We are currently in the midst of the annual 16 days of global action to end violence against women. Last week, Alesha Dixon presented a BBC programme which highlighted the experience of children, including herself, affected by domestic violence. More than 750,000 children in the UK are living in homes where such violence takes place.
As part of her enquiry, Alesha interviewed a male perpetrator of domestic violence who had signed up to a programme to help change his attitudes and behaviour. When asked why he wanted to change, he said that he had become aware of the emotional damage being done to his children. The man himself had experienced domestic violence between his parents, and his sister was also in an abusive relationship. Domestic violence affects children directly, but also makes it much harder for them to form good relationships in the future. The costs of domestic violence, and the benefits from preventing it, go on for generations.
What the perpetrator didn’t seem concerned about was the damage he had done to his partner. He spoke about how he undermined her self-esteem with insults, and how this had led on to physical violence. He said he wanted to be in control and was very conscious of the fear that kept her from leaving. I applaud his willingness to speak out so openly about his crimes, but what can be done to build positive and healthy relationships, and to challenge men who are abusing women, whether there are children involved or not?
Restored is a new international Christian alliance committed to transforming relationships and ending violence against women. CVM is a founder members of Restored, and there are strong linkages between codelife and Restored’s work. If all men applied the following elements of The Code, then violence against women would be ended:
- I will put the welfare of those closest to me before my own welfare.
- I will treat all men and women as brothers and sisters.
- I will use my strength to protect the weak and stand against the abuse of power.
Next year Restored and CVM will be working on a Christian men’s campaign to end violence against women. This will be called “First Man Standing”, and the global launch will be in June at The Gathering organised by CVM “in a field near Swindon”. I look forward to seeing you there!
In the meantime, what can you do? Firstly you can recognise that domestic violence takes place, and take it seriously. If you are involved yourself, then admit it and seek help (a good contact is Respect). Domestic abuse is happening in the church, and you can download a draft Church Pack from the Restored website which will help your church to address it. We can all challenge the behaviour of other men when it comes to demeaning women and creating an atmosphere in which violence is acceptable.
Most of all we can love and support the women in our own lives, and try to model what a healthy relationship and a good husband and father looks like. As Christians and others take action, I believe that we will see culture changed and violence reduced, and that will be good news for all of us: women, children and men.