As we are coming up to International Women’s Day Broken Rainbow UK would like to discuss the on-going issue in contemporary society of the female perpetrator and how we come to terms with her existence.

For many this is an uncomfortable conversation to have, but having it does not undermine the decades of work by feminist movements in raising awareness of men’s violence against women. Talking about the issue doesn’t mean that domestic violence isn’t overwhelmingly a gendered issue, but what it does mean is that the conversation needs to be broader and the support in place more inclusive.

For too long we appear to have been convinced domestic violence and abuse can only occur between a man and a woman in a heterosexual relationship and it is high time we try and understand that women in same-sex relationships can be as violent and abusive as their male counterparts.

Following the sentencing of the mother of the killed eight-year-old girl Ayesha Ali and her partner this week, it has become very clear just how the female perpetrator is described as someone ‘possessed’ or ‘acting like a witch’ rather than an individual who has committed a crime.

This in many ways belittles the violent act committed by these two women and also makes a very complex and traumatic series of events, into a very simplified and one-sided narrative.

It is clear that the child and the mother were both subject to systematic domestic abuse and violence by the mother’s partner. The mother in this situation must be understood as simultaneously a victim and perpetrator of violence.

As an LGBT confidential helpline for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse Broken Rainbow supports many female perpetrators of violence and we are aware of the complexity of the situation and the constant silencing of the issue.

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We need to start recognising that just as heterosexual men can be violent and abusive, so can women, and that these acts are not ‘supernatural’ but in fact sadly form part of many people’s every day life, heterosexual as well as LGBT. Embracing a traditional narrative about domestic violence, that women are victims of male violence, doesn’t just mean that same sex violence falls through the cracks. It also means that children like Ayesha living in abusive households with same sex parents stand a much better chance of survival.

by Jo Harvey Barringer

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