Claire Black: The global scourge of violence against women

Claire Black. Picture: Jane Barlow
Claire Black. Picture: Jane Barlow
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FLICKING through the headlines a depressing theme emerged. In Saudi Arabia a legal ban on ­domestic violence and other forms of abuse against women has just been passed.

Good news surely? Well, yes, sort of.

That sexual violence in the home and workplace is now a punishable crime is to be welcomed, but in a country where all women, no matter what age, must have a male guardian one can only wonder about the practical problems of reporting a father or husband who make up the vast majority of abusers. Scroll down. In London, a 42-year-old man walked free from court having been found guilty of slapping his wife as he drove her and their five and seven-year-old daughters along a busy street. Scroll down. In Scotland, a member of the country’s parliament, former SNP MSP Bill Walker, having been convicted on 23 charges of assaulting three ex-wives and a step-daughter, has refused to resign his seat.

Men and their quick fists. The law and its limitations. The global scourge of ­violence against women.

Between one in three and one in five women will experience some form of domestic abuse during their lifetime. Two women every week die at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. We see these stats so often, but do we really understand what they mean?

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone – any age, any gender, any social class, any ethnicity or sexual orientation. Women, though, are far more likely to be victims than men. More than 80 per cent of ­reported incidents in Scotland involved a female victim and a male perpetrator.

According to Scottish Women’s Aid, domestic abuse is “when a person uses coercion, intimidation and fear to control their partner in an intimate relationship.” It isn’t just when someone slaps or punches, it might also be when they humiliate, isolate and control. It can be financial, sexual or emotional, it usually gets worse over time, and it may increase at specific points in a woman’s life.

According to the prosecution in the London case, the woman said that she had been a victim of domestic violence for a decade, since she was on her honey­moon, eight months pregnant with her first child. According to the sheriff hearing the case against Walker, the evidence presented showed him to be “controlling, domineering, demeaning and belittling” towards his former wives.

Walker’s refusal to show any remorse for his actions is a blatant refusal to ­accept what domestic abuse really is: it is an outrage. It should have no place in our society. On Friday, Scottish Women’s Aid released a statement describing Walker as “not suitable to hold public office”. Who could possibly disagree?

IFEAR that the most recent inductees into the Oxford English Dictionary are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Selfie (a photograph taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and ­uploaded to a social media website)? Phablet (smartphone having a screen which is intermediate in size between that of a typical smartphone and a tablet computer)? Fomo (fear of missing out: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website)? I suggest that the OED lexicographers undergo a digital detox (a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world) in order to spare us such horrors next time round.

I CONFESS I wanted to hate Gareth Malone’s new project. And oddly enough that’s not because I am among those detractors who dislike him solely for his weirdly ageless features and slavish obsession with bow-ties. But a choral reworking of a track by experimental Californian hip hop band Death Grips sounds like someone trying too hard to be bearable. Disappointingly, despite multiple listens, I can’t summon up any real opprobrium; I actually quite like it. It’s lush and a little trippy. Malone’s new album, Voices, includes new arrangements of Fleet Foxes, Alicia Keys and Lana Del Rey and will be, he says, a “watershed” moment for choirs. I’ve got to say it might be interesting. Alas, he does appear to still be wearing a bow-tie. «

Twitter: @Scottiesays