Don’t Be On The Giving End

// 16 December 2010

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Domestic-Abuse-Xmas-Poster_m.jpg Oh dear, it doesn’t matter how many times we talk about it, and my goodness we talk about it a lot, it happens again and again.

Last Christmas we were told to not be a rape victim, earlier this year we were told that it was because of what we wear, and that half of Londoners surveyed thought there were times that rape was the victim’s fault, and these are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, in time for Christmas, Hambleton and Richmondshire Community Safety Partnership have launched a ‘hard-hitting campaign’, advising people to not be ‘on the receiving end’ of domestic violence during the festive season.

I am struggling to see their logic. Is it aimed at women who they believe were somehow planning to be abused, yet on seeing the poster they will see the error of their ways, and decide against it? How else can it be understood?

Raising awareness of domestic abuse is very important. The quote provided makes good points: “Christmas is meant to be a happy time for families but for many living in our districts it will be a time of fear and pain,” said Sarah Hill, Director of Independent Domestic Abuse Services.

“The pressure builds up as people spend more time together than normal – which can often be a flash point for abuse. But we are here and ready to help – to listen or to provide some shelter.”

But how does this equate to the victim blaming, completely missing-the-point poster.

If anyone is going to urge anyone to do anything, we need to urge abusers not to abuse. It is so screamingly obvious that it frustrates me immensely that we have to write about this again and again and again.

Nobody wants to be abused. A woman seeing a poster telling her not to ‘be on the receiving end’ does not stop her partner ‘being on the giving end’. It may just make her feel even more powerless and vulnerable.

Provide helpline numbers, sure. Provide advice and support, absolutely. But point the advice in a way that does not make it her fault. In a way that does not put the onus on her to not be punched or kicked or raped.

Because believe me, she already does not want to be on the receiving end. She does not need a patronising poster campaign to tell her that.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247, or find a service local to you through the Women’s Aid website.

And remember, it is not your fault. Ever.

I wish we did not have to keep saying this, but as long as people keep putting out information like that, we will.

Comments From You

Boganette // Posted 16 December 2010 at 6:49 pm

Sigh. I am so sick of campaigns like this. When is it going to stop? There’s so much victim-blaming going around at the moment. Thanks for taking a stand against this.

Liene // Posted 16 December 2010 at 6:58 pm

Agree, I remember well some anti-rape posters I saw a couple of month ago in tube station – they made me think the same thing. Stop telling me to be careful to get the right cab, address the criminals, get the law sorted, erase this shamefully human crime (does not happen in other species).

JayJay // Posted 16 December 2010 at 8:04 pm

As someone who has been on the receiving end of abuse (physical and sexual) ads like these are especially painful to see.

When facing abuse you do often feel like you’re to blame, so you’re too ashamed to seek help and almost feel like you do deserve it so allow it to carry on. Even out of abuse you still carry that shame, and a sadness knowing those still in abuse feel the same…

…so then seeing huge posters telling you that you are [almost] to blame. It’s total ignorance, I think those who design these things don’t understand what it’s like so don’t understand these sort of things can make matters worse on a personal level (let alone the social level of supporting victim blaming).

Gender Agenda // Posted 16 December 2010 at 8:48 pm

Not only do these posters perpetrate the dominant idea that female victims are somehow responsible for what has come upon them , we see the continued endorsement of images which objectify women ( e.g. the contents of the X factor final) and endorse the image of the dominating male (e.g. song lyrics which are either endorsing treating women as disposable objects of momentary pleasure or women who themselves are singing about being ‘overpowered’ )

So long as we are not able to regulate these ideas about the sexes in popular culture we will not be able to effect change in either the culture of abuse towards women in wider society nor in the direction justice faces when regulating abuse

Kate Williams // Posted 16 December 2010 at 9:16 pm

When I spotted campaign this being in reported in region’s local paper this morning, and got in touch with the Independent Domestic Abuse Services expressing my concerns, and got an almost immediate response from Sarah Hill.

She explained that the IDAS had nothing to do with the design of the poster, and only became associated with the campaign (run by the local police force) because they provided the helpline number.

I agree with Phillipa that the focus of this campaign is so, so obviously aimed at the wrong party, and is in fact spreading the same myth that many abusers use – that the victim is somehow responsible, or has any control over managing the violence that they are subjected to.

Sarah Hill pointed me in the direction of IDAS’s own campaign posters, which include slogans like ‘Domestic abuse, there’s no excuse’ which do hold the perpetrator accountable.

