'Treat' domestic violence with homeopathy!

happy pills

Twitter today pointed out this horrific, unbelievably offensive article, titled 'Homeopathy for Domestic Violence and Abuse'. Hopefully, the title alone will be enough to fill you with materialist outrage, but I'm going to have a little rant about it anyway.

Trigger warning: domestic abuse

Binal Master wants homeopathy 'to be considered the first line of treatment and not merely an alternative', and this includes 'treatment' of domestic violence. Her piece on the hpathy.com site, 'Homeopathy for Domestic Violence and Abuse' celebrates how homeopathic rememdies can be used to treat both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence.

I'm going to leave aside criticisms of homeopathy itself - plenty of people have done very good take-downs of homeopathy and are far more knowledgeable about it than I am. A good introduction to homeopathy comes from Bad Science's Ben Goldacre.

I'm going to leave the criticisms of homeopathy aside, mostly because whether homeopathy works or not1, the main thing I take issue with here is the medicalisation of domestic violence in the first place.

Medicalisation refers to the process in which increasing amounts of problems and life events are transformed into medical illnesses, symptoms, syndromes or evidence of pathology that can be diagnosed and treated. The critics of medicalisation argue that everyday problems that have very real, tangible manifestations, but with a material basis in capitalism and the structural violence and inequalities it promotes (such as hunger, RSI and other work-related illnesses, PTSD as a result of warfare, and many mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, conduct disorder, ADHD...) are increasingly seen as medical problems, and treated as such. The problem with this is that it strips the 'condition' (in this case, being the victim or indeed perpetrator of domestic violence) from the social relations it exists within (and may well be a product of), and turns what could be a social phenomenon that highlights the unlivable nature of the world we live in (such as depression as a result of unemployment and poverty, for example), and individualises the issue - it's you, the sick person, who has the problem, not the world around you. Critics also talk about the 'diagnostic creep'2 whereby the diagnostic criteria for illnesses expand all the time, making more and more behaviours and 'symptoms' evidence of pathology. It makes being a 'healthy', 'normal' person increasingly difficult, and gives pharmaceutical companies ever increasing markets for their products3.

Again, medicalisation is a massive topic, and I'm not in any way trying to deny the reality of suffering from things like depression or ADHD, or trying to say you shouldn't seek to alleviate your suffering by whatever means you have available to you4. What I'm taking issue with here is the idea that you can 'treat' domestic violence with medicine - let alone medicine with absolutely no scientific grounding whatsoever.

Domestic violence is not a medical problem. Being a victim of domestic violence is not a situation you can change by taking potions. Binal Master claims that homeopathy is useful for both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence because it 'considers the person as a whole, and takes account of the physical and psychological characteristics of the patient'. She opens her piece by explaining that domestic violence can be the result of "insecurities faced in day-to-day lives, in love, relationships and work, and from feelings of neglect and isolation. The current rise in living expenses, where the cost of living exceeds one’s total income, can make it increasingly difficult to handle emotional, physical and psychological demands". Well, as a communist, I'd tend to point to wider things like the capitalist mode of production, alienation, and of course patriarchy, as the conditions that sew 'seeds of violence and abuse', but so far, so well intentioned, right?

Master goes on to cite "feelings of grief, displeasure, guilt, inferiority, jealousy and anger, resulting in physical aggression," and suggests a variety of homeopathic remedies which she claims can treat these things, thus breaking the cycle of domestic violence. There's some specific gems in there too, like remedies for fear - 'this medicine is basically for people who are always anxious, fearful, and in a state of anguish.' If you're in an abusive relationship, chances are your feelings of fear, anxiety and anguish might have something to do with the threat of violence, and not because of a lack of Aconite Napellus. I'm unconvinced that a good dose of lycopodium is going to be the solution to the loss of self-esteem and self-confidence an abusive relationship can lead to, or be enough to combat a domestic abuse victim's 'inability to stand up for oneself in a conflict'. Or next time your violent partner is 'shrieking and cursing when in rage, violent anger, abusive behavior towards partner and children, revengeful', suggest a few drops of anacardium. The remedies are all listed as suitable for both perpetrator and victim of domestic violence.

She concludes with:

Quote:
Homeopathy is a safe and effective way to treat the victims as well as the culprits of domestic violence. It focuses on the way patients have reacted to events and the personality of the patient. It helps to bring complete harmony of physical, mental and social well being.

