This week has seen musician Peter Hook, lambasted in the opinion pages and comments sections of the internet for talking about the physical and mental abuse that he says he suffered at the hands of his former wife Caroline Aherne. Obviously I can't speak with any authority on the claims made in his book but I wanted to address some of the things that people are saying. Firstly let me say, I have been the victim in an abusive relationship. The way masculinity is framed within society makes it incredibly difficult to 'come out' as it were and talk about this. The discussion around this story and the amount of victim blaming that has gone on is abhorrent.
I've seen people saying things along the lines of 'she was so well loved, why couldn't he have just kept quiet.' That's the culture of silence that allowed Jimmy Savile the freedom to do whatever he wanted. This notion you can't speak out against your abuser because they are a celebrity, or perhaps a high school football captain, or anyone with a degree of popularity is horrible. Heaven forbid we tarnish their reputation.
I saw people suggesting that if it was such a problem then he should have brought it up at the time. That's not how it works for victims of abuse, some speak out at the time, for some it takes years to find the courage and sadly a great many never speak up at all.
I saw several suggestions that Peter Hook was lying or an attention seeker. Now this doesn't just apply to male victims of domestic violence. This again is a claim levelled at so many victims of abuse. It needs to stop.
And then we really see 'toxic masculinity' in full effect with the suggestions that he is a cry baby or he should 'man up.' There are few phrases in modern life that infuriate me more than 'man up.' You don't have to conform to societies expectations of what being a man is. Every man is man enough.
For the record, I have a lot of sympathy for Caroline Aherne too. Depression and substance abuse can make you do some terrible things. And that's where this story is really sad. It's played out in the media and we are encouraged to take sides. Instead, we should feel sorry for someone who battled their demons in the public eye and empathy for someone that has been brave enough to talk about being a victim of abuse.
More than anything, we need to stop victim blaming. Domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault, these are things that take incredible courage to report or to talk about. Our first instinct as a society can't be to assume they are lying or attention seeking. We have to do better.
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