Why then, if the police force planned to use IDAS’s helpline as part of this initiative, did they not consult with the charity on what would be the most helpful message? It’s incredibly hard to understand.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 16 December 2010 at 9:22 pm

Thanks Kate, for the information about IDAS. Why oh why didn’t the police consult them? It seems so basic.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 16 December 2010 at 10:28 pm

The reason why yet again another police force believes they know what causes intimate male violence against women is because women are always to blame for causing their male partners to lose self-control.

Police forces continue to adhere to misogynistic views that women are always responsible for male violence being committed against them. Witness how police commonly tell women and girls to ‘not venture out after dark; do not imbibe a drop of alcohol because “rape'” will attack them etc. etc.’

Then too there is the belief that mothers are somehow partially responsible for ‘allowing’ (sic) their children to witness them being subjected to physical/sexual and/or psychological violence by their male partners. Not forgetting of course mothers are always responsible for ‘allowing’ known males to commit child rape and/or other forms of sexual violence against the mother’s child.

It all adds up to a continued refusal by male-dominant institutions such as police forces to even consider the fact that male perpetrators choose to inflict violence on known women and girls and that male perpetrators must be held accountable for their crimes against women.

But this is too radical to even consider which is why as usual women are to blame because we are female not male. Remember that old adage, the default human is male and hence male-centric definitions of ‘truth’ are indeed ‘truths.’ Women’s experiences do not exist in their own right, instead they continue to be interpreted/defined from the male perspective.

Finally the only ‘real victims’ are men and this includes men women charge with raping them. Male on male violence is the only crime wherein the male victim(s) are never held partially or totally to blame. Reason is obvious because men only have the right of protection from the law – never women.

Sheila // Posted 17 December 2010 at 9:03 am

Three comments (or otherwise I could talk for hours on the subject of women-blaming).

When my ex-mother-in-law found out that I had been sexually abused as a child she said that people like me were disgusting and ought to be locked up. When she heard her son had been violent towards me repeatedly, she looked at me again in disgust and said that she would never have let a man hit her. Terrible views, expressed by a woman. Is that woman in any way to blame for society’s continuing attitudes? Yes, in my opinion, she is to blame. ANYONE who doubts a rape victim, blames a woman for not leaving or for exposing her children to violence is to blame for society’s continuing attitude. Some of the worst attitudes about violence against women come from women. Yes, you can say they are brain-washed, but they are adult women often in positions of power like social services, CAFCASS, family law judges, police officers. The violence against women debate is not a man versus woman debate but a debate between those who acknowledge it and want it to stop (and take positive steps to make it stop) and those who think it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other (another thing someone who sided with my ex husband said).

Second point, my ex husband married again. He married a woman who casts me as the local witch/nutter for even suggesting her darling new husband could have laid a finger on me. Is she in any way to blame for the ongoing trauma and social ostracism that I suffer – yes, clearly she is.

Third point: the police are arrogant. They told me that if they can avoid contacting social services they will – they totally fancy themselves as better social workers than someone who has been professionally trained. They think of Womensaid and Rape Crisis support workers as hairy legged harpies who interfere with their jobs. If you choose to involve Rape Crisis yourself, be warned that the police will see you as a militant and withdraw their support.

So whilst I totally agree with the sentiments of other posters and abhor this silly campaign of victim-blaming, I would like to point out that many victim-blamers are women, and that many of the victim’s sympathetic supporters are men.

Please if you disagree with my points, go easy on me. This isn’t an easy post to write and if you shout me down, it’ll feel like you’re victim-blaming all over again.

sianushka // Posted 17 December 2010 at 9:03 am

well said. this needs to stop. telling a woman she might be on the receiving end, isn’t going to stop the abuser. it is so screamingly obvious that campaigns need to tackle the abuser!

but when you suggest that, smug faces always inform me that ‘you can’t stop someone from being violent, they’ll be violent anyway’.

well, perhaps we need a strategy like the object posters that targeted men who paid for sex, posters that point out what you are doing is illegal, shameful, wrong. that you will be punished, that you will be jailed, that you will be reviled.

except, of course, we have a system that blames women, blames the victim, where the men get away with it. where celebrity perpetrators go on to make hit movies, sell records, kick football for millions. how could i forget.

maggie // Posted 17 December 2010 at 7:16 pm

I agree with all the comments to this post.

It may be just me but I don’t like the M&S xmas advert’s slogan – “Don’t put a foot wrong this Christmas”.

I thought immediately of women who are blamed for something that is beyond their control.

Suraya // Posted 17 December 2010 at 10:26 pm

A friend linked me to the Are You OK anti-DV campaign from New Zealand, which conversely targets abusers and friends and family, encouraging them to raise the issue with the abuser.