Let's put this in perspective. The Council of Europe estimate that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Internationally, between 40-70% of all female murder victims are killed by partners or former partners, compared to 4-8% of men being killed by former partners. In the UK, on average two women are killed by a current or former male partner every week, accounting for over 30% of all female murder victims5. Domestic violence is a very real threat to the safety of women. Master's 'holistic' treatment plan for victims of domestic abuse doesn't seem to include advice on how to deal with broken bones, burns, or any other physical symptoms of abuse. Nor, at any point, does she mention referring patients to agencies and services trained to help protect those fleeing domestic violence.

Feminist and human rights activists continue to campaign tirelessly for greater protection for the victims of domestic and intimate violence, including safe houses for women and children who leave abusive relationships. Currently, the already inadequate funding for domestic abuse services such as Women's Aid, and other specialist services such as rape crisis centres, is being cut as part of austerity measures. Abuse survivors will also suffer from drastic cuts to legal aid, which have narrowed the definition of domestic violence and excludes many survivors from the possibility of legal aid.

Domestic violence is a social problem, it puts lives at risk, it kills two women a week. It has a material basis. Being a survivor of domestic violence of course has physical and psychological effects, but it's not enough to send an abuse victim away with some arnica to rub on their bruises, or give an abuser some rescue remedy to take next time they find themselves about to assault someone.

Posted By

Ramona
Jan 17 2012 18:57

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Comments

Django
Jan 17 2012 19:54

Good blog.

Steven.
Jan 17 2012 20:14

Unbelievable! I have always hated these homoeopathy wankers, hopefully this will even make some stupid hippies think twice about them.

(On the article, I would remove the bit saying "gives HR and occupational health departments ever more reasons to sack people" - or at least, I disagree with it, as having a diagnosis of illness cannot be a reason to be sacked, if anything getting a diagnosis can help protect you in terms of being covered by the equality act on the basis of disability. They can sack you if your performance is too poor, or if you are off sick too much, even if it is purely due to your disability, as long as they have acted "reasonably" and made reasonable adjustments)

karmabum
Jan 17 2012 20:29

Oh dear god. I have just read Binal Masters article, and I can only imagine that she has absolutely NO experience of an abusive relationship. She says 'In order to stay grounded after a trauma, it helps to have a structured schedule to follow. Try to stick to a daily routine, with regular times for waking, sleeping, eating, working, and exercise. Make sure to schedule time for relaxing and social activities, too.'
Then presumably you will feel so much better when your abusive partner wakes you up repeatedly throughout the night, makes you leave your job every year, prevents you from spending any money on yourself or making any friends, or keep in contact with your relatives. Lets not even bother going into any physical abuse.
Binal Masters is living on another (Utopian) planet, surely? But worst of all, she is inferring that the victim of abuse can manage their abuse by taking some kind of medicine!!! WTF??! I feel outraged. Does she actually KNOW any abused people? How are they going to get to a Homeopathic doctor without their partner finding out. Oh there are so many things about this article that are just ludicrous! Well-blogged, Ramona!

karmabum
Jan 17 2012 20:31

Also - I loved the footnotes!

lzbl
Jan 17 2012 22:07

Ramona - nice article. Those are the best footnotes of all time.

Steven - that's true in the UK but not worldwide, and medicalisation isn't limited to our shores.

no.25
Jan 20 2012 04:40

Great article!

Steven.
Jan 20 2012 13:35

I meant to say first I thought this was a great blog!

lzbl wrote:

Steven - that's true in the UK but not worldwide, and medicalisation isn't limited to our shores.

lzbl, I would be very surprised if any countries where there was such medicalisation of problems were the same countries in which people could just be sacked for being diagnosed with a particular medical condition. If you can point out counterexamples to this I will of course reassess my statement.

In fact, going off on a slight tangent, while of course I think this constant medicalisation of social problems is in general a negative, in terms of a workplace setting it can be quite useful for workers to improve their situation at work/their job security, as I mentioned above in terms of management having to make "reasonable adjustments"

Ramona
Jan 20 2012 17:20

Ok but how about being diagnosed with stuff and this preventing you from being hired in the first place? Obv it's illegal here not to hire someone cos they're disabled, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen in practice.

Also, thanks!

