Petition

Male victims of domestic abuse/violence

The quite proper drive to support women when they are victims of domestic abuse and violence has led to the creation of a simplified stereotyped view of domestic abuse that does not acknowledge that many men are damaged in abusive relationships too.

A Public Petition asking for this to be addressed was lodged on the Scottish Parliament website:

http://epetitions.scottish.parliament.uk/view_petition.asp?PetitionID=365

Petition text:

‘Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to ensure that all publicly funded action (campaigns, publications, action plans, projects, training programmes, etc.) on domestic abