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July 27, 2022

When Professionals ask…

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’?

  • I first met Sharon back in 2000 when I went into a refuge she worked in after fleeing a violent relationship. I had two babies and virtually just a bag of clothes and a few toys with us. She helped me with appointments with the police, solicitors and..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I was fortunate enough to meet and work with Sharon when she was the Advocacy Manager at Woman’s Trust and I was working for Westminster City Council. During this time Sharon developed and managed the Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy Service..

    Ainslie O’Connor – Principal Advisor for the Department of the Premier and Cabinet – Adelaide, Australia.
  • Thank you so much for all the support you have given me. You really have been amazing, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to cope with Child Protection without you. The amount of strength you have given me is totally priceless, even with..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I knew Sharon as a work colleague over ten years ago. At the time, she was supporting vulnerable people, some of them were homeless due to domestic abuse and substance misuse. For me, assisting such people was what anyone in her role would be expect..

    Ted Chanza, Head of Market Operations, Airtel Malawi Ltd, Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa.
  • I have known Sharon for 6 years and have had the pleasure of working alongside her when I chaired the Westminster MARAC. Sharon is a committed, empathetic supporter of women who are or have experienced domestic abuse. She regularly goes the extra m..

    Former Chair of The Westminster MARAC.
  • I was fortunate to have had Sharon as my support worker after 17 years of domestic violence and 4 children that had witnessed and gone through it with me. I was finally strong enough to stand up and protect myself and my children. Without Sharon’s ..

    A survivor of domestic violence.
  • Without the support and constant reassurance of Sharon, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am forever grateful to her. She is extremely dedicated and knowledgeable, having her on my side when dealing with someone as persistent..

    Anonymous survivor of Domestic Abuse.
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