Why don’t we take domestic abuse against men seriously? | Independent Arts Blogs

August 8, 2012


When a man was beaten or abused by his wife in 17th and 18th Century England, his community would call upon a traditional intervention. The victim would be ritually humiliated, sometimes by being strapped to a cart and dragged through town, or by the whole neighbourhood surrounding his house and beating pots and pans and singing songs of mockery. The tradition was known as the Skimmington Ride, and it was echoed in many other countries. In France, a man would be forced to ride through town backwards on a donkey, holding its tail.

The Skimmingtons are now a detail of history. So too, for the most part, are the comic stereotypes of a hen-pecked husband, cowering in fear of a rolling pin, which long formed a staple target of club comics and saucy seaside postcards. It would be tempting to think the attitudes underpinning them have faded too. Unfortunately this is not the case.

In recent weeks, Coronation Street has featured the volatile relationship between lovable lad Tyrone Dobbs and his heavily pregnant and abusively violent fiancée, Kirsty. The storyline has followed a familiar pattern from both fiction and case study: sporadic but increasingly violent incidents, the abuser balancing mornings of apology and remorse with moments of coercive menace; the victim self-blaming, justifying and excusing the attacks, hiding the bruises and their explanation from friends and family. It’s an old story, the only quirk here being the genders of the protagonists.

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