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Guest blog: Jon Cruddas, on men's role in ending violence against women

(74 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Mar-13 08:12:52

This week's guest blog is by Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham. He's writing about violence against women and girls - and what government, society, and men themselves can do to stop it.

Do have a look, and tell us what you think of his assessment of the issues, and the plans he outlines. Are his proposals a step in the right direction? If not, what do you think can be done to make violence against women and girls culturally and socially unacceptable?

If you post on this topic, don't forget to add your URL to the thread.

mydoorisalwaysopen Fri 01-Mar-13 13:21:25

Support the intiative for the opt-in option for on-line pornography and make it happen. Opt-out is pathetic and useless.

Sarich Fri 01-Mar-13 13:57:25

There are basic things that need to change but the government is dragging its feet. Giving men free access to women and children’s bodies in single sex toilets changing rooms without their choice and consent effectively perpetuates male dominance over women and effectively subverts the principles underpinning the entire equality and human rights legislation. A recent anonymous on line toilet survey (Bedfordshire Race & Equality Council) demonstrates that 1:3 people are put off using a single sex designated multi cubical toilet/urinal if they are serviced by opposite sex personnel. Permanent warning signs (and flimsy access policies eg calling, knocking) are depriving users of the choice for same sex privacy and a chance to object to an opposite sex worker, but are being used to gain implied consent for male and female workers to be used interchangeably while people, including under age children, young girls are using the facility and boys may be exposed at a urinal/trough.

Toilets are no longer single sex because employers are failing to use same sex operatives when it is proportionate and legitimate to do so, nor implementing robust alternatives to a gender based policy which gives users a choice to use a facility with same sex privacy when they need to. This means a child can find themselves on their own with an opposite sex worker who is not even required to be CRB checked because their job is not considered to involve working with children.

Anyone who complains is falsely informed that this is a necessary requirement of the equality act and it is 'discrimination' against the worker to object- In fact the employer is discriminating against the service users to cut their cleaning costs. The Equality & Human Rights Commission insist hardly anyone is complaining about this and they cannot tell employers what to do! So the public are being hoodwinked into putting up with this indignity which is a clear safeguarding concern and means that anyone with a history of sexual abuse may feel too compromised to use the facility.

Sex segregation has its problems but in our increasingly pornographic society where sex abuse scandals emerge daily perhaps there is still an argument that single sex services are needed now more than ever. If so they should be what they say they are ie single sex to include the staff when the facilities are open to users. Otherwise, If cleaning costs are to be cut this can only safely be achieved by suitably converting existing facilities to a fully enclosed unisex design, opening to a communal outside area, not by exploiting female staff by expecting them to clean around urinating men, and putting children and the public at risk of both physical and psychological harm by undignified practices which effectively legalize perversions such as voyeurism, indecent exposure and paedophilia.
Whilst appearing trivial at first, this has fundamental implications to the successful implementation of equality legislation and safety of women and children but clearly will not be stopped unless enough people complain.

SageBush Fri 01-Mar-13 14:29:26

Very well said, Sarich and mydoorisalwaysopen - I wholeheartedly agree with both your suggestions.

soroptimist Fri 01-Mar-13 16:34:42

John, well done on taking a lead on this. However, there is something vital you do not cover in your blog, which you should be raising tomorrow, and that is the role played by alcohol in domestic violence. Some estimates put this at as high as 75% of cases. I am an academic at the Institute of Psychiatry, and if you want to know the figures/get the references, please message me through the mumsnet site. I did blog about this recently when the crime figures came out for England and Wales -

olgaga Fri 01-Mar-13 16:49:00

Jon, you cannot hope to change society unless you change conditions for women and children in their own homes. Domestic violence and abuse needs to be taken much more seriously by police and justice system, and in particular the Family Courts, which seem to turn a blind eye in so many cases.

I would ask Jon to read this report by Rights of Women, and also take a look at the Maypole website.

Abitwobblynow Fri 01-Mar-13 16:53:27

1. more single sex schools

2. charging men who use foreign sex workers with rape (because they should know about sex trafficking - thank you Dennis McShane!

3. really having a campaign against porn.

4. stop using alcohol as an excuse in domestic violence. Please read Lundy Bancroft. It should NOT be a mitigating factor, sentences should be increased if alcohol is involved so that excuse is rapidly dropped

TheOriginalLadyFT Fri 01-Mar-13 17:04:06

Frankly, it's not just extreme pornography which is the problem - to me, the casual use of sexualised images of women in almost every area of life is worse. In that way, sexualisation of women is normalised, and that seems to me to be the root of many issues around violence against women.

