A Survivor's View: Rosie Duffield MP Speech

Many of us will have seen Rosie Duffield's speech in the House of Commons recently, and will have been sincerely moved by her powerful words. One of our ex-service users in particular was filled with admiration for the MP and contributed this blog post below:

"I am in awe of Rosie Duffield’s courage in speaking so candidly and articulately about her experience of coercive control in the House of Commons last week. We need these stories, told by unexpected victims, in unexpected contexts, to show the rest of us that “domestic abuse” is not what we think it is. It is not the stereotype, as Rosie Duffield boldly explains. This personal contribution to the conversation, which she has brought for the first time into the heart of the government, is essential. We need our government, our public services, our colleagues, friends and family to hear, feel the reality of our experiences. We need to bring it to life for them. As long as we continue to use abstract and inappropriate terms to refer to the issue of intimate partner abuse we keep it at arm’s length, ignoring the lives torn apart and our responsibility as a society. If we want to care for those affected, including the children in abusive family contexts, we have to understand what it is, how it works, how it does not happen only behind closed doors but in public, how the services, colleagues, friends and family are implicated. This is not a domestic issue. This is cultural. This is systemic. It is everybody’s responsibility.

"It feels like we are making progress in bringing this issue to public attention when we hear the term “coercive control” repeated in the media, as it has been increasingly over the last year. But we forget that to most people it is abstract; they have no idea what it means and no idea how pervasive it is. The lack of representation in the Commons on the day of Rosie Duffield’s speech is more than disappointing. The show of MPs for the session in which the proposed Bill on Domestic Abuse was discussed speaks volumes about its status as an issue, demonstrates clearly society’s view that, “this does not concern us.” It’s an historic attitude, deep-rooted, and it needs pulling out before we can make any real progress. Personal accounts like Rosie Duffield’s are vital. She pulls us away from an out-dated snapshot, in which the drunken husband, surely someone of low economic status, probably not well-educated, takes out his frustrations on his wife who, no doubt, is not catering to his needs appropriately, or whose behaviour is so bad that it warrants this treatment. She points instead to the devious, meticulous, calculated domination of one partner over the other, in this case, startlingly, high-status, well-to-do, nobody-would-ever-suspect. She points to the intelligence and the charm of it. She points to the terror, the confusion that can be effected without the use of physical assault. Watch her, even now, a woman accustomed to public speaking, shake with emotion in her retelling. What she is describing, to steal Michael Johnson’s insightful term, is intimate terrorism. How are we, as a society, still unaware of how this works? The shirking of responsibility, achieved through victim-blaming, surely stems from the idea that some of us walk into relationships with an overtly aggressive partner and accept this as our fate, or worse, are somehow deserving of it. The understanding has been around for decades that the public face of the abusive personality is utterly charming, they say and do all the right things; one could never imagine that they would be capable of such cold cruelty. That’s how we get drawn in! Yet sadly, victims and survivors of abuse face a battle just to be heard and believed. The stereotypical picture that Rosie Duffield wants us to tear up is an attitude that many of us at MIN have experienced personally; it really does still exist as the opinion of the majority.

"Mums In Need is such an important service to those who have tried to escape relationships such as these but find themselves tied into continued abuse for years due to shared care of children. In our most heart-breaking cases, we have mothers who have no contact with their children because they have been misrepresented, by their abuser and by services, as the problem. This is what abuse is. It happens in public, too often unnoticed, just like the secret language Rosie alludes to. It is so much more than cigarette burns, black eyes or broken bones. There is no pain for a mother like the years of manipulation of her children as punishment for her. All abuse is emotional abuse; all abuse is psychological abuse; all abuse is coercive control. The out-dated view of what “domestic abuse” looks like needs a vigorous shake-up. Rosie Duffield’s stand is a huge, unprecedented, courageous step for woman, but sadly a small one for womankind, and for this movement. We need to follow suit, we need to stand and speak our truth to the people who need to hear it. We need more courage like Rosie Duffield’s.

"If you haven’t seen Rosie’s speech, find it, watch it, listen carefully, and share it. It is powerful and truly inspirational. Make sure you have tissues to hand.

"With thanks and gratitude to Rosie Duffield x"

To watch Rosie's speech, see the video below.