence

// 15 February 2010

The Home Office has launched a new £2 million TV, radio, internet and poster campaign in response to NSPCC research indicating that a quarter of girls aged 13 to 17 have experienced physical violence from a boyfriend and a third have been pressured into unwanted sexual acts. The media coverage suggests that the campaign is taking the sensible approach of not only trying to equip girls with the knowledge and confidence to seek help, but also of addressing boys’ behaviour and trying to tackle the sexist attitudes that lead to abuse:

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said it was essential to change attitudes in order to stop abuse against females.

He said: “We want to see young people in safe and happy relationships and this means tackling attitudes towards abuse at an early age, before patterns of violence can occur.

“We hope this campaign will help teenagers to recognise the signs of abuse and equip them with the knowledge and confidence to seek help, as well as understanding the consequences of being abusive or controlling in a relationship.”

One of the key campaign videos (see here) is directed by This Is England director Shane Meadows, who wanted to ‘highlight the problem of emotional violence, including verbal insults and controlling behaviour such as monitoring text messages’. I like that it shows the normalcy of domestic violence, particularly in that it portrays the boy as a lad who is capable of reconsidering his actions and changing his ways, not as the stereotypical violent thug. Thoughts?

Video transcript.

– Do you want a bit of fun before your parents get back?

– No, let’s just watch this.

– I’ll tell everyone you’re frigid.

– Well why would you do that?

Phone beeps.

– Well who’s that?

– Nicole.

– Oh, you and your mates!

– What are you doing?!

– That’s your fault that.

– I only just got this.

– [aggressive] Don’t talk to me like that.

– I’m not even allowed friends now, am I?

– I thought I was your mate?

– [crying] You’re really hurting me.

– Do you see what you’re making me do?

– All right then, I’ll do it.

Boy banging on perspex shouts ‘Stop!’

– Well why would I want to do it with you now? Look at you, you’re pathetic.

Comments From You

sianmarie // Posted 15 February 2010 at 12:36 pm

this seems like a really good campaign. hopefully it will have some impact. is it being accompanied by more work in schools such as the expect respect pack?

Sarah // Posted 15 February 2010 at 1:14 pm

Looks pretty encouraging. I’m kinda amazed a government campaign would focus on perpertrators and not victims.

Elmo // Posted 15 February 2010 at 1:53 pm

there was quite a good one on my (scottish) local radio this morning, about adult realationships-it focussed entirely on the perpetrator.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 15 February 2010 at 10:13 pm

wow this is a nice change! hope it causes some impact

gadgetgal // Posted 16 February 2010 at 3:53 pm

Just in time, too:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8516387.stm

P Hoath // Posted 17 February 2010 at 5:41 am

The survey by the NSPCC showed that 25% of teenage girls were victims of abuse but these adverts completely disregard the fact that the same survey showed 18% of boys were the victims of violence also. (http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/research/Findings/partner_exploitation_and_violence_report_wdf70129.pdf)

To show just male on female violence just reinforces the untrue myth that all domestic violence is against women and girls and dissuades boys from seeking help as victims.

Laura // Posted 17 February 2010 at 9:24 am

@ P Hoath,

Yes, boys experience violence too, and I agree that should be addressed. However, this study (like many previous studies of domestic violence among both teens and adults) found that girls experienced more repeated and more severe acts of violence, and concludes that:

…a significant association was found between gender and being a recipient of physical violence from a partner

It is therefore necessary to take a gendered approach to domestic violence among teens and address the sexist attitudes that underpin violence committed by boys against girls. That doesn’t preclude information being given to boys about how to speak out and seek help if they too experience domestic violence.

Aimee // Posted 17 February 2010 at 12:23 pm

I’ve seen this advert and thought it was actually a really positive step. I wish the girl in the advert would smack the boy in the face, though.

A J // Posted 17 February 2010 at 4:21 pm

@ Aimee

Yes, because violence is the solution, right?

@ Laura Woodhouse

It’s not quite that simple though – victims of female domestic violence (whether they be women or men) are even less likely to have the confidence to report that violence that those who are victims of male violence. And a big reason for that is because of the perception that they are not ‘real’ victims, and that women can’t really be abusers, or that violence committed by women is a bit of a joke.

Campaigns which focus exclusively on one part of the problem, and completely ignore the reality that many others face, can act to reinforce these myths, and make it even harder still for other victims of domestic abuse to come forward. I don’t see it is beyond the wit of the Home Office to come up with a campaign that addresses the real problem of domestic violence amongst teens without presenting such an exclusively single-gendered perspective.

I’ve unfortunately had friends who have been on the receiving end of domestic violence of varying degrees of severity committed by men (on a women) and by women (on both a man and a woman), and nobody should doubt the devastating effect it can have on both, or that the harm done is not dependent on the gender of the victim – or of the perpetrator.

Aimee // Posted 17 February 2010 at 7:09 pm

I wasn’t being serious. It just annoys me when the convey women and girls as weak.

No need for the hostility.

Eve B // Posted 23 February 2010 at 9:22 pm

@ A J

Yes, violence against men by women is real abuse and it does happen. But the evidence to show that domestic abuse is a overwhelmingly a gendered phenomenon is concrete and conclusive. You correctly point out that society’s disbelief around female perpetrators is torturous for the small proportion of men who suffer. What shouldn’t be forgotten is that women are also revictimised by society’s attitudes to violence when the abusive behaviour and attitudes of their male partners are minimised, normalised and ignored by their family, in-laws, ‘friends’ and the agencies that they dare to contact for support.