I'm more worried about my 11yo DS seeing half naked images of women on the front of dozens of magazines in WH Smith, in music videos and newspapers (and yes, let's get rid of page 3) than him potentially seeing violent pornography

StephanieDA Fri 01-Mar-13 17:25:54

Thank you Jon for taking action on a subject which politicians too often seem to think of as marginal. I would like to ask that legislation is tightened around the degrading images of women freely displayed in the tabloid press, and that this issue is no longer seen as frivolous or irrelevant.

These newspapers give men explicit permission to view women as sexually available commodities. Page 3 images are discriminatory and intimidating to wives and partners and a readily-available means of sexual humiliation and harassment for abusive men. Dehumanising women makes it harder to respect women, and easier to abuse them.

It is more difficult to teach boys to respect girls if they see that mainstream culture does not. In that sense I feel that sexually-objectified images of teenagers and young women in a daily newspaper can be more harmful than online pornography, in that it is normalised and constitutes a daily drip-drip of conditioning in misogyny which is largely unconscious. The danger for young girls is self-objectification and the psychological harm that causes.

Legislation exists banning topless calendars in the workplace to protect women from what is recognised in law as a form of sexual harrassment, and yet we allow this form of sexual harrassment into the public space and into the homes of women and children through a 'family newspaper'. The tabloid press also displays degrading images of women on the front cover, and these newspapers are displayed at children's eye-level. Respect for women cannot become a reality while our culture condones this.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Fri 01-Mar-13 17:26:51

What are the criteria under which women fleeing emotional and physical domestic abuse will still get legal aid?

Writehand Fri 01-Mar-13 18:17:33

Violence against trafficked women and sex workers is another big problem. The Swedish line on prostitution and sex trafficking is admirable and has been successful.

In Sweden it's the customer who's committed an offence, not the seller. This puts trafficked women in a much better position: they're not offenders, it's the men who use them who can be jailed and who need to fear the police.

Link to a good CNN article here.

On a more general note, the victims of domestic violence are -- obviously -- victims not abusers but I don't think there's enough publicity or education alerting parents that even if they're the ones being hit they have a responsibility for what they tolerate and that their children will almost certainly copy what they see at home. It's not good or healthy to accept abuse and letting your kids witness it makes you, at least on some level, responsible.

I know people myself who think they're doing the right thing in keeping their family together in the face of regular beatings, but I feel very strongly that if a woman doesn't leave she is teaching her kids by example that violence in families is OK. Doesn't matter what you say. Matters what you do.

If a man hit me I would split up with him. I would never let my children see me tolerate abuse.

DoeEyedBeauties Fri 01-Mar-13 19:29:25

I wonder though, how can the government make the abused woman feel like she deserves better? Somewhere along the way, that woman was taught that the abusive man was as good as she could get, usually in her own family (i.e. daddy never loved me). How could we get dead beat dads more involved with their children? Is this something the government could even tackle? How does the cycle get broken? Parenting classes in school?

Hissy Fri 01-Mar-13 20:24:15

MORE single sex schools?

That is beyond idiotic! Segregation doesn't work in countries where sexes are told to avoid one another. It makes sexism, and harassment WORSE.

EDUCATION is the key here, instilling equality and respect from day ONE in the education system. Ensuring that both genders are able to live and work side by side with proper respectful relationships.

I have long held that books by people like Lundy Bancroft and Sandra Horley ought to be read and taught in schools. Serious work needs to be done on our children's self esteem, and encouraging both sexes to view the other as different, but equal.

We need to tackle the habitual and everyday sexism in the media, end soft porn in daily newspapers and remove porn from publicly visible magazine shelves.

We need to show our children that EVERYONE is valued, and that we DO matter.

My DS is the product of an abusive relationship and has issues with confidence and socialisation. His school has set up a Talkabout group which deals with bolstering and discussing issues, uses mentors and invites different children to participate. Some of these children are chosen because they have great skills in confidence and self esteem and are used to kind of demonstrate their way of thinking as a way to show those that do struggle that there is another way.

DS is 7, and in the few months he has been doing his, he has improved greatly, it's a FAB scheme and one that ought to be part of the Key Stage Curriculum and above to be honest.

Education not segregation.