Steven.
Jan 20 2012 17:32

Pre-employment health questionnaires are now illegal, so I'm not really sure how they would know unless you told them in the interview, which I'm sure most people wouldn't!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that disabled workers don't get discriminated against - I would say we are probably the most discriminated against group of workers (mostly because our work can be affected by our conditions in a way that people's gender/skin colour does not). But of course someone who has developed a mental illness like depression following being a victim of domestic violence can be fired for being depressed without a medical diagnosis - and getting a medical diagnosis in this instance would be at least partly helpful for the worker as it would show that they have a protected characteristic requiring reasonable adjustments to be made and banning discrimination. Which of course they could still try to do but it is made a bit more difficult for them.

edited to add: of course if someone has a visible disability it's going to make them less likely to get hired in most situations

Joseph Kay
Jan 20 2012 18:18

Steven., i wonder how much what you're saying is skewed towards the highly unionised public sector? It's certainly unlawful to discriminate on health grounds (well, if reasonable adjustments aren't made etc), but it happens all the time. In my old job someone was off for a bit with stress (depression) and got sacked on their first day back. We recently had someone approach Brighton SF after they were being bullied out of their job, in part involving a lack of reasonable adjustments for dyslexia. So I suspect it is quite common in more casual/private sector work, particularly for mental health, which imho management often sneer at as 'not real', 'lack of ambition', 'faking' and the like.

Steven. wrote:
Pre-employment health questionnaires are now illegal

How recent is this? I haven't seen it recently, but as of a couple of years ago I definitely had application forms that wanted to know how many sick days i'd taken, some asking why.

Steven.
Jan 20 2012 18:41
Joseph Kay wrote:
Steven., i wonder how much what you're saying is skewed towards the highly unionised public sector?

now, I may be being a bit defensive here, but I am getting a bit fed up of people on here saying this to me. Yes, I work in the public sector, but as people should be aware, the "public sector" is now highly fragmented, with large parts of the workforce actually being highly casualised and precarious subcontracted workers in the private and voluntary sectors. Even if this weren't the case, I don't live in a bubble and I'm aware of the situation in other sectors .

Quote:
It's certainly unlawful to discriminate on health grounds (well, if reasonable adjustments aren't made etc), but it happens all the time. In my old job someone was off for a bit with stress (depression) and got sacked on their first day back. We recently had someone approach Brighton SF after they were being bullied out of their job, in part involving a lack of reasonable adjustments for dyslexia. So I suspect it is quite common in more casual/private sector work, particularly for mental health, which imho management often sneer at as 'not real', 'lack of ambition', 'faking' and the like.

to be honest, most of the individuals I end up representing who get in trouble are disabled, and of course I'm disabled myself so I'm well aware of the difficult situation we are in as I stated above. I am in perpetual fear of losing my job, as I know that when I lose this one I will find it very difficult to get another job, because of my disability.

Now, it's quite possible I would have had useful advice for your colleagues, as I have had a lot of success in individual cases getting really significant reasonable adjustments agreed for people by reluctant employers (including things like reduced working hours, reduced workload, specialist equipment purchased, flexible working hours, etc which really pissed off management). People can get sacked for being off sick or for poor performance, but if they have a disability like depression or dyslexia management have to be able to show they made reasonable adjustments first -which if they didn't do you would have a good case for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.

But anyway, the examples you outline do not contradict what I have said in any way. What I said was that employers cannot use diagnoses of illness to sack workers. Although of course they can - and do - use the symptoms to do so.

Quote:
Steven. wrote:
Pre-employment health questionnaires are now illegal

How recent is this? I haven't seen it recently, but as of a couple of years ago I definitely had application forms that wanted to know how many sick days i'd taken, some asking why.

the equality act came in in April 2010.

Joseph Kay
Jan 20 2012 19:00

Woah, ok. All I'm getting at is the fact something is against the law is not the same as it not happening, and that I suspect employment law is more frequently flouted where unionisation is lower. I mean a large part of day-to-day union work is holding employers to their legal obligations right?

bzfgt
Jan 20 2012 19:12

I thought it was going to really be "homeopathic"--like having your partner hit you with boxing gloves on, role-playing where you knock each other around a little, or maybe developing calluses so the stick doesn't hurt as much. THAT would be homeopathic. That would also be appalling, but too ridiculous not to be funny.

Steven.
Jan 20 2012 19:19
Joseph Kay wrote:
Woah, ok

sorry mate, went a bit over the top, mostly because of things people who aren't you have previously said.