Anyway, I think the message here is in fact refreshingly subtle – the advert shows that young men can change their attitudes and behaviour, as well as expressing in no uncertain terms that such behaviour is totally unacceptable. About time I say! Let’s hope they can back it up with much-needed work in schools.

And another thing – trawling through the whole report gives a much fuller picture of the suffering behind the stats. This excellent study measured impact as well as incidence of abuse. 45% of girls who had experienced emotional abuse felt that this had had an impact on their lives, compared to 15% of boys. The same applies for impact of experienced sexual violence (70% girls, 12% boys) and the impact of the experience of physical violence (76% girls, 14% boys.)

So yes, abuse of any kind in relationships of any sort is wrong, and ought to be addressed by the government. But the evidence shows that the home office made the right call on this one.

Amanda // Posted 1 March 2010 at 9:46 am

I am 25 years old, I was in an abusive relationship when I was 16, my abuse started much earlier than that though. I believe the stories of he will change, the man who abused me was my elementary school sweetheart, we were together for a total of 9 yrs, 3 yrs of abuse. After I left I decided to leave and ended up in an abusive relationship yet again. I look at what I can do for teens to let them know they deserve more. I always heard that I deserved more but never believed it and never thought anyone could love me better, I had to make personal changes simply because my self esteem and self worth was beyond low and I believed it was normal to be abused. I want to make a difference and give a voice to girls, teens and women who are going through the same thing I went through. I’m sure on the surface every story is the same but its not! We are all different and we all experience the same thing in different manners. My main goal of writing this is to give females someone to talk to someone they can trust without judging. I never told anyone about my physical abuse, I hid from my family so they didn’t know. The sexual abuse I never told in fear that people would blame my mother and look at me badly. So please allow me to be the person you come to and give you a shoulder to lean on, cry on, someone who will know what you’re going through and not judge! I am that person, and I will support everyone of you whether you respond to me or not. Just please keep me in mind!

A J // Posted 1 March 2010 at 4:13 pm

@ Amanda

So sorry to hear your story, and I hope you continue to build confidence in yourself and others that they deserve better, and don’t have to accept abuse as part of their lives.

@ Eve B

The statistics you quote strike me as fairly damning evidence of the problems facing male victims of domestic violence, not evidence that violence doesn’t actually affect male victims. Unfortunately the report rather glosses over the issue, assuming that just because male victims say female violence and sexual abuse against them didn’t affect them, that is the truth, which displays a rather naive understanding of the ‘macho’ pressures facing teenage boys in particular, and the general male reluctance to accept that they are victims. One of the key issues that victims (of whatever gender) of female violence or sexual abuse face is the feeling that it is them to blame if they allow it to affect their lives. The man (or woman) who is violently slapped in the face by their female partner is just expected to deal with it – after all, whenever such violence is portrayed on television, or in popular culture, it as some sort of joke, or with the message that it was really the victims fault. Male victims in particular aren’t allowed to admit that it has impacted on their lives – they are just expected to accept it as something women can do, and something they should be strong enough to deal with on their own.

It is not helped that many domestic violence charities and campaign groups (not all, but far too many) consistently marginalise the victims of female violence, because in their worldview, such victims are not real victims. Much as a campaign against domestic violence, and encouraging victims not to accept violent relationships is a good thing, the Government should also be challenging such stereotypes of who the victims and perpetrators can be, rather than reinforcing them at every opportunity.

Kate // Posted 1 March 2010 at 5:03 pm

AJ, interesting point, do the majority of men say their “abuse” didn’t matter because they’re in denial, or because it actually didn’t matter and the research methodology was too simplistic?

Most stats on men’s experience of domestic violence come from the British Crime Survey which is not a good tool for capturing people’s experience of DV. For a start, journalists frequently confuse men’s reported incidents of domestic violence (which in BCS terms includes family abuse) at 1 in 6, with men’s reported incidents of partner violence (which if I recall from the latest figures is closer to 1 in 10).

Moreover, the BCS is crap at identifying patterns of abuse. Most people make the distinction between a one-off incident which fits the BCS’s line of questioning on DV, and a repeated pattern of controlling, violent behaviour. The BCS therefore lumps a man who’s partner has once struck him or used “emotional ause” (perhaps in retaliation) alongside a women who suffered prolonged mental and physical abuse.

One way the BCS attempts to seperate the two is by asking about repeat incidents and for victims’ own interpretation of whether the abuse “mattered”. Men are far less likely to report repeat abuse and far more likely to say the abuse didn’t matter. Maybe this is a deep seated inability to deal with it, but sometimes you do have to take people’s comments at face value. I know that personally, because of the wording, I would have to answer yes to the BCS’s headline question on domestic violence but I would never identify as a victim of domestic violence and would not want to be represented in that way.

Plus, we cannot ignore the fact that many men who claim to be victims of domestic violence are in fact perpetrators. There was some fascinating research following up the men who told the Scottish Crime Survey they had experienced domestic violence; a lot of them had misunderstood the question and many also emerged as perpetrators.

becky // Posted 29 September 2010 at 7:00 am

@ Amanda,

I read your story and although not a victim myself have worked with victims. Like you I want to make a positive contribution. I’m working in a school and want to create a campaign against teenage domestic abuse. Are u based anywhere around SE London or north Kent as u could do a talk re your experience as a teen?

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