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    When Professionals ask…”Why is she attracted to abusive men”!!!

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    When Professionals ask…”Why is she attracted to abusive men”!!!


    The question I have been asked most often over the last 24 years is “Why is she attracted to abusive men”? This question also applies to male victims but in my own experience working in the sector, the question has mostly always been directed at female victims of domestic abuse. Who asks this question? Other professionals! – Social Workers, Police, Housing Officers – I could go on!

    For 11 years, I worked as an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA), alongside a local authority children’s services department. My role was to support women who had or were experiencing domestic abuse, in any of its forms, going through the Child Protection and Child in Need Process. Also to support those people within Early Help settings, before the situation became a child protection or child in need concern.

    I am also told this by so many of my clients who are attending my Freedom Programmes. They are instructed by Children’s Services to attend a Freedom Programme to ‘find out why you are attracted to violent and abusive men’!

    Why, in 2022, with all the awareness there is available do people need to ask this question?

    This kind of myth, misunderstanding, ignorance – call it what you will, is one of my pet hates! Because it is victim blaming. It puts the onus on the victim for the abuse experienced. It is THEIR fault.

    So let’s think about this in a bit more detail. Person goes into a pub for a drink. They spot someone across the bar. They think ‘Hmm, they looks nice. They look like they could be really abusive/violent to me. I am going to go and chat them up’!

    Do you know ANYONE that would think that? No, I didn’t think so. So why ask the question?

    People – women or men, ARE NOT attracted to abusive and violent personalities. They do not want abusive partners. They do not want to be assaulted and controlled. The fact is that by the time you realise that that is what is happening, it is too late and very difficult and dangerous to get out of the relationship.

    People that find themselves in more than one abusive relationship have not chosen it. They are simply unlucky. Is it any wonder? We know that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in the UK will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime – and that is just the ones that have been reported! So lets switch it round. That means that 1 in 4 men and 1 in 6 women in the UK are domestically abusive in some way or another. It’s no wonder then, that many people will find themselves in more than one abusive relationship is it?

    Yet, they are made to feel that it is their fault that this has happened. They are told by their abusive partner that if they tell anyone or report it, the authorities will blame them and that they won’t be believed. Yet, all around them they see media, posters, adverts telling them to report the abuse to the Police, report it to Social Services, housing etc. So they do and guess what?

    THEY ARE NOT BELIEVED! Or that is at least how they feel.

    Worse, they are told to jump through numerous hoops and attend various programmes, and keep the abusive partner away from them and out of their homes, otherwise they will be seen as not being protective (if they have children). Don’t let them in, lock your door, call the Police. If someone is banging at your door and trying to kick it down and saying they are going to kill you if you don’t let them in, what would most people do? Honestly? I would say – let them in! We are not talking strangers here. We are talking about someone we know. We know what they are capable of because we have experienced it for X amount of years.

    Now let’s think about what action is taken against the perpetrators of the abuse? They may get arrested by the Police. But they are more often likely to be released again, on or off bail. They may be called by the social worker to speak to them, to ask them if they will attend a Perpetrator Programme. But hang on, they don’t answer their phones so what happens? Nothing, is the answer.

    It’s no ones fault. It is the system that is flawed.

    But out of the two, who is left feeling that they are responsible? It is the victim! Not only responsible for themselves and any children they may have, but also responsible for the perpetrator.

    The message that the perpetrator gets from the authorities that have to uphold the system is – you have done something naughty, now be on your way and don’t do it again! If you don’t answer your phone, we aren’t going to chase you, we will just leave it. Whatever they do, they can get away with it. No one is really going to stop them. They don’t have to answer to anyone. Therefore, they can’t be doing anything wrong!

    The message that victims get – you are responsible for this. You must have done something. You have to keep your children and yourself safe and this is how you do it. And if you don’t, you will face the consequences. You must do the Freedom Programme, parenting courses, mediation (Yes, it is still recommended by some).

    ‘WHY are YOU attracted to abusive/violent people’?

    And they wonder why people do not leave abusive relationships!

    Next time, instead of asking that question, why not try and ask this question instead….

    ‘Why have THEY chosen to abuse you, and how can we help YOU’?

    Sharon Bryan
    Head Of Partnerships & Development Of Domestic Abuse Services

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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”