Ending Victimisation and Blame (EVB) have started a petition asking David Ruffley to resign from parliament following his caution for domestic violence against a former partner. I have been sharing and tweeting this petition for two days because I truly believe it is unacceptable for a member of parliament to be allowed to vote on policies on violence against women and girls whilst they have committed those very crimes. I also fully support EVB’s campaign to have all politicians, at local, county, national and international levels, undertake specialist training in domestic and sexual violence and abuse. Far too often, male violence is ignored, minimised and excused. If we truly want to end the cycle of male violence, we need to start holding our politicians accountable for the violence they commit themselves and for their choice to vote for policies which will actively harm women and children – such as cuts to the NHS, legal aid, housing benefit, tax credits, education etc.
We cannot end male violence against women and children if there are no support services in place to help those who have harmed.
We cannot end male violence against women and children if we allow elected politicians who commit domestic violence to remain in position.
David Ruffley’s position, as a number of other feminists have made clear, is completely untenable. Not only has he committed domestic violence, which he refers to as “inappropriate actions”, he has also taken the position that his action was not domestic violence. Domestic violence is not an “inappropriate action”. It is a pattern of coercive control involving emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse. The fact that the law does not recognise this and make domestic violence a crime in and of itself is, frankly, appalling.
Ruffley’s caution for common assault is one of the few ways in which the law acknowledges male violence against women. Assault is not an “inappropriate action” – it is always a crime, even when the victim is your current or former partner. Defining assault as an inappropriate action is a minimising tactic. It is a deflection of personal responsibility, as is the suggestion that it was “an incident occurred between me and my former partner”. Ruffley’s statement, released via his lawyers, blames his former partner for being a victim of assault. The only person responsible for assault is Ruffley.
Unfortunately, not only does Ruffley not hold himself responsible for the crime he committed, Andrew Speers, the chairman of Ruffley’s Conservative Association refuses to acknowledge that Ruffley is guilty of domestic violence. This is the body of an email Speers wrote to two local county councillors, Joanna Spicer and Jenny Antill:
“Reference your comments in press recently, can I just go on record as stating that we don’t condone domestic violence.
“As importantly, based on the information I have to hand I do not believe David’s incident qualifies in any way as domestic abuse.
“Only two people actually know of course what happened, which is why our statement released early July, has been appropriate to date.
“I understand why the opposition and minority feminist groups might try and make the link to DV but surprised others have.
“The past few weeks have, of course, been utterly frustrating and difficult, but we expect statements to be issued this week, and will resolve the situation at the Exec meeting next week.”
Ruffley accepted a caution for common assault, yet Speers claims this cannot be domestic violence, based on the evidence Speers has seen. Speers then suggests that only two people can know the truth. These two statements are antithetical and demonstrate the clear hypocrisy of Speer’s position. There is also a vein of classism and racism running through Speers’ statement: white, middle aged conservative party members simply can’t commit domestic violence, therefore the conservative party can claim to not condone since their members can’t commit it. Speers is surprised not by the assault but rather that people are labelling domestic violence domestic violence. The hypocrisy of his statement is truly breathtaking.
I don’t expect Ruffley to resign. Most men are never held accountable for the violence they commit. I signed and shared the petition because I believe we must make a clear signal to men that we will not tolerate domestic violence, regardless of whether or not that man is a powerful member of parliament. 100 000 people signing a petition demanding Ruffley be held accountable would be a powerful signal.
Please take two minutes to sign this petition and share it on twitter, Facebook, google etc:
Ruffley has made a formal statement, through his lawyers, concluding with the final sentence: “I wish to stress that I would never condone domestic violence under any circumstances.” Yet his statement refers to the events leading up to the police caution as an “inappropriate action”. This minimisation of domestic violence is simply not acceptable. Nor is domestic violence an “action”; it is a pattern of coercion and control that can involve physical and sexual violence.
My organisation, Ending Victimisation and Blame, was created to challenge victim blaming in domestic and sexual violence and abuse. Everyday we hear from women who have been the victims of domestic violence and who are fighting to be taken seriously. According to a recent EU study, 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence during their lifetime. Male perpetrators of domestic violence kill 2 women every week in the UK. 9 out of 10 cases of domestic violence are never prosecuted. Domestic violence costs the UK £5.5 billion every year. This is the reality of domestic violence.
MPs are there to fight for the rights of some of the most vulnerable in society. They must be held to a high standard. Even the Dean of David Ruffley’s local cathedral agrees and has written to say David Ruffley’s position in parliament is “untenable”.
His local Conservative Party are meeting in the next week to discuss the issue.They must take a stand to show that domestic violence is never acceptable.However, we don’t simply want the Conservative Party to remove the party whip from Ruffley or to deselect him. We want Ruffley to resign from Parliament.
We have been campaigning to have all politicians, at local, county, national and international levels, undergo specialist training in domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
We cannot have perpetrators of violence against women representing us in Parliament. If Ruffley truly understands the impact of domestic violence, then he must resign from Parliament.