Disrespect No Body: is a media campaign joint funded by the Home Office and the Office for Women & Equalities aimed at 12 to 18 year old boys and girls with the purpose of preventing them from them becoming perpetrators and victims of relationship abuse.
It has been criticised for disrespecting a large section of it’s target audience.
Campaign advertising directs young people to the website disrespect no body website where they can get further advice and support. Related teaching materials and classroom sessions have been developed for schools in partnership with the PSHE (Personal Social & Health Education) Association.
The website uses gender inclusive language but the television advert presents a much more one sided message with all five scenarios presented appearing to present a heterosexual boy as the perpetrator of relationship abuse and a heterosexual girl as the victim. Some of the teaching materials also appear to reinforce this message.
At the time of writing, most contributions to the campaign’s twitter hashtag have commented on the apparently sexist and non-inclusive tone of the advert. To date NoBody from the Home Office has officially commented on this.
The gender and heterosexual exclusive message in the advert is not accidental. The Teacher Guide developed by the PHSE Association explains that ‘the films we use as discussion starters in the guide focus on the male characters as the abuser and the female characters as the victim‘.
This approach is justified based on an understanding that most abuse in relationships is perpetrated by men against women. A perspective which is primarily based on Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) data that shows last year 92% of defendants in domestic abuse cases were men and that 84% of recorded victims were women.
The Guide does go on to acknowledge that it is important to explain to pupils that heterosexual men and people in homosexual relationships can also experience partner abuse.
Any statistic describing the ‘level’ of domestic violence has to be interpreted with care. Partner abuse is a very private crime, it is significantly under reported and it is generally acknowledged that data on reported incidents and cases prosecuted (which has only recently started being collected) represents the tip of the iceberg.
The Home Office indicate that possibly the most reliable estimates of the true extent of domestic violence come from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). This produces a wider snapshot of crime than the official police figures, as not all crimes are reported to the police, let alone recorded by them.
Based on the most recent survey it is estimated that 8% of women and 4% of men will have experienced domestic abuse in the past year. Overall it is estimated that 6.7 million people will have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16. By gender this breaks down to an estimated 4.5 million female and 2.2 million male victims.
Such evidence presents a more complex picture where 1 in every 3 people reporting experience of domestic abuse is male.
Indeed when a comprehensive review of domestic violence research literature was conducted in 2010, one of the main findings was that women perpetrate physical and emotional abuse at comparable rates to men and the most common manifistation of abuse in relationships involves dysfunctional behaviour by both partners.
The Disrespect NoBody campaign is specifically designed to reach children between the age of 12 to 18 and one of it’s primary goals is to engage males in this age range.
It was informed by two specific pieces of research. The first, which was undertaken by the NSPCC, found that two-thirds of girls and a third of the boys reported experiencing emotional violence and a quarter of both girls and boys reported instigating partner control in their relationships.
The second report, by the Boys to Men Project found that over half of the 13 and 14-year-olds surveyed have already experienced domestic abuse, whether as victims, witnesses or perpetrators and that the social acceptability of violence was reduced through exposure to preventative education.
The campaign aims to help young people recognise what sort of behaviours are abusive and not consistent with a healthy relationship. One of it’s primary goals is to prevent young boys from becoming perpetrators in abusive relationships.
It builds on the previous ‘This is Abuse’ campaign’ which ran between 2010 and 2014. This campaign had mixed results and evaluations found that a significant barrier to engaging boys in the programme was the fact that it specifically labelled them as abusers.
Consequently this new campaign aims to engage boys on core issues of relationship abuse and rape, along with the more recently emerging issues of sexting and pornography, in a more positive and engaging way.
This done by using puppets to promote the message that the very vast majority of abuse in relationships is perpetrated by men against women.