One of the strengths of the Are You OK campaign, I think, is that it encourages abusers to see that everything will be much better for themselves, the victim and everyone else when they stop the abuse. Had never thought of it before, but it makes sense that a lot of abusers are probably afraid about what might happen if they acknowledge they have a problem.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 17 December 2010 at 10:28 pm

Thanks Suraya, that looks like a really interesting campaign.

Gen // Posted 18 December 2010 at 12:55 pm

I fail to see the logic either; domestic violence encompasses all forms of abuse – including emotional abuse, financial abuse etc.

I was subjected to emotional abuse for a number of years – these posters would have gone right over my head because I didn’t even realise I was being abused at the time – I only got some insight after reading a book 10 months after I finished with my ex.

I’ve seen the NZ Are you OK campaign, and it certainly helps people outside of the relationship to realise that domestic violence is everyone’s problem, not just the ones affected and hopefully the publicity can help to remove that ‘behind closed doors’ stigma.

(BTW I read Why Does He Do That? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men by Lundy Bancroft. Saved my life)

RM // Posted 18 December 2010 at 7:56 pm

@Sheila – the attitudes of the police are improving. I volunteer with a rape crisis centre and so far the police officers I’ve come across have been helpful and sympathetic.

I know there’s a massive problem of bad attitudes in the police, but things are slowly getting better!

It’s such a terrible indictment of our patriarchal society that self-blame is considered to be a *normal* reaction to being abused/raped. And things like this are why that it.

Seb // Posted 20 December 2010 at 11:02 am

I agree that the victim definitely should not be blamed when it comes to rape, however I also think that if a man or woman has the mindset to rape someone, there’s not a lot you can do to change them. I know it seems wrong but maybe trying to make the victims seem less of a target is the best way to reduce rape attacks.

However, I think that a campain that shows the consequences of raping someone such as going to jail etc. could also work. Maybe a mix of the two would work well

Suraya // Posted 20 December 2010 at 12:03 pm

Seb says, “I agree that the victim definitely should not be blamed when it comes to rape, however I also think that if a man or woman has the mindset to rape someone, there’s not a lot you can do to change them.”

I’m not sure criminology would really agree there, which is not to say you’re right but… it’s usually thought that cognitive processes have a lot to do with why people commit sex crimes – both those with child and adult victims. That is to say, sex offenders tend to have belief systems in which it is ‘okay’ to have sex with someone else without their consent, although their reasons for holding such a view can be many and varied. Anyone’s belief system can change.

Contrary to popular belief, some cognitive-based sex offender treatment programmes have high success rates (for example, Te Piriti and Kia Marama in New Zealand), which demonstrates that the thought processes behind sex offending can be changed.

sianushka // Posted 20 December 2010 at 2:03 pm

Seb i really disagree. i feel like your comment has come from this cultural idea that someone who commits violence against women is a ‘monster’ who is ‘depraved’ and ‘abnormal’. but one of the problems about vawg is that it is so stunningly common. we live in a culture where men (not all men caveat in place) are conditioned to have a sense of entitlement towards women. that they can shout at a woman on the street, that they can buy a woman’s body, that they can watch women being sexually exploited in order to get sexual pleasure. when we live in this culture of entitlement, then rape and DV ‘makes sense’. so, you say that if someone has the mindset to rape someone, then you won’t stop them. ok. but what if everything is telling you that you are entitled to women’s bodies? then, you might not have the ‘mindset’ to rape someone, but it becomes an extension of that entitlement.

the idea that we cannot prevent rape and dv by having campaigns that tackle the perpetrator is abhorrent to me. because if we say that, then we are saying that people cannot take responsibility for their behaviour. if we challenged the perpetrators, if we told them that they are not entitled to women’s bodies, if we told them that they will be punished, that they will face prison, that they won’t get away with it, then that could change things.

a recent survey (http://bit.ly/bSnP1L) found that 23% of young men didn’t understand that if a woman says no, and you carry on, then that is rape. those young men don’t have their minds set on raping a woman. they actually cannot comprehend what it would mean for them not to be entitled to women’s bodies. telling young women not to get raped is futile, if they and young men don’t even know what rape is.

lets face it, the current strategy isn’t working. 100,000 rapes happen every year and STILL 1.5 women a week are murdered by their partner or ex partner. so lets try something new. lets tell men that they won’t get away with it. lets educate men about informed consent, violence and why they are not entitled to women’s bodies.

