Glen Poole very kindly published the following article by me on his insideMAN website:
On Monday night the BBC broadcast a Panorama programme purporting to cover the issue of domestic violence (DV). I have made a complaint to the BBC about this programme and would encourage others to do likewise: a larger number of complaints will make it more likely they will be taken seriously. This is why I have complained:
Panorama claims to feature “investigative reports on a wide variety of subjects”, it is the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme and has been broadcast since 1953. It has made some remarkable programmes including Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana and the 2006 exposure of the Vatican’s suppression of child sexual abuse scandals.
Monday’s programme involved no journalism, investigative or otherwise, despite being produced and directed by award-winning journalist Joe Plomin. It said nothing new about DV, despite professing to present a “real understanding of what it is” and presented no solutions, coping strategies or general advice to victims. It was a thirty-minute state-sponsored fund-raising propaganda video for the feminist lobby group Women’s Aid which is currently running a campaign to criminalise “coercive control”.
Panorama depicted DV as perpetrated only by men with women as victims, and children as incidental victims. Women were presented fleetingly as perpetrators only in same-sex relationships and there was no mention at all that men could be victims or that fathers might sometimes need to protect their children from DV.
Panorama entirely misrepresented the reality of DV. Perhaps the best source of accurate data is the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project (PASK) which reports that 28.3% of women are perpetrators and 21.6% of men; over a lifetime 23% of women and 19.3% of men will be victims, meaning that men represent 45.6% of victims. Any male victim of DV watching would have felt, yet again, that he was invisible and irrelevant; that his license fee was being used to promote a disgraceful lie.
The only DV support organisation referenced was Women’s Aid, of which Julie Walters, the narrator, is a patron. There was no mention of any other women’s organisations, and certainly none of support groups for men.
I feel particularly aggrieved for the women featured. No doubt they felt that allowing the cameras to intrude into their lives, recording their horrific injuries, would raise the profile of DV and help other victims come forward and escape abuse, but I believe they have merely been exposed to further exploitation and victimisation by the BBC.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Women’s Aid’s sister group, Refuge, famously said, “If we put across this idea that the abuse of men is as great as the abuse of women, then it could seriously affect our funding”.
Domestic violence is big business, attracting a great deal of funding, chiefly from our taxes. The victim of DV is a cash-cow, and if anyone were seriously committed to ending DV they would stop misrepresenting it as a gendered issue, come clean about the reality and seek to understand why some people abuse intimate partners and how they might be helped to stop.
The context of the Panorama programme was the introduction of legislation to outlaw “coercive control” a particular formulation devised by the Australian pro-feminist White Ribbon campaign to extend the definition of domestic violence to ordinary behaviour and thus extend the range of behaviours for which a man might be arrested, charged, convicted and imprisoned. Thus the BBC has become enlisted in a highly political and controversial campaign.
White Ribbon and other promotors of the feminist version of DV such as Women’s Aid really only have two approaches to limiting domestic violence. The first is to enlist ordinary men into acknowledging their own propensity for violence and spread a message of non-violence. The problem with this is that the compliant and gullible men who fall for it have minimal propensity for violence – they are not the problem, or at least, not that particular problem.
The other strategy is the criminalisation of behaviour deemed unacceptable to the campaigners. The problem here is that domestic violence is not a crime which will respond very well to legislation. Despite the feminists’ view, it is not the product of the “patriarchy” and has no cultural approval.
There is no explanation of how these strategies are expected to succeed. The new counter campaign run by Erin Pizzey, White Ribbon.org, recognises that DV is not gendered but generational: it passes from generation to generation and children ‘marinated’ in violence become violent adults. It is also largely consensual, where violent adults seek relationships with other violent adults because they cannot form normal relationships.
We cannot resolve this issue simply by locking up every adult who was marinated in violence as a child – as Erin has said, that is a very Victorian idea of better punishment. She talks about healing and understanding, about building relationships, teaching parents to parent, not making rules, not punishing people for the mistakes they make (http://whiteribbon.org/domestic-violence-research/marinated-in-violence-therapeutic-intervention-for-victims-of-domestic-abuse/).
