Ex-glamour model Jodie Marsh has bravely spoken up about her own experiences of domestic abuse at the hands of two ex-boyfriends.
On her Twitter account, she said “I know it happens to men too, but I am a woman and I believe speaking out is the only way to help other women instead of it being taboo.”
The choice to share her story is particularly poignant given the cuts and closures refuge shelters are increasingly facing under austerity measures of the Coalition government, which is leaving many, according to leading charities, “at crisis point.”
Sandra Horley, Chief Executive of charity Refuge, told the Guardian that “without adequate refuge provision, women experiencing domestic violence will be faced with a stark choice: flee to live rough on the streets or remain with their abuser and risk further violence or even worse. Refuges are so much more than a roof over a head. Lives are transformed – specialist refuge workers support women to stay safe, access health services, legal advocacy and provide immigration advice.”
Many refuges have been closed because their focus had been on women and children victims of violence, and refused to accept men. The Wolverhampton Haven, for example, has been mandated to reserve some of its places for men, despite having no male referrals to the shelter so far.
Horley went on to criticise the focus on men who have experienced domestic abusive as inherently flawed: “The vast majority of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women,” she said. “Of those who experience four or more incidents … 89% are women.”
This is not to say that domestic violence against men is not a problem – of course it is. And our damaging social constructions of masculinity surely make it that much harder to talk about. Of course it is utterly tragic for any person to be subject to such an awful violation of trust, safety and not even have a place to turn in a time of desperation. But making the decision to cut services for women and children, rather than provide services for men is completely counterproductive. After all, it’s not impossible to imagine why women – the majority of victims – fleeing from violent male partners may feel uncomfortable living with strange men when they seek help.
Domestic violence shelters should not be at the mercy of local government who have the authority to make drastic cuts, or to completely close these centres. They are an indispensable service, and should be funded as such. In any case, domestic violence costs us millions through other means; through medical treatment of victims, courts, prisons, social services… the list goes on.
Jodie Marsh and others like her brave enough to share their experiences should be commended. If nothing else, it invaluably reminds survivors that they are not alone in the violence they have experienced.
In fact, violence against women is a cultural epidemic. It is an atrocity. Yet we have a government who treats it as little more than a minor nuisance.