Hissy Fri 01-Mar-13 20:38:04

Domestic violence starts in our childhood.

We are raised by parents that treat us badly, neglect us mentally, physically, emotionally. We have over critical parents that show us that we are not good enough. This means that we have a self esteem that is lower, and our expectations are that we won't be successful, that so-and-so won't like us.

We repeat the example we are set by our parents.

THIS is why staying with an abuser for the sake of the kids is the worst possible thing anyone can do. they will grow up thinking it's normal.

We need to start somewhere, so starting by teaching children that abuse is wrong, and starting the discussion of how men treat women/women treat men, what is and is not acceptable needs to start in school.

support will be needed for those growing up in situations where there is power imbalance. They need to know that if they can't help their parent(s), they still have to understand that they don't need to live like that.

The symptoms of abuse are clear and palpable in children, our schools need to be taught to see them and quietly support those showing signs of distress:

Signs & Symptoms

From a Child's Perspective

Children communicate their distress in many different ways. Often the way in which children express their distress is closely linked to their stage of developmental. General guidelines when considering the traumatic reactions of children at different developmental stages include the following:


Infants depend on adults to look after them. They sense the emotions of their caregiver and respond accordingly. If the adult is calm and responsive and is able to maintain their daily routine, the child will feel secure and symptoms will be minimized. If the adult is anxious and overwhelmed, the infant will feel unprotected and may display a variety of symptoms, including:

Sleep problems
Disruptions in eating
Lethargy and unresponsiveness

At this age children begin to interact with the broader physical and social environment. As with infants, toddlers depend on adults to look after them and will respond to traumatic situations as well or as poorly as their adult caretakers. Common reactions in toddlers include:

Sleep problems
Disruptions in eating
Increased tantrums
Toileting problems (e.g. wetting him/herself)
Increased clinging to caretaker
Preschool Children

Children at this age my have more social interactions outside of the family. Their language, play, social and physical skills are more advanced. With these skills, they are more capable of expressing their thoughts and feelings, particularly following a traumatic event. Common responses include:

Sleep problems
Disruptions in eating
Increased tantrums
Irritability and frustration
Difficulty separating from caretakers
Preoccupation with traumatic events
School-Age Children

Children at this age are more independent, are better able to talk about their thoughts and feelings, and are engaged in friendships and participation in group activities. They also possess better skills to cope with challenges or difficulties. When confronted with a traumatic event, school-age children may exhibit the following symptoms:

Sleep problems
Disruptions in eating
Difficulty separating from caretakers
Preoccupation with details of traumatic event
Anxiety and aggression
School difficulties
Problems with attention and hyperactivity

Adolescence is a time during which youth may feel out of control due to the physical changes that are occurring to their bodies. They experience struggles to become independent from their families and rely more heavily on relationships with peers and teachers. They may show a tendency to deny or exaggerate what happens around them and to feel that they are invincible. When exposed to a traumatic event, adolescents may show the following symptoms:

Sleep problems
Preoccupation with details of traumatic event
Anxiety and aggression
School difficulties
Unrealistic sense of power
Difficulties with relationships

PlentyOfPubeGardens Fri 01-Mar-13 21:05:28

Thank you for tackling this issue.

What is needed is for men, all decent men, individually, to stand up against rape culture, porn culture and violent culture.

That means YOU, when you are down the pub with your mates and someone tells a rape joke or a DV joke or shows a bit of porn on their phone, or you see your mate harrassing a woman or your mate makes a comment about a woman 'asking for it' or 'needing a slap', or your mate says 'all men watch porn' or he invites you to a strip club or a lap dancing club or a brothel or a massage parlour ... you speak out and you say that's not OK and that women are actual human beings and are as deserving of respect as every one of your mates.

What is needed is for you to believe women when they say they have been raped or assaulted or are being abused and to be willing to talk about it and offer whatever help you can.

It's all very easy to sign an online pledge, it takes a bit more courage to stand up to your mates and risk losing a bit of face for not being one of the lads. Not nearly as much courage as it takes to face each day if you're a woman who's on the receiving end of male violence, though, so grow a pair smile

Online porn filtering ... I am so fucking tired of this discussion. I'd love it if it was possible, I don't believe it is and I believe it will leave children more vulnerable. There have been numerous threads on this. I'll have a trawl and c&p a couple of the most useful posts tomorrow.

