There’s no room in Scottish politics for inappropriate and offensive metaphors, writes IAN SMART
I love my work but it can be distressing.
Few arrive at my professional door without some assumed guilt as to their own self-perceived previous fault. Becoming engaged in a business venture with someone about whom they always had reservations; keeping the wrong company; drinking too much; not looking out for their own safety.
Part of my job is to assure them that does not (necessarily) make them responsible for their misfortune. Indeed. personally, it often reflects to their own favour, as one-time optimists at least. But no group is worse in this, self-blaming, regard than the victims of domestic violence.
There is probably no worse stereotype than the “stereotypical” victim of domestic violence. Working (or at least potentially working) class; female; given to a drink themself and potentially as likely a perpetrator as a victim, if only physical strength allowed.
There is no stereotype. At a first divorce interview it is always a legitimate question as to whether there was ever in the violence in the relationship. And often you are strangely reassured as to human behaviour. The husband who never came straight home from his work, spending the evening in the pub with his mates, and otherwise dismissed as a worthless breadwinner, is nonetheless quizzically excused of any such accusation.
But, regrettably, on other occasion having been assured initially that all that has happened is that “we have drifted apart” in the most apparently otherwise externally perfect of relationships, you hear accounts of the police being called but no charges preferred; visits to Accident and Emergency departments innocently explained at the time; even at the meeting with the lawyer after it is all over, suggestions that this is not really why the relationship has ended or excuses offered or equal blame, quite wrongly, accepted.
Domestic violence is not, ever, the fault of the victim. If it involves fault at all, on the part of anyone other than the perpetrator then it is with a society which refuses to accept that all victims are, genuinely, innocent in a way which prevents these victims from asserting that confidently themselves. A society which appears to suggest that having made your bed you should not be entitled to complain about having to lie in it.
This is a wholly inexcusable view of the world.
Domestic violence is a terrible thing, It scars the lives of the victims and it colours, for ever, the lives of the children caught up by it. It is always, unconditionally, unforgiveable. It is most certainly not the stuff from which cheap political analogies should be drawn.
Now, I don’t like Alex Salmond. He is a charlatan; an opportunist; a right-wing wolf in centre left clothing.
But, in the midst of his seductive appeal to the less informed among our citizenry I would never, ever, accuse him and his closest associates of being similar to a predatory paedophile ring offering sweets to a simple minded child in the hope of later taking sexual advantage of them. Why not? Because it would be a wholly inappropriate metaphor. Like comparing the Highland Clearances to the Holocaust or, dare I say it, Alex Salmond himself to Robert Mugabe.
So, equally, do I feel about yesterday’s excrescence by Salmond’s female mini-me. Domestic violence is not the stuff to be given up to commonplace political discourse. Full stop and without qualification. If action is not taken against the commentator who apparently thinks this not to be the case then while that will say little about Joan McAlpine, it will certainly say an awful lot about the SNP.
They have 69 seats in a 129 seat Parliament. They don’t need Joan McAlpine; her vote or her opinion. Unless of course she actually speaks for what they truly believe.
Ian Smart is a lawyer and founder member of Scottish Labour Action. He is also a Past President of the Law Society of Scotland. Follow Ian on Twitter at @IanSSmart. This post was originally published on Ian’s blog