FeministYork // Posted 20 December 2010 at 5:14 pm

I live in York and feel compelled to offer my support for IDAS and the consistently good work that they do for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. I am sure they will be taking all the action they can to raise their concerns locally. I urge everyone to check out their website to see some of their own publicity material as well as the advice they offer those living with abuse.

http://www.idas.org.uk

I completely agree with original views expressed about the posters. It reinforces the importance of statuatory organisations consulting effectively with independent charities and voluntary sector organisations that carry out such good work in this area.

Seb // Posted 21 December 2010 at 11:42 am

@Sianushka

wow, 23% of young men are idiots then :)

Also, I disagree with what you said about rape being an ‘extension of that entitlement’. Most people can see that raping someone is completely wrong, and just because those 23% of men didn’t know that stopping after someone says ‘no’ counts as rape, it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t stop, it just means they didn’t know it counted as rape :)

Also, I hope you read the end of my last comment, because I think that both sides of the campaign could help x

sianushka // Posted 21 December 2010 at 2:03 pm

i still disagree i’m afraid. it isn’t black and white, it isn’t as simple as saying most people think rape is wrong. it’s a matter of recognising that rape culture exists, that there is a societal belief that women are objects for male consumption, a belief that is emphasised by the way women are portrayed and seen in our culture.

of course most people would happily say that rape is wrong. of course! but dig a little deeper, and you start hearing ‘well she was drunk’ or ‘well she was wearing a short skirt’ ‘well, she knew him/had sex with him in the past’ ‘well she put herself at risk’ ‘well she was on drugs’ ‘well it was probably that she was drunk and regretted it in the morning and ‘cried rape”

these are sentiments expressed all the time, by people who would not consider themselves ‘pro rape’ but who have imbibed the cultural belief that women are responsible for rape. rarely do we hear ‘it was his fault for attacking her’

so as long as our culture and media dialogue blames women rather than the perpetrator, i think it is even more important that we have media campaigns that tackle DV/rape myths and place the blame and responsibility firmly on the abuser.

Gender Agenda // Posted 21 December 2010 at 3:46 pm

Sianushka has a strong point I think. What she is saying is backed up by this piece of research by Diana Scully http://tinyurl.com/2374wg7

In this research Scully interviews convicted rapists on how they perceived their crimes. The majority did not constitute their crime as rape often employing culturally salient reasoning to back up their claims

I would go one step further than sianushka though and say that, not only do we need to combat the myth of male dominance through campaigns aimed at victims of this myth but we as feminists

need to create more powerful bodies to lobby media institutions who emit these insidious campaigns against our human rights through their creation of a female-phobic popular culture

I am unaware of many feminist media lobbies at present, I guess this would be a good place/time to ask where they do exist?

sianushka // Posted 21 December 2010 at 4:06 pm

Gender Agenda – would gladly take that step further with you!

Hannah // Posted 22 December 2010 at 11:57 am

Gender Agenda & sianushka – me too! This is something which needs to be done.

Gender Agenda // Posted 22 December 2010 at 8:01 pm

Are you guys on twitter? I’m @ Gender_Agenda. Let’s stay in touch who knows what the future can bring ;o )

polly // Posted 23 December 2010 at 6:30 am

I think it’s quite dangerous to go down the road of saying that because rapists and sex offenders justify their behaviour to themselves, that means that they’re not aware what they’re doing is a sexual offence.

Most are, or they wouldn’t go to the lengths they do to conceal their crimes. Denial is a fairly big problem among sex offenders – the fact is that even with treatment many go on to reoffend.

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a912630055~db=all~jumptype=rss

It’s true that there are many myths that are supportive of rape, and it’s possible that SOME rapes may be prevented if these rape myths didn’t exist. But I can’t help thinking that in a lot of cases it is more a case of rapists/sex offenders taking advantage of rape myths to get away with their crimes. Most will be aware that their chances of being convicted for a ‘date rape’ are very low, and many are repeat offenders. Which suggests they’re not just confused.

Jessica Metaneira // Posted 26 December 2010 at 8:54 pm

Very sorry to hear that Sheila. Thanks for having the courage to speak up like you just did.

Sheila // Posted 27 December 2010 at 5:46 pm

Thanks Jessica

To me, one of the best ways to teach understanding of rape would be in a mixed sex classroom asking people how they react to it. Plenty of women adopt women-blaming stances that have to be challenged and considered. Of course, so do many men, but looking at the effects is a less antagonising way to introduce teenagers to rape than to have the he says she says debate. The effects are undeniable.

Jessica Metaneira // Posted 27 December 2010 at 7:31 pm

I agree. I’ve heard plenty of women as well as men express the ‘you were asking for it’ attitude…Women are striking a blow at themselves when they say crap like that.

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