Silence, Secrecy, and Shame: It is Not a Domestic Affair
It is time that we change the narrative around domestic violence.
Posted April 4, 2022 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
- Domestic violence has become an issue centrally defined by its significance to women, ignoring its relevance to men.
- We must avoid broad stroke generalisations to all men and remember that men can play a positive role in bringing an end to this dyad of abuse.
- The workplace is not immune to the effects of domestic violence.
Changing the Narrative
It is time that we change the narrative around domestic violence. Reframing domestic violence as a societal problem. It is imperative that we move swiftly away from victim blaming and this peculiar hostility toward women who experience such violence.
Part of the problem is that dominant groups are seldom challenged to consider their dominance, power, and privilege, which propagates and further asserts their dominance. Men have become invisible in discourse that is predominately about them. Consider the language that is used; ‘domestic violence against women’, as opposed to ‘male perpetrated domestic violence’. Some may gasp at the latter suggestion, but the former is equally unacceptable. As it currently stands, domestic violence has become an issue centrally defined by its significance to women dismissing, entirely, its relevance to men.
These skewed formulations of domestic violence alter the fabric of the dispute and direct interventions toward targets that are not the main source of the problem. It is argued that framing domestic violence as a woman’s issue gives rise to men tuning out of the conversation (similar to the effect seen in wedding planning or shopping).
We equally need to walk away from broad stroke generalisations to all men everywhere. Men must have a seat at the table to address domestic violence. They too have a positive role to play in ending this dyad of abuse. Men have a distinct perspective and an ability to send powerful messages about healthy relationships, the perils of violence, and the leveraging of power for good (Pease, 2008).
To be transformative, we much eliminate the us against them philosophy. This is a societal issue. From an epidemiological standpoint, much is to be said about societal constitutions that cultivate a series of biopsychosocial exposures that synthesize into dysfunctional behaviours predominately in men. In many ways we have all become victims of gender roles that too often develop into unfortunate and dangerous conditions.
Corporate Response and Impact on the Workplace
The expected role of corporations to yield their influence for impactful and sustainable change may feel abstract, perplexing, even bizarre. But this is because domestic violence, even by name, has been framed as a domestic affair; personal and private. However, we need a whole-society approach.
Corporations are not immune to the pernicious effects. Although exogenous to organisations, there is an inescapable spill-over of domestic violence into the workplace. The truth is, employees cannot reasonably be expected to maintain this divide of being beaten, raped, stalked, controlled, accosted, and denigrated at home, with a looming fear of death, only to shake it off and walk audaciously into work each day being remarkable, effective, sharp, witty and in all ways exceptional. There is need for corporate advocacy.
Given the absence of a panacea, a layered response is proposed. Policy change, information dissemination, and a referral scheme as an avenue to funded specialist support. Even though the total societal cost of domestic violence is estimated at £23 billion per annum, £2.7 billion of that is borne by organisations alone. Costs come primarily through a loss of economic output and injury-related absenteeism (Walby, 2004). Then is the issue of reputation. Domestic violence can prove a threat to brand-equity when an exposed perpetrator is identified as an employee.
There is much to be said about proactive risk management in place of retrospective crisis management. Organisations are, thus, also encouraged to publicly break the silence; to demonstrate an unequivocal position against violence; to make clear that their values are not aligned with, nor do they sanction, nor do they tolerate violence, by any employee at any time. We can sit in denial or accept the unfortunate truth that there is complicity in silence.
If you missed it, read PART ONE of this three-part series here: "Let us not ignite a battle of the sexes. Not all men are abusive, not all abusers are men, and victims are not only women. But we must face the harsh reality of gendered violence."
If you missed it, read PART TWO of this three-part series here: "The silence, secrecy and shame around gendered violence forces each new victim to reinvent the wheel, and without an indication of support domestic violence can be soul-destroying."
Pease, B. (2008). Engaging Men in Men’s Violence Prevention: Exploring the Tensions, Dilemmas and Possibilities. Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse.
Walby, S. (2004). The Cost of Domestic Violence. 4.