by Danny Kruger
Wednesday, 29
April 2020
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14:51

Why no mention of marriage in the domestic violence debate?

Lockdown has put the politics of home in the spotlight
by Danny Kruger
The second reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill took place yesterday in a socially distanced House of Commons. Credit: BBC

The lockdown is putting huge focus on the home. What’s yours like? Big enough for you all? Warm and dry, or cold and damp? How is everyone getting on? Is there love, like a family pet, at the heart of it; or not? Or are you alone — because you want it that way, or has something gone wrong (or just not gone right yet)?

These may seem intrusive questions for a politician to ask (I wouldn’t actually ask a constituent any of that, except about the damp). I raise them now because the lockdown is reminding us that we need a ‘politics of home’. As the Government has recognised (and asked Roger Scruton to help advise), we need to make our houses and flats not just affordable but liveable and beautiful. And fundamentally, we need to help the families that live in them.

This struck me yesterday listening to the Commons debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill (I hoped to speak myself, but wasn’t called). The speeches were heartfelt and, in some cases, traumatic to listen to. But not a single one (I think) mentioned marriage except as an abusive relationship, or the home except as a place of fear and violence.

The Bill brings into law a series of mitigations against violence and coercion in the home. These are all welcome. If we really want to eradicate domestic abuse, however, we need more than mitigations. We need to prevent it. And that means — unless we want to go the full Pol Pot, abolishing the family altogether and rearing our children in common — strengthening and improving the couple relationship.

I founded a charity working with prisoners and ex-offenders. I therefore spent a lot of time with people convicted — or not convicted, but guilty — of domestic violence, usually amid other crimes. And without exception the men I have known who abuse women experienced parental conflict, including violence, as children themselves.

Now, very obviously, not all children of violence become violent themselves. And not all abuse is by men against women (this point was made repeatedly by MPs, in a — to me — weird refusal to accept that physical strength and the desire to rule others are more commonly male traits, and that domestic abuse is their wicked perversion). But the consequence of parental conflict for boys — the increased risk of forming broken and sometimes abusive relationships themselves — is so obvious it justifies a cultural response, or at least some policy.

So: yes to more legal protections against domestic violence; yes to more rights for victims; yes to more police powers; yes to more money for refuges and support services. But also, we need more support for couple relationships. And we don’t just need it to stop violence. We need it because everyone — adults, children, grandparents, in-laws, neighbours, societies and civilisations — does better if people who sleep together, get along together.

At the heart of many homes — and the homes that almost all people aspire to live in — is a couple who have made a lifelong commitment to protect and look after each other; and not to hurt each other. That commitment is so important it has rightly been called a sacrament, something sacred. Life-long couple commitments are so precious that they receive recognition and protection in law, and the acclamation and encouragement of friends and family.

If society is a web or net, marriages are the knots: they hold the thing together; without them the ropes simply slide and tangle. A fiscal and legal system, and a culture, that does not affirm marriages disregards society’s most basic and essential component, and all policy is harder as a result.

But this is the direction of travel. Joanna Cherry MP (SNP) argued yesterday for an end to any residual recognition of households in the welfare system, so people receive benefits as if they were single, independent individuals. This is the trend of an attitude that sees all relationships as inherently unequal and potentially abusive.

We need to go the other way. We will stop domestic abuse at source not by disbanding families further but by making family life better. That means public money for parenting courses, counselling and mediation. It means signals and nudges to undergo marriage preparation courses before the wedding, or ‘marriage MOTs’ at intervals after it. It means fiscal support for households and an end to the couple penalty.

It means not rushing to divorce (as I fear the no-fault Divorce Bill, currently before Parliament, may encourage people to do; this Bill is a good opportunity to introduce some mediation into the process of divorce). It also means making the responsibilities of bringing children into the world – the responsibility to bring them up in it too – clear to men.

