Gina Davidson: Abuse myths have to stop

Domestic abuse victims often have nowhere to escape. Picture posed by model: Colin Hattersley
Domestic abuse victims often have nowhere to escape. Picture posed by model: Colin Hattersley
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THERE’S been a lot said and written about how appalling the British press is in the light of the phone-hacking scandal and Leveson inquiry.

While there might be a point in specific cases, and while there are no doubt readers of this paper who often don’t like what is printed and there are times when genuine errors in reporting can happen, I still believe that the mass – if reducing – press is the only way society currently has of holding publicly-funded organisations and politicians to account, of raising awareness of corruption and scandals, of standing up for the people who are not in power and don’t have access to the levers of power.

Always more could be done but this paper does the good that it can. This week is a case in point.

Every year the Evening News runs a Christmas appeal, focusing on a city charity and helping to raise awareness about its work and hopefully some money through donations by you, our generous readers.

This week the 2013 appeal was launched on behalf of Edinburgh Women’s Aid, and in a year when domestic abuse has rarely been out of the headlines – from former MSP Bill Walker to Charles Saatchi’s throat grab of Nigella Lawson – and in the organisation’s 40th anniversary, it seemed highly appropriate to choose a charity whose reason for existing is to help women extricate themselves from abusive relationships, by offering shelter and support.

Of course, women are not the only victims of domestic violence. There are men who are abused by their female partners, or male partners in same-sex relationships, and then there is the collaterol damage when children are witness to physical or mental violence. All victims should be able to have a safe place to escape to and help to get their lives back together while the perpretator of the abuse is dealt with by the law.

But let’s not be in any doubt that it is women who are the vast majority of victims and their male partners the abusers.

It’s hard to imagine the days when EWA first began, when the women who campaigned for domestic abuse victims to have a refuge were denounced as marriage-wreckers and when High Court judges could refuse an abused woman a divorce on the grounds that her “change in attitude” since she started working was an excuse for violence.

Yet that old idea of “she provoked it” is not hard to imagine because it’s still held in the minds of many today. Speak to a woman who’s been assaulted and she’ll tell you that amid the apologies and promises it would never happen again was the fact that she brought it on herself – “if only you hadn’t said that, given me that look, worn those clothes”.

The idea that domestic abuse is the victim’s fault has to stop. The only person at fault is the perpetrator of the violence – the one with his hands balled into fists, foot raised to kick, mouth opened to yell abuse.

Back in 1973, a woman looking to escape from violence would not be helped by the council housing department because she already had a home “with her husband”, nor by social work unless she was prepared to give her kids into care. The EWA founders were also told domestic abuse “didn’t happen in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dundee perhaps”. How ridiculous is that? And how ridiculous that society wouldn’t help a woman running for her life.

EWA changed that. It changed attitudes, too. With more money it can change the lives of more women and their children. Please give.

www.justgiving.com/edinburghwomensaid/donate

Time to learn charity lessons

THE idea that private schools which charge massive amounts of money to educate the pupils who attend are “charities” obviously sticks in the throat.

These schools were established by philanthropists in the hope the potless and the parentless could receive an education – a charitable move if ever there was one. But the percentage of their intake of children in that situation these days is laughable, even if it meets current OSCR rules.

The ratio needs to be upped if they want to remain as charities and receive the tax breaks such status brings.

JUST THE JOB

ONE of the first jobs I had was behind the counter at Margiotta’s grocers in Marchmont. Now Franco, the brain behind the chain, is celebrating 50 years in the business. Complimenti Franco!

Slow down on the tram praise

YOU wait long enough and then two turn up at once. Yes, there has been a double whammy of good news stories about the tram line in the last week.

Not only is the tram responsible for fuelling a £100 million property investment boom in Princes Street, Geoff French, president of the Institute of Civil Engineers, said the whole scheme will have a “positive impact” on the city.

But a claim that the Haymarket to St Andrew Square section will be the most “glamorous in Europe” is perhaps accentuating the positive too far – like claiming the outdoor gym at Silverknowes is our answer to Venice Beach. I’m thinking it’ll be more goosebumps than tanned guns.

Pay peanuts, get turnips . .

IT is, of course, great to know that the council is so on top of its grocery supply contract with Batleys that it is aware that the firm was failing to live up to its end of the deal by not delivering orders, providing food close to being out of date, not having essentials and a lack of flexibility in quantity size.

The problems go to the heart of contract tendering issues: best value for money does not mean best quality.