In praise of Dr Jessica Taylor

I am mad. In fact I am beyond mad. I just cannot believe that Dr Taylor has been on the receiving end of such an abhorrent amount of abuse for writing a book. It is entitled “Why women are blamed for everything” and it seems to have caused some “people” to react in a way that is completely unacceptable.

I am a white, middle aged, heterosexual male who has been happily married for 27 years to a wonderful woman. I have two fantastic children and a dog. In religious terms I am what is known as a “relaxed catholic.” I grew up in an area not known for its ethnic diversity and so all of my friends are white. I have never had abuse hurled at me because of my gender, religion, colour, sexual orientation or any other characteristic that you could care to mention. So why am I incensed at the amount of abuse a person I have never met is getting about a book that I admit I have not yet read?

My father was not the best parent in the world but there is one thing he instilled in me and my brothers. “You never raise your hands to a woman.” He would not accept any circumstances in which this was acceptable. Never.

In my role as designated safeguarding lead I had to attend many Child Protection Conferences, mainly to do with domestic abuse. Usually the woman was the victim and usually it was not a one off incident but a culmination of years of abuse. One thing always annoyed me. When the decision was made to put a plan in place, it was focussed mainly on what the woman had to do to keep the children safe. The vast majority of the actions that needed to take place were on her shoulders. Occasionally, if the perpetrator was still around, he would be asked to take a perpetrator’s course before he was allowed back in the family home. I always thought this was grossly unfair. She was the victim, she had suffered the abuse and now she was the one who had to take on most of the responsibility in the plan, while in a lot of cases the man wasn’t held to account unless the police were involved. In a way the system was tacitly reinforcing that it was “her fault” and she had to remedy the situation.

I saw these women every day. I saw the effect the abuse had on their self-esteem, their confidence, their appearance and their relationships with others. You could almost see a cloud of self-blame hanging over them. I asked one mother about the black eye she had. She waved it off as being nothing, she said it had only happened because both of them had been drunk and they argued. The next time I saw her it was the other eye that was blacked. Social services that they were aware of the family and just to keep reporting anything that I noticed! We also had a women’s refuge nearby and quite often we had children come to the school, whether it be for a few weeks or longer. Quite often we arranged counselling for them as they had witnessed the abuse and they themselves were victims.

Occasionally the perpetrator was present at meetings and I must admit there were times I almost let my professionalism drop. Sometimes these “men” were almost looking to me for some sort of approval of what they had done, as if they were proud of “putting the little woman in her place.” I was almost physically sick at times.

I don’t know what it is like to be abused, either physically or mentally. I have no experience of being discriminated against because of my gender, colour or sexuality. I cannot comment on what it is like to have someone yell abuse at me from across the street as I go to my place of worship. These are things that have not happened to me or to my circle of family or friends. I am not even going to try and offer any advice to people who have suffered these things. What do I know? Maybe I am naïve as to the nature of humanity.

I have no insights into why people treat others in such a despicable way and I certainly am not going to try and excuse any of this behaviour. Some of this is incomprehensible to me, I would never abuse anyone. My children are the same. My son cannot understand why anyone should racially abuse someone. My daughter has a wider range of friends than I do including people from different ethnic backgrounds and sexualities. She sees this as completely normal.

Today Dr Taylor has launched #iwasblamed for people to share their stories of domestic abuse. It is harrowing to read the experiences of all of these people. There are so many victims out there who have not been believed or who have been blamed for what has happened. It is as though the abuse has two stages, the actual acts themselves and then the battle to be believed. There is something wrong with the system. As a male I am disgusted at how some men treat others. There is no excuse, no reason, no validation for domestic abuse, trafficking or any other situation where women and girls are treated in such an appalling manner.

Although I have not yet read Dr Taylor’s book I am sure that it will be a difficult read but a vital one. I read the article in the Guardian and have followed her tweets closely. She deserves praise and recognition for shining a light on domestic abuse, not poisonous threats and derision. I have read some of the things that she has been called and some of the abuse that she has been subjected to and I have no words to describe how ashamed I am that some members of my gender have behaved in this way.

No woman or girl should experience any form of violence from men. No excuses. No justifications. No victim blaming.

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