Yesterday MP’s highlighted the terrible fact that calls to domestic violence helplines have risen sharply during the lockdown. None mentioned the fact that enquiries for help with relationships — couple therapy, marriage prep etc — have risen too. The online Marriage Course run by the London mega-church Holy Trinity Brompton has nearly 5000 couples — 10,000 people – taking part this month. A pro-family, pro-marriage society is empirically sensible, and it is, I believe, what people want.

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Graham Field
Graham Field
2 years ago

How refreshing to have someone speaking positively about marriage. It does seem that most of the comments we hear today regarding marriage are anything but supportive and are aimed at weakening it’s status. To make that public commitment with promises about how we will behave in a lifelong relationship is a very valuable framework that assists in holding together a relationship based on promises and commitments made, rather than on feelings, which may all too easily change.

John Jones
John Jones
2 years ago

The author of the article seems to believe that domestic violence can only be caused by a “weird refusal to accept that physical strength and the desire to rule others are more commonly male traits…”.

This is a fairly common- and erroneous- rationalization for framing domestic violence in gendered terms. In fact, it is sexist, and at odds with the facts.

The research has shown, time and again, that females initiate violence against their male partners at the same rate as men against their – 38-45% of those injured in those conflicts are men. That’s because females often employ weapons against their husbands, often when they are incapacitated by booze, or asleep.

Further, women are responsible for 50% of physical violence against children. Females are not the paragons of virtue that feminist ideology paints them as.

Why this disparity between reality and our perceptions? Forty years ago, feminists launched a campaign against DV in which they lobbied police departments to assume that it was always the husband who was the aggressor. Men are routinely charged under this misconception, spiking the statistics which are then used to justify this sexist, gendered policy. It becomes a form of confirmation bias that supports a misguided police action, a self- reinforcing tautology.

This is where the debate around DV needs to begin- by deconstructing feminist sexism and the gendered anti- male policies that stem from these deliberately misleading beliefs.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
2 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

women with bad intent can benefit from knowledge that they’re favoured in law, and social prejudice will assume that they’re the victim, whatever the reality. And we don’t have a perfect magic portal into anyone’s private life, so who knows. Women can be just as self-seeking manipulative and deceitful as men in unbalanced relationships i suppose

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
2 years ago
Reply to  John Jones

Agreed -feminism is the dogma that says women never need take accountability or responsibility, or even acknowledge their part in, decisions they take that go wrong. The concept of ‘oppressive patriarchy’ is testimony to this. 200,000 years of humanity reduced to a simplistic trope.

Over 70,000 children in care at the moment in this country -barely a column inch from feminist commentators on how this reflects on maternal capacity.

I agree the whole debate has become badly skewed and it is not helping us all get to grips with complicated realities. It’s strange how the feminist lobby is representative of such a small fraction of women in reality but achieves such market dominance in MSM coverage -but then maybe the issue is precisely that irrespective of the impression it gives, MSM does not really reflect at all what most people think or how they behave? And of course MSM generally recruits from a particular class of person.

Andrew McGee
Andrew McGee
2 years ago

I am all in favour of encouragingpeople in relationships to work at them, especially where children are involved. But why does the author have the obsession with ‘marriage’? Whether marriage is or will be a success for any individual or any couple is an open question. Let’s focus on the relationship, not the bit of paper which seeks to define it.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew McGee

marriage is a symbol of commitment.

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
2 years ago

And in fact a contract between parties -you both sign up to it.

David George
David George
2 years ago

Very sad that folk end up hating and hitting.
However this time of forced togetherness is also a wonderful opportunity to sort out relationships; to confront what has been swept under the carpet. I know this is happening and that marriages will be strengthened and the bonds deepened by partners accepting their responsibility to do so.

rodgerdp
rodgerdp
2 years ago

‘Two is better than one, but a cord of 3 strands is not easily broken’. Ecclesiastes 4:10

rodgerdp
rodgerdp
2 years ago

Why no mention of marriage in the domestic violence debate?

Maybe because none of those participating in the debate are married.