The case for Gender Neutrality & Inclusion

“Wow.. You’re just like Women’s Aid really aren’t you? Except you’re more… Errr.…Inclusive.”

This was the final comment of a high ranking police Officer who shared that remark with us as we wound down our meeting about policing Domestic Abuse with a gender inclusive approach. The police Officer is not alone in assuming responsibility for domestic abuse whilst enjoying a very public relationship with Women’s Aid.

Safe Lives, Respect, Refuge are the top tier organisations whose efforts are aligned forming key partitions of the prevailing DVA discourse and hegemony. The establishment with the established view but there are countless affiliations and partnerships with Women’s Aid — not least the local branches who pay into the cash rich central pot to have the privilege of that trading name.

Within the industry itself — those who are more independent minded or who (like the police) deal with the complexity of domestic abuse on a daily basis — the historic ideologically driven agenda of a gendered approach to DVA is faltering. The cracks in the politically expedient argument — especially as the notion of “gender’ itself is diversifying — are very much beginning to show.

There are also ex-Women’s Aid local groups who have dropped the tag and switched their focus to an inclusive approach to DVA. The “integrated” hub or inclusive hub are new ideas that are catching on — we have some great models that are not as punitive as the Women’s Aid discourse insists on and attempts at a more holistic style a realisable goal. The role of the survivor in shaping practice is now a significant factor. The NHS, Justice Commission have set this mandate but it within policing that we at GenderfreeDV have found the greatest ally.

And here in Bristol the heartland of Women’s Aid home also to Bristol University’s gender studies Unit we have done the unthinkable — we have turned the police force “gender neutral”.

All local forces not least Avon Somerset who we work with accept they need to pursue an inclusive approach to policing. That past sins of profiling (males) allied with CPS target driven culture egged on by local fundamentalist feminists within local Council “Domestic Abuse Forums” are becoming thankfully a thing of the (recent) past. The ideological stranglehold on practice is loosening. The grip firmly in local government circles as tight as ever on DVA policy.

Its is survivor experience that is leading this change. Data has ruled to date. But statistics most often gendered and biased themselves have had their day.

Working with ‘Survivor’ Voice

The Survivor voice is actively welcomed by police forces to improve practice. Especially after a history where they have been unable to investigate properly incidents of abuse in the home. The emphasis on gender creating a virtual “first past the post” system where females (victims) actions were never questioned but male (perpetrators) were. Counter allegations were conveniently ignored. Children left within abusive households whilst males sat in police cells. Prohibited to return home men forced into DVVP’s — programmes that humiliate them as males whose behaviour is toxic. Magistrates untrained to manage the colossal number of cases, lawyers plea-bargaining and false allegations never dealt with. A whirligig of human rights violations that lead straight to Family Courts where Local Authorities and Social Services accept without question the narrative fed them by hostile partners wishing to deny child contact resorting to lies they teach their children to tell about paedophilia. Happy to wash their hands of the problem their reports make their way into court rooms and are presented as “facts” from “professionals”.

Change comes from and is most needed with commissioning. They too are now also expected to engage directly with Survivors. For too long the process has been not been transparent, inclusivity not a requirement, poor accountability and little regard for the outcomes. To be seen to be supporting gender specific services was what most local authorities sought to do.

That legacy remains paramount. Whilst we have a local police force Avon Somerset Constabulary adopting a gender neutral policing plan our home town of Bristol still flies the #VAWG flag with the main service Next Link providing support only to women. Council support for a new male service an add on to the main event is welcomed but to see what really can be done we need to look a little further south.

Safer Poole’s recent International Men’s day was an extraordinary event. Put on in a solid trilogy of the local police, the PCC and Safer Poole. What was remarkable about a day focusing on men was how inclusive it was. A main speaker who is a trans female, Agencies in attendance included support for both LGTBQ and a male domestic abuse survivors (with Mankind Initiative presenting).

The recent abuse scandal of men sexually molested and raped within football is testament to the serious under reporting of men. It also an indication of both historic and systemic barriers and possible sea change — that survivors can come forward. Male toxicity however as a reason for men’s inability to talk or come forward persists/raises its ugly head as another element in the lexicon that refuse to acknowledge men as victims.

Respect, The Dyne Project are two well know male domestic abuse services (there are others) that continue to victim blame and to conflate perpetrators with survivors. Ending systemic abuses and barriers (institutional and attitudinal) remain our prime targets to inclusion.

Towards an ‘integrated’ approach to DVA

DVA is a public health menace. Not a police issue. It should not be about punishment and public embarrassment or payback for those deemed as ‘guilty’ whilst survivors get the victim treatment. By taking funding into one source and kick starting from a mental health position all services could come together to provide a gender inclusive open portal or ‘hub’ wherein all survivors could access and find bespoke support.

Survivor led training.

Peer led DVVP programmes.

Provision based on local need.

Child protection above gendered interests.

Acknowledgement mental health aspects within high conflict separations.

These very simple precepts could change fundamentally our response to DVA. With local survivor groups so that peer led support can bring out actual abusive situations from so called silent groups towards a responsive immediate practise with discernible outcomes that actually help people.

ALL people.

Originally published on Wordpress


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