On Thursday, just after midnight, BBC employee Gerard Magennis replied to my complaint, and I have posted his response below. Judge for yourself whether the response answers the criticisms and issues raised.
The reply opens rather too informally for my taste, with a ‘thanks’ rather than ‘thank you’ – this is the national broadcaster, not my new best friend. It summarises my concern rather inaccurately.
The programme makers explain that while their ‘research’ was ‘conducted with an open mind’ and they accept that men can be victims, they chose to disregard male victims and referred to female perpetrators only in passing and in a context of same-sex relationships. They told me they had used gender-neutral language such as ‘partner’ and ‘abuser’ but only in a context in which the abusers were male and the victims female.
Having tried to defend the indefensible, Magennis then proceeds to draw my attention to 5 occasions when the BBC have acknowledged that men can be victims and women perpetrators. The first merely contains the phrase, ‘irrespective of whether the abuser is male or female’, which falls a long way short of an even-handed approach towards female violence. The rest of the article makes it clear that it is only concerned with male perpetrators.
The second report tells the story of a single case in which a man was the victim; it is keen to remind us, however, that women suffer much more from DV and the article is illustrated with an image of a bruised woman.
Number 3 is a two minute, twenty-three second clip of one male victim and at 4 we have a brief local report from over a year ago of a new service for male victims – actually run by a charity set up for female victims. At number 5 there is a 3-minute programme about the increase in domestic violence against Asian men – again from last year and again featuring a charity which is centred on women.
All in all this does not demonstrate that the BBC is particularly responsive to DV against male victims, and it is irrelevant in addressing a specific complaint against a specific programme; all it really shows is that Magennis can use a search engine and the BBC have covered male victimhood 5 times in the last couple of years. Judge for yourselves:
Dear Mr Langford
Thanks for contacting us regarding BBC One’s ‘Domestic Abuse: Caught on Camera – Panorama’ as broadcast 09 December.
I understand you feel that there was insufficient coverage of male victims of domestic abuse.
Please be assured that we have raised your concerns with the programme team, who have given us the following response:
Our initial research into domestic abuse was conducted with an open mind. The eventual decision by the Panorama programme to focus on the experience particularly of women of what is called “coercive control” does not diminish or deflect from the fact that men can suffer violence at the hands of women, or that women can also be controlling. However those latter issues were not what this programme chose to focus on. Domestic abuse is a very complex and multifaceted area. There are a number of subjects we would have liked to touch on but were not able to in a single film.
But, the programme did include the script line, “Women can be violent or controlling too and same sex relationships can be abusive. Too often domestic abuse against anyone is only tackled once someone is hurt”. We were careful to use gender neutral language (e.g. “people”; “partner”; “abusive partner”; “violent partner”; “abusers” etc) where possible and relevant.
Also, the online piece for the BBC news website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30330669) associated with our film, written by BBC reporter Victoria Derbyshire included the line, “That’s because – irrespective of whether the abuser is male or female….”.
Across the balance of its coverage the BBC and BBC News and Current Affairs has endeavoured to tell a range of stories about the important issue of domestic abuse, from different angles.
For example, on the Friday before our Panorama film was broadcast a Newsbeat reporter Nomia Iqbal did cover the issue of men experiencing domestic abuse at the hands of women:
The Victoria Derbyshire show has done an hour long programme about men talking about their experiences of emotional and physical abuse:
BBC News has repeatedly done pieces, particularly locally (just one example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-29108616).
Women’s Hour has featured the abuse of men as well. There has been a relatively recent piece on one group of men (Asian men) who have suffered domestic abuse (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01gw0gr).
We note that from the relevant organisation Mankind Initiative’s own tally of media coverage which included male victims between 7th Dec 2007 – 4th Dec 2013, over 50% was BBC produced coverage. (http://www.mankind.org.uk/pdfs/(4)%202007%20to%20Dec%202013.pdf).
We are confident that we have, overall, taken a balanced look at these issues, as a Corporation.
Thank you for taking the time to contact us to express the strength of your views.
All complaints are sent to senior management and channel controllers every morning and we included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future programmes.
NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.