The Home Office has launched a new campaign to help teenagers recognise abusive relationships. Significantly, it focuses on both victims and perpetrators, encouraging both parties to question whether what they are doing/experiencing is abuse, and to get help if it is. This is a welcome change from previous similar campaigns, which tend to focus on the victim and fail to call out the abusers themselves. The focus on emotional abuse is also particularly valuable.
The campaign material states that 75% of girls and 50% of boys say they have suffered emotional abuse in relationships, and the website makes it quite clear that both boys and girls can suffer abuse, but the campaign videos only show boys abusing girls. While this may reflect the majority of abusive relationships, I think this was a mistake on the part of the campaign’s producers. While there is nothing wrong with campaigns that focus on male abuse of women (indeed, they are very important), this campaign aims to raise awareness of abusive relationships no matter the gender of the victim and perpetrator, and so the campaign material should also feature same-sex couples and girls being abusive towards boys. As it is, the campaign leaves itself open to criticism and the risk that its messages will be ignored by those who object to the focus on male>female abuse. While “What about the men [victims]?” is no excuse for ignoring abuse of women, it is a relevant question in the context of this campaign and one that should have been addressed in the posters and videos.
You can see more of the posters and videos on the This is Abuse website.
The image is one of the campaign posters. It features a white teenage boy standing on a pavement with his head bowed. The main text reads “Do you make your girlfriend weak at the knees… Because she’s scared of you? Lower down, in smaller font it reads “Does her heart beat faster when you threaten her? Do you charm the pants off her, or does a slap work better? This is abuse. Stop yourself. For information and help search “abuse in relationships”.