Domestic violence has long been regarded as a social issue, but it’s only recently that it has become less of a taboo topic owing to movements such as #MeToo and ‘Ask for Angela’. Owing to progressive technological developments, these movements have sought to normalise the conversation over domestic violence and encourage people to speak out about their experiences.
It’s too easy to view issues such as this as a distant problem, but the reality is that domestic violence is a prevalent issue in the UK. The severity of this is highlighted by statistics from Women’s Aid which show that, ‘on average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales’. Additionally, it is important to note that there are now discussions which acknowledge that men are often the victims of domestic violence too.
What significance does this have on politics?
Domestic violence has recently spurred further conversations due to the allegations made against both Boris Johnson and Tory MP Mark Field. The allegation made against Johnson, concerned neighbours hearing screaming and banging from his property. This has become a cause for general reservation amongst the public, as there are fears that if Johnson is to become our next PM he would become a powerful figurehead who condones domestic violence. Despite the fact that the police declared that no further actions were necessary, this still raises questions over the widespread nature of domestic violence and how positions of power must not be abused to facilitate this. Moreover, it is clear that the UK needs strong leadership that will continue to tackle the issue head on — the question is, would Boris Johnson as PM do this?
Are we making any progress?
There is no doubt that domestic violence is a serious problem, even if it is becoming easier to speak about. However, it is clear that attitudes towards domestic violence have developed over the last few decades, which in part, is due to the changing norms and beliefs of society. Moreover, in recent years it has become easier to speak out about abusive behaviour and support has become increasingly more accessible. I maintain that this is largely due to the growth in technology, which has facilitated the growth of support networks and advice for victims.
A key example of this is an app called ‘bright sky’, which was recently established by Hestia and Vodafone Foundation. Disguised as a weather app, it provides a discreet way for victims to find support systems in their local area and record abuse through videos and audio. This app is unprecedented and highlights the potential for technology to become an essential tool to combat domestic violence. Social media has also proved beneficial in this respect, as it has provided a platform to discuss this sensitive issue, as well as others such as mental health, thus normalising the discussion of many taboo topics.
On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that technology is a powerful tool that has the potential to exacerbate the crisis of domestic violence. Although social media can be used to provide support and facilitate discussions, the flip side of the coin is that it can just as easily provoke further abuse, only this time online. However, the risks arguably outweigh the benefits as technology can and does provide invaluable support for victims, which they may not be able to find elsewhere.
The bottom line …
Domestic violence continues to be a difficult issue to solve. However, changing societal attitudes and the growth of technology have provided opportunities to discuss what would have previously been very difficult. Today, many victims can escape from violent relationships thanks to these two factors. Technological developments have provided unprecedented safe systems of support for domestic abuse victims, which otherwise would not have been available to those in need. What is also clear is that the issue of domestic violence has the potential to permeate all aspects of everyday life, such as politics — by becoming a key reality for MPs to confront. Crucially, tackling domestic violence has the potential to have far-reaching consequences, not just for the victims, but for society itself.