Monday 15 February 2010

Young people's attitudes to domestic abuse

A couple of news reports today made me pause and think where we're going as a society. The first was news of the study on children's attitudes to violence, by Nancy Lombard of Napier University, which is to be presented at an event with Scottish Women's Aid on Wednesday. The second was news of a public awareness campaign on teenage domestic violence.

It's a relatively small study - 89 children at only five Glasgow Primaries - yet, I'm troubled by some of the comments reported in the study, which seem to hark back to some other age.

“They all said violence was wrong but, when we looked beneath that, they often saw it as justified by the actions of the woman.”

The BBC article on the public awareness campaign quotes Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos:

"It is very interesting, the way it happens. It's much more about mind control. Through the language used, 'He doesn't allow me to do this, he wouldn't like me doing this'.

"It's as if the boy speaking to them like this is a way of them valuing them. As if they think, 'He cares enough to be jealous', and that is what is particularly worrying."

I find it quite disturbing that young women would willingly accept the notion that that they have done something to deserve violence. The societal pressures on young people seem to me to be greater now than even a few years ago, but nothing, even the fear of losing that first boyfriend or looking uncool, would have made me put up with that kind of behaviour.

Whether it's down to upbringing, the group of people you hang about with, or low self esteem and insecurity, it's not a path young women should be choosing. Accepting violence in relationships at a formative age is likely to set a pattern for all future relationships.

I don't see in the reports where these trends are coming from - whether it's family attitudes, the media, or something else entirely - but it will surely take a great deal of education to ensure these attitudes are not continued. As far as I remember, the teenage magazines I used to flick through would never have endorsed sympathy to abusive relationships, and I hope that hasn't changed. Men's magazines have been criticised for their attitudes towards women, but that alone can't explain this apparent trend.

I've heard anecdotes from those working with young people, who are also deeply concerned by some of the views they've heard. I know from meeting some groups in Glasgow that work is being done in schools with groups of young people of both sexes, and that football clubs and police have also worked together to target fans. It's up to all of us in society to challenge the notion that either side in a relationship is unworthy; this generation should not grow up under the cloud of domestic violence.


Anonymous said...

There was a similar discussion at LibDem Voice about attitudes towards responsibility in rape-cases.

BellgroveBelle said...

Thanks for the link - interesting thoughts there.

I saw that article too, and considered adding it to my post, but I wasn't comfortable with the inclusion in the survey of the highly loaded question 'what if she got into bed with a man'.

Given all the other issues around rape, concentrating on blame and responsibility seems counter-productive compared to work on prevention, education and effective prosecution.