17 Mar 2009

Domestic violence has been been a prominent issue in recent news, with Jacqui Smith demanding we do more to tackle its scourge, neatly supported by the ongoing Chris Brown/Rihanna assault story. Coverage of the latter has hinted at a disturbing proportion of society who still think that a woman is partly to blame if a man hits her. A recent Home Office study reports that between 10-20% of respondents deemed it acceptable for a man to 'hit or slap his wife or girlfriend' in response to 'nagging', 'flirting', 'being dressed sexily' or 'not showing him enough respect'. Today, we have an indication of where these attitudes may have their root. An ITN news article was published on Yahoo's news page with the following headline 'Killer of 'Nagging Partner' Jailed'. The writer of the article at least had the tact to put the term 'nagging partner' in quote marks, but then gave up any attempt to appear impartial by continuing "A man who stabbed his partner 177 times in a brutal murder triggered by nagging has been jailed for at least 18 years." Never mind the dubious assertion that a brutal murder can 'triggered' by words of any kind, what was most disturbing was that the article was already so nakedly heaping the blame on the murder victim instead of simply reporting that, thankfully, justice had been done.

The article reports that Arthur Pitt-Pladdy stabbed his partner 177 times as she pleaded for her life, even leaving the murder weapon embedded in her neck. The judge is quoted as deeming the attack as 'brutal', 'shocking' and 'horrific' before sentencing the accused to a minimum 18 year sentence. Unfortunately the powerful message sent out by this sentence is almost totally destroyed by the judge's addition 'that he accepted that Pitt-Pladdy's uncontrolled temper had been triggered on the night by something the victim said or did'. If even highly educated members of the judiciary believe that a victim of domestic violence is responsible for 'triggering' her partner's attack, what hope is there that the average person in the street might have a more enlightened attitude? The news reporters who felt the need to compound the assault on the victim's memory and her family by repeating the judge's words are also culpable in spreading and influencing Britons’ fatally confused attitudes towards domestic violence.

So let me clear up the confusion. No one ‘makes’ their partner hit, maim, rape or murder them.The person who commits such an act is solely responsible, and only their guilt should be acknowledged by the judiciary and the media. To do otherwise is to feed into the illogical and offensive idea that is domestic violence the fault of its female victims and it’s up to women to stop it by tip-toeing around the perpetually volatile, emotionally primitive male sex. I would hope that the average man finds this representation of his sex as constantly ‘on the brink’ of attacking women as offensive as I find the portrayal of women as nagging shrews who ‘just get what they deserve’ when they are beaten or worse. The media and the judiciary must get it into their heads, if the rest of us are to do the same, that what needs to be reported is the crime against women – nothing else. Any arguments, ‘lovers’ tiffs’ and alleged ‘nagging’ that preceded 177 stab wounds being inflicted on a woman, are irrelevant. The law must deal with the crime alone and stop making excuses for vile murderers – and so must the rest of us.

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