Irish DV fantasy


Irish DV fantasy.


"Four out of 10 Irish women who have had sexual relations have experienced

domestic violence,"


Irish Times Tue, Feb 05, 2002


An Irishman's Diary



"Four out of 10 Irish women who have had sexual relations have experienced

domestic violence," this newspaper declared last week. Apparently, the

situation could be far worse, for some 70 per cent of women reported

controlling behaviour by their partners, which is adjudged to be a precursor

to violence: all appalling, if true, writes Kevin Myers


Is it true? The figures were compiled by the Department of General Practice

and Community Health in Trinity College. But how did they find these women,

only 60 per cent of whom were free from violence, and worse, only 30 per

cent free from its potential? Did they get them at random? No. The women

surveyed were all attending general practitioners' surgeries.


Excuse me, Department of General Practice and Community Health, Trinity

College Dublin, but is this statistically not rather like putting a finger

on the scales? Surely women attending their GPs are more likely than the

rest of the population to be experiencing physical and health problems;

while the majority who are not might well be dwelling on the sunlit uplands

of domestic harmony - no?


So what we learn from those who attend surgeries applies only to those who

attend surgeries; just as we may make no extrapolations about how the entire

male population passes Saturday afternoons from what happens in hospital

casualty wards on Saturday evenings in the hour or so after rugby matches

have ended. It's not that figures have no use, merely that their use is

empirically limited.


What is violence?


For the purposes of this survey, what is violence? Actual physical contact?

Or is it emotionally intimidating, coercive behaviour, which by implication

threatens violence? Well, as it turns out, the TCD survey includes a number

of things as violence against women. One of them is for their partner to

have punched walls or furniture.


Ah. So now the act of sublimation of rage against the inanimate is to be

interpreted as its genuine enactment against the animate. Is there a single

human being who has not kicked a stone or a car tyre or a wall in rage? Or

one who has not slammed his - or, dare I say it, girls, her hand - on the

table in rage, or slammed a fist against a chair-arm in frustration? Such is

no more than the socialisation of potentially dangerous emotions, a passing

spasm which releases anger.


For this to be represented as the same as actual, personal violence is the

kind of ideological claptrap that is possible only within the unreal

confines of academe. So a political perception which makes a woman a victim

every time a wall is punched or a table slapped not surprisingly helps

create the largest single category of "violence against women" in the entire

survey - some 26 per cent. Another category of violence against women is for

the partner to have shouted at or threatened her (their) children; that

comes to nearly 20 per cent.


Terrible fates


Ah well, in that case, my father unquestionably was violent towards my

mother, because not merely did he shout at all six of his children as we

brawled during the car journey to our summer holidays, but actually

threatened us with the most terrible fates unless we behaved ourselves. And

he was violent towards my mother on another occasion when he caught me

pummelling my younger brother into oblivion, and he gave me a hearty swipe

for my trouble.


On reflection, I think my father should have (a) evicted us all from the car

and made us walk the rest of the way, as he threatened; and (b) walloped me

even harder for bullying my baby brother. All of which would have enabled my

mother to have reported that she was victim twice over of violence.


There are other categories in the survey which are not so easy to understand

as bruised walls and wailing furniture, such as "forced you to do

something"; it doesn't mean sex, because that is covered in another

category. What does "force" mean in this case, and what is this "something"?

And what does the category, "demanded sex", mean? We know that it is not the

same thing as "forced to have sex", which is covered elsewhere. So if an

emphatic statement of sexual desire is rejected by the woman, are we

nonetheless to conclude that there has been an act of violence by the

woman's partner? Is that it: a kicked chair and a rejected overture are

placed in the same broad category of violence as a battered woman, or a

raped one?


And is violent oppression to be perceived in any male conduct which differs

from the politically correct standards in TCD's leafy purlieus? Moreover, we

are told, violence is incipient for some 70 per cent of all women, because

of evidence of "controlling behaviour" by their partners. Why? And what is

controlling behaviour, anyway? Well, inter alia, we are told that it is

limiting a woman's social life, checking on her movements, being personally

critical, or keeping her short of money.


Feminist point


Ah me, how the head buzzes. So if a woman tries to restrict her husband's

excessive social life, if she wants to know what her husband been up to

because he's away from home so much, if she criticises his domestic

laziness, or if she tries to limit his expenditure on alcohol, are these

examples of controlling behaviour? Of course not. For these surveys have a

feminist point to make, and they unfailingly make them.


And now, I suppose, I should put myself on the side of the angels by adding

the usual male disclaimer, querulously deploring violence against women,

etc., etc.


Sorry. Nothing doing.




 The Irish Times