Thursday, 28 August 2014

The law won't stop abuse - but it's good to try

The bullying is mostly verbal, backed by the occasional veiled threat of violence.
For years he has humiliated, intimidated and belittled her. He does it to the children too – and he is raising them to behave the same way towards her.
He’s very skilled at persuading people that she is the one who mistreats them. Sometimes he almost has her believing it herself.
Now here’s another family.
He goes out to work, does the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning and most of the childcare.
He stays purely for the sake of her child, whose real father abandoned them.
The child is seldom allowed into “Mummy’s room”, where she spends most of her time watching TV or playing computer games.
She earns as much as he does, but all her money goes on paying the bills and putting food on the table. His goes straight into his personal savings account.
And another.
He’s happily married, a loving dad to his stepchildren. He can’t have children of his own because of the vasectomy he was pressured into during a previous relationship.
She’d love to feed herself and the kids more healthily. But he insists on a diet of pizza, bacon and sausages (see separate story below). If she brings fresh fruit and veg into the house, he throws it away.
And finally.
He earns the money, she drinks it.
When, after putting up with years of abuse, he talks of leaving, she cuts herself and threatens to say he did it.
All these people are real. They are all people I know or have known. And I could go on.
Which is why I welcome the Government’s proposal for a specific law against domestic abuse.
And why I’m glad to hear it will apply to emotional and psychological as well as physical bullying.
Home Secretary Theresa May was for once spot on when she announced the planned legislation, now entering its eight-week consultation period.
“Abuse is not just physical,” she said.
“I want perpetrators to be in no doubt that their cruel and controlling behaviour is criminal.”
Amen to that.
She also said: “Victims who are subjected to a living hell by their partners must have the confidence to come forward.”
And therein lies the problem. Worthy though the goal is, I’m not sure any new law is going to give those victims that confidence.
Some of the abuse cases I’ve known of have involved alcohol. Several involved money. Some involved violence or the threat of it.
Most included an element of deceit – and not just by the perpetrators.
In every case the confidence and self-esteem of the victim was steadily, inexorably sapped.
Often they end up blaming themselves for their seemingly inescapable situation.
And more often than not they conceal what’s happening, deceiving themselves and others.
Every domestic abuse case, whatever its nature and circumstances, is really about power. One person exerting control over another.
And it is never easy for a controlled person to turn publicly against their controller. Whatever the law says.


Michael Mosley is the most interesting person on television.
In 2012, after an investigation that involved some pretty extreme experimenting on his own body, he concluded that a 5:2 diet – two days a week of near-fasting – was a healthy way to live.
He was persuasive enough for me to try it. Two years later I’m still following it, happy with it as a lifestyle that works.
Almost incidentally (the point is health and longevity, not weight), I’m a steady two stone lighter than when I embarked on it.
Now Dr Mosley’s giving me serious thought of adapting my regimen again.
It follows his absorbing two-part BBC series last week, “Should I Eat Meat?”
As before, he interviewed various experts, who didn’t all agree. And as before he put his own body to the test, this time taking on a high-meat diet, with some shocking results.
One of his conclusions confirmed what I already believed.
That humans evolved to eat some meat – but nowhere near as much as most of us now do.
Which, incidentally, is bad for animals, bad for the world’s ecology and bad for the rest of humanity as well as being bad for us.
Some of the shots of intensive farming might be enough to put a sensitive person off meat for good.
I lived for eight years as a vegetarian, so I know I can do it.
I don’t intend to return to an entirely meat-free diet, but I could do with eating less of it. As could nearly all of us.
In particular, I’m now considering cutting out the bacon and sausages which have become our family staples.
Because it’s those processed meats that are now fingered as high risk factors for both heart disease and cancer. Neither of which I’m particularly keen on inviting in.
If it’s true that on average every bacon sarnie cuts an hour off your life expectancy, I can do without it, thanks.

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