What is needed is regular, ongoing education for parents - they need to know what is out there, how to install, configure and maintain the actually quite decent filtering software that is already available and how to talk to their DC about what they might encounter because something will inevitably slip through or be emailed to them by their classmate whose parents don't give a shit. Do not underestimate how much this will cost if you genuinely care about these issues.

IlianaDupree Fri 01-Mar-13 21:19:23

You won't like what I have to say. Horrific violence against women/children has been happening long before internet porn

Brief version of my story:

A boy was raped by a catholic priest, boy grew up, boy raped little girls, I was one

Anything that needs to happen needs to start at the top down. Deal with abuse in the church, deal with abuse in government. YOU at the top take responsibilty for the legacy that has been left behind

We at the bottom do everything we can and are blocked at every turn

IlianaDupree Fri 01-Mar-13 21:27:02

#remembertheyarechildren why is this even needed??

Why do COURTS not recognise innocent victims??

Why do police struggle to get convictions?? my local police are trying to jail a peadophile who has abused 2 kids that are known, they are fighting a losing battle.

Locally to me an historic child abuse case has been dropped before investigation, WHY??

Police have recently arrested a violent rapist, the only conviction they could get through court? drugs!

Look in the mirror, not at us.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Fri 01-Mar-13 21:28:30

Good post Plenty.

aufaniae Fri 01-Mar-13 21:57:46

"Support the intiative for the opt-in option for on-line pornography and make it happen. Opt-out is pathetic and useless."

Sadly there is no workable way to create an opt-in for pornography, without massively changing the nature of the internet, and restricting access to sites such as Mumsnet and educational websites along with the porn. And there will be 101 ways to circumvent any blanket ban anyway (which the DCs will know about way before us!)

It's all very well saying people should support an opt-in option, but a workable model for this simply does not exist. Anyone who says it is possible either does not understand the issues or has some kind of vested interest (either profit or political advantage) in advocating opt-in, despite it being totally impractical in reality.

HilaryBurrage Fri 01-Mar-13 22:35:07

Many really important points in this discussion and Jon Cruddas' original contribution. We can learn a lot.

Might I however remind everyone of a really awful example of male domination? It may be women who mostly do it, but FGM (female genital mutilation) is a direct consequence of patriarchy - women are 'worth' almost nothing in some places unless they are cut.

It hardly bears thinking about, but this is a tragic reality, 'even' in Britain today, where over 20,000 girls and babies are thought to be at serious risk annually..... Yes, TWENTY THOUSAND, here in the UK every year.

I've just written a piece on this:

I truly believe that one way 'the men' can take massive steps towards getting rid of this horror is to insist on spending realistic amounts of money on eradication programmes AND on the proper education of girls for future adult independence.... Money talks; it has real influence on action.

And of course men must be saying, repeatedly and everywhere, FGM is a very grim, cruel and criminal act; no decent man would ever want to be party to it in any way.

Just as in all other forms of domestic and gender violence, men's silence amounts in effect to acquiescence.

Jon and others, would you agree with my analysis?

Hilary #NoFGM

PS If you want to support our efforts to Stop FGM in the UK, please sign here:

Smudging Fri 01-Mar-13 22:49:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HilaryBurrage Fri 01-Mar-13 22:57:08

Spot on, Smudging, thx.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Fri 01-Mar-13 23:04:49

There was a great poster on Education who ran some ace sex education programmes that covered true consent ie enthusiastic participation type standards. I can't remember her name though but I think that's a good addition to the important educational items the two PPs have raised.

HilaryBurrage Fri 01-Mar-13 23:14:34

Indeed. PSHE, inc SexEd, is critical - but, like much else, in some respects under threat. Here's a bit of background to the debate thus far:
One interesting thing is the way that issues like consent have come to the fore, as we realise more specifically how important this is.
I'd guess that's one reason that more people are now comfortable(ish) to report inappropriate behaviour: they actually 'know' it's not OK - and that's both women and men, who know it.

Sausageeggbacon Sat 02-Mar-13 08:21:16

Tackling DV needs more support for the emotional abuse aspect. Physical violence is clear, emotional abuse is just as bad and leave emotional scars that take year to recover from if ever.

Having seen the ONS Home office figures for DV 2m victims is 2m too many and we need harsh sentences for any man (or woman) who commits these acts. More needs to be done to help victims in practical terms, I have a friend who was only moved and name changed after her ex partner was caught with a baseball bat trying to break in and kill her. And that man still walks free.

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