Quote:
All I'm getting at is the fact something is against the law is not the same as it not happening, and that I suspect employment law is more frequently flouted where unionisation is lower.

both of these are correct - and they don't contradict what I was saying, which was in response to a bit of the article which was subsequently removed, so maybe if you missed that that's why you appeared to be thinking you are disagreeing with me.

Quote:
I mean a large part of day-to-day union work is holding employers to their legal obligations right?

In a way, yes, but in another way their legal "obligations" are usually very minimal (or non-existent other than in a cosmetic way), so it's trying to argue that there is in fact a higher level of obligation. On a general note this is something which you don't necessarily need a union for - a savvy individual who knew where to look could do just as well in some situations.

Steven.
Jan 20 2012 19:19
Joseph Kay wrote:
Woah, ok. All I'm getting at is the fact something is against the law is not the same as it not happening, and that I suspect employment law is more frequently flouted where unionisation is lower. I mean a large part of day-to-day union work is holding employers to their legal obligations right?

In a way, yes, but in another way their legal "obligations" are usually very minimal (or non-existent other than in a cosmetic way), so it's trying to argue that there is in fact a higher level of obligation. On a general note this is something which you don't necessarily need a union for - a savvy individual who knew where to look could do just as well in some situations.

Alasdair
Jan 20 2012 19:25

That employers try to sack (and often succeed in sacking) people because of 'disability' or 'illness' is undoubtedly true (I think we would all agree). That a strong union presence makes that more difficult is almost certainly also true. The question with regards medicalisation, however, is surely: is an employer more likely to sack (or try to sack) an employee who is diagnosed as ill compared to one who is otherwise in the same situation (has the same 'illness') but not diagnosed as such?

Where the 'symptoms' are noticeable to the employer they may well be used as an excuse to sack someone, but is there evidence that the diagnosis makes disciplinary action more likely? And moreover is it sufficiently more likely to overcome the additional legal protection that the diagnosis affords (which admittedly may not be known about or defended, particularly in a non-unionised workplace)?

Steven.
Jan 20 2012 21:04
Alasdair wrote:
the question with regards medicalisation, however, is surely: is an employer more likely to sack (or try to sack) an employee who is diagnosed as ill compared to one who is otherwise in the same situation (has the same 'illness') but not diagnosed as such?

Where the 'symptoms' are noticeable to the employer they may well be used as an excuse to sack someone, but is there evidence that the diagnosis makes disciplinary action more likely? And moreover is it sufficiently more likely to overcome the additional legal protection that the diagnosis affords (which admittedly may not be known about or defended, particularly in a non-unionised workplace)?

this is going off at a bit of a tangent from the blog still, but I'll respond for hopefully the last time. I'm not aware of any evidence that diagnosis makes punitive action more likely - in my experience at least it is just the opposite. I.e. that management start out down the route of performance management leading to dismissal, then I say "know this person has a disability, you need to make reasonable adjustments".

Secondly, apart from my experience, employers may be dicks, but they are at least mostly rational dicks. If someone keeps getting into work late and frequently going off sick and missing deadlines (because they have depression) their problem is going to be mostly with the behaviour which is from their point of view slowing production. Not with the name of whatever condition they are suffering

revol68
Jan 20 2012 21:24

Yeah, I think it's obvious that for issues around time management, absence and the like that you are better off getting a medical diagnosis to your condition if you want to keep your job and infact outside the unionised public sector it is often the only way to defend yourself from dismissal and harassment. In keeping with the neo liberal agenda it replaces collective bargaining with an individualised approach based on individual rights.

If you get diagnosed with depression as a kind of medical illness it's a damn sight better for trying to keep your job than saying your are alienated, your job is soul destroying, mind numbing and even the threat of unemployment can't force you to lift your head from under the covers and face another day of it's life sapping shit. Smart employers will see stress and depression absence as an acceptable concession, a more atomised individualist kind of safety valve from what social democratic union consensus provided.

martinh
Jan 20 2012 23:00

Excellent blog, Ramona.

Revol,
The trouble with getting a diagnosis like depression is not the current job, it's the next one. I know that employers are not meant to legally discriminate, but all it takes is even a hint of depression and they'll be employing someone else. Recruitment in even private companies that adhere to the law can be pretty brutal - checking out peoples Facebook or other profiles etc.

Regards,
Martin

Steven.
Jan 20 2012 23:52
martinh wrote:
Excellent blog, Ramona.

