“Misrepresentation is integral to crimes of violence.”
— Nick Todd et al
Because we are sinners, we tend to be violent—violating others in many degrees. But there is a particularly harmful violence—which we have many names for—and it occurs in the secret places: in the supposed safety and security of home. Because this violence tends to be so intrinsically shaming, it goes under the radar. For many reasons both perpetrators and victims alike can be quick to dismiss and undermine what is actually happening.
Particularly with violence in the home, there is a sinister misrepresentative language at play that works in favour of the perpetrator.
The Language Which Is Problematic
There are four operations of language that undermine and subvert violence in the home. There is the concealing of the acts of violence, the reducing of the perpetrator’s responsibility, the covering up of the victim’s resistance, and finally the blaming of victims.
The abuse is justified by the perpetrator in these ways, and therefore the cycle of violence continues. The perpetrator is made to look better than they are, whilst the victim is made out as part of the problem. Let’s get one thing straight, the victim is never a contributing part of the problem.
It is clear in terms of violence within the home that it should be called for what it is.
Language Which Is Response-Focused
An approach to family violence which meets the problem head-on counters the language above in four ways:
1. The violence is exposed for what it is; it is not concealed.
2. The perpetrator’s responsibility is clarified; the perpetrator’s behaviour is not normalised, justified, or made “okay.”
3. The victim’s story is explored and their responses are honoured; their story is not undermined.
4. And any blaming of the victim is hotly contested; there is nothing wrong in the victim’s behaviour.
In each of these four areas there has been a transition from the focus on treating the effects of the violence to honouring the responses of victims.
Survivors of family violence ought to be honoured for their responses out of the hellish situations they have dealt with. Family violence should be exposed and called for what it is.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: Todd, N. & Wade. A. (2004). Coming to terms with violence and resistance: From a language of effects to a language of responses. In T. Strong and D. Paré (Eds.) Furthering Talk: Advances In Discursive Therapies. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum. pp. 145-61. Because this article uses the terminology “perpetrator” and “victim,” I have stayed with that and not called the victim a “survivor.” But I do advocate the name survivor.