Solicitors in Milton Keynes - Family Law, Motoring Law, Domestic Violence

24/7 out of office hours domestic violence advice line: 0845 450 1281 (local rates apply)



It was a source of some bemusement to read recently that a police campaign targeting domestic violence has been criticised for being ‘sexist’, simply because it ‘routinely’ depicts the perpetrator as male and the victim as female. The complaint is that posters designed to raise awareness of the new offence of ‘coercive and controlling behaviour’ use images which refer to abusers as ‘he’. This writer would suggest, however, that the real problem relates to the idiosyncrasies of the English lexicon, as opposed to attitudes, prejudices or even stereotypes.

Evolution of the language has meant that we do not have a singular pronoun which we can use to refer to both sexes, either together or in the alternative. Therefore, the masculine form ‘he’ has traditionally served as the default, on the basis that the male includes the female. ‘They’ (a plural pronoun) is sometimes used as a gender-neutral alternative, in respect of singular antecedents, but this usage is contrived and inelegant. The pronoun ‘one’ is pretentious, if not unwieldy; in any event it does not always work. Also ‘it’ obviously only works when referring to unborn babies (and idiomatically, very young children). Furthermore, the invented construction ‘s/he’ is both pretentious and unwieldy. Alternating use of ‘he’ and ‘she’ appears to be an acceptable compromise in a world where political correctness is king (or should that be queen?), however it may be preferable to simply make repeated reference to ‘he/she’ or repeatedly use the phrase ‘he or she’.

Whilst it is fair to say that male victims of domestic abuse have to pass a so-called ‘believability hurdle’, this should not allow us to be detracted from the stark reality that domestic violence is a crime that is overwhelmingly perpetrated by males on females. Even the ever pervasive powers of political correctness cannot ignore that fact!

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