Revol,
The trouble with getting a diagnosis like depression is not the current job, it's the next one.

how would employers at your next job know about your condition?

Revol's post above is bang on, and contains a couple of points I thought about making but didn't in the interest of time-saving

Joseph Kay
Jan 22 2012 12:16
Steven. wrote:
sorry mate, went a bit over the top, mostly because of things people who aren't you have previously said.

fair enough. although now i know your weakness, mwahahahaha black bloc

Steven. wrote:
In a way, yes, but in another way their legal "obligations" are usually very minimal (or non-existent other than in a cosmetic way), so it's trying to argue that there is in fact a higher level of obligation. On a general note this is something which you don't necessarily need a union for - a savvy individual who knew where to look could do just as well in some situations.

True and true. Tbh when i've read through employment law it's often really vague (what is 'reasonable'? etc), with the details filled in by case law. If you can grab a few favourable looking cases and the employer hasn't doesn't done their homework, i'd imagine it would be possible to get over and above the legal minimum with a bit of bluffing and bluster. This isn't something I have much experience of, but we've lent LRD material to workers in Brighton, who've used it to write letters to their employers with varying degrees of success.

In terms getting back on topic, with the medicalisation thing i suspect an actual diagnosis does put you in a better position than just turning up late or absenteeism or whatever. But yeah, this is also about the neoliberal individualisation of grievances, 'management by stress' etc. Mark Fisher has talked about 'the privatisation of stress', which is a nice turn of phrase.

Ramona
Jan 22 2012 13:01

Yeah I'm not trying to deny that having a diagnosis can be helpful for workers in individual cases at all, obviously it is. But generally it's about the individualisation of issues that are symptomatic of wider social problems like Joseph said.

Caiman del Barrio
Feb 2 2012 17:05

Sorry to continue the tangent (can split off if you want), but

Steven. wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
Steven. wrote:
Pre-employment health questionnaires are now illegal

How recent is this? I haven't seen it recently, but as of a couple of years ago I definitely had application forms that wanted to know how many sick days i'd taken, some asking why.

the equality act came in in April 2010.

I've definitely had to answer health questionnaires as part of the application process more recently than that. In the interests of balance, one was a public sector employer. wink Either way, I've always assumed that part of the reference from a previous employer relates to sickness absence.

Right now I'm working somewhere where I don't get sick pay and in fact slip down the pecking order in the event of sickness. One of my colleagues texted in sick last week only to be bullied into coming in anyway by the boss. She told me she was more worried about losing face (ie future work prospects) than the money for the day itself. On a related note, another boss has spent the week complaining about how an overseas agent sent him a (young) student with cerebral palsy, claiming "he doesn't belong here".

In a situation like this, I find it absolutely inconceivable to make any sort of disclosure related to mental health to my current employer. It would frankly be the worst possible thing I could do (and yes, I have missed work in the past due to mental health problems).

the button
Feb 2 2012 17:18

Aye. I've avoided having "being mental" or even "stress" appear on my sickness absence records so far, not least because it can fuck up your chances of getting a mortgage down the line (HSBC certainly include depression on their list of notifiable medical conditions), or a loan & stuff like that.

lzbl
Feb 2 2012 17:50
Steven. wrote:
how would employers at your next job know about your condition?

I have to declare having a disability when applying for jobs because I know it will impact on my ability to perform the role at times and if I don't declare it (bearing in mind it has been diagnosed and treated for a number of years) my protection under the Equality Act is a bit wobbly.

I've had managers tell me they 'wouldn't employ someone like me in their team' in the past so have no doubt that declaring that has an effect on me getting a job.

Steven.
Feb 2 2012 18:01
lzbl wrote:
Steven. wrote:
how would employers at your next job know about your condition?

I have to declare having a disability when applying for jobs because I know it will impact on my ability to perform the role at times and if I don't declare it (bearing in mind it has been diagnosed and treated for a number of years) my protection under the Equality Act is a bit wobbly.

I've had managers tell me they 'wouldn't employ someone like me in their team' in the past so have no doubt that declaring that has an effect on me getting a job.

no way would I advise anyone to disclose it before you have been offered the job. Wait till you have been offered it in writing (or better yet, started it), then declare it. Nominally, the law is meant to protect you but in most cases it can't - and certainly it can't if you haven't even started the job. If you tried to take them to a tribunal for saying that they didn't offer you the job because of your disability, they would just say "no we didn't, we didn't offer it because of whatever other reason instead".