We’ve all heard the stories of someone committing an act of domestic violence and their friends or family saying “He didn’t strike me as anyone who would do anything of that nature. He must have been in a state of madness.” These are the direct quotes from the family of George Pattison who brutally murdered his 45 year old wife, Emma, and their seven year-old daughter, Lettie.
This is an oft-used excuse for why men commit acts of violence against their partners. I recieved derivatives of these words myself when I informed people of my domestic abuse; and it was almost as demoralising and painful as the abuse itself. It suggests that men are somehow not in control when they commit these acts, and it absolves them from responsibility for their actions. But this is simply not true – men are fully aware of what they are doing, and it's time we acknowledge that.
The Illiteracy Of Men
The reality is that while we know the emotional illiteracy of men can lead to them lashing out at those closest to them, we still don't take responsibility for this behavior. The idea that men can't control themselves when faced with intense emotion has been used to excuse violent behavior since time immemorial, and nothing has changed in the modern age. The micro-aggressions against women stack like bricks; she nags, she's too sexy, she cries at everything. And while society collectively draws attention to the emotional expression of women and tries to 'fix them', we neglect to inform and correct men on a global scale of the need for emotional mastrey. Through the societal acceptance of this, men feel they have a licence to act with real physical violence when faced with their emotions and frame it as a moment of insanity. We need to start acknowledging that there's no such thing as "madness" when it comes to domestic abuse - these acts are deliberate decisions, made by people who know exactly what they're doing.
The Cost Of Ignorance
When we refuse to recognize the truth about male aggression and domestic abuse, the consequences can be fatal. Women (and sometimes children) across the world lose their lives every day due to domestic violence; one woman dies every week in Australia alone due to intimate partner violence, two every week in the United Kingdom, . And yet, instead of addressing this issue head on and taking steps to prevent it from happening again, we continue to use excuses like "He must have been in a state of madness," which allows perpetrators off the hook and perpetuates a culture of silence around male aggression towards women.
It's time for us all – especially family and friends who have close contact with these men – to recognize that there is no such thing as "madness" when it comes to male aggression and domestic abuse; these are conscious choices made by individuals who know exactly what they're doing. Until we start acknowledging this fact, women will continue to suffer at the hands of violent partners whose actions go unchecked and unpunished because society chooses not to take responsibility for them. Only then will real progress be made towards preventing further tragedies from occurring in our homes and communities.