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How Abuse is Portrayed in the Media

17 January 2017 — Esther Sweetman — Blog How Abuse is Portrayed in the Media

Another news story was published over the holidays which, again, demonstrated the normalisation of the minimisation of domestic abuse not only in our communities but in the media. Click here.

And in this case, there was not just minimisation of the abuse but actually turning our understanding of abuse on its head - turning abuse into a comedy.  The strapline for the article was The Incredible Sulk.

A husband hadn't spoken to his wife for 20 years while raising 4 children together. His reason - he was jealous of the time and commitment his wife was giving to caring for and raising their 4 children.

A commentator from the Guardian (Lola Okoloise) wrote a powerful article highlighting how the media story was not only minimising domestic abuse but demonstrated key dismissive attitudes that are often found in domestic abuse cases. Click here. I summarize her points below.

1) Society still sees domestic violence as mainly referring to physical abuse and lacks awareness around the criminal element of Coercive Control. There is also a poor understanding of the tactics used by an abuser to control their spouse.

2) Society is willing  to completely overlook the real life consequences for a wife when a husband refuses to talk to her for 20 years. (i.e. isolation, degradation, lack of support, lack of intimacy, lack of mutuality in a marriage relationship and raising children and the ongoing stress of continued disrespect over a 20 year period).

3) Society is willing to overlook the role modelling of cruel behaviour towards a spouse and its emotional impact on the children.  This father in this article is role modelling how husbands should treat their wives and role modelling what a wife should be willing to accept. Instead of realising how horrific this type of behaviour was on their mother, the children came to see it as a joke. The mother in this situation becomes dehumanised, not a person with worth or to be respected.

Families, friends and societies don't consider the messages we send to the perpetrators or victims when we laugh at abuse, when we minimise its reality, when we dismiss its consequences. When we fail to see that domestic abuse affects all of us - that its consequences are far reaching - we fail to see that we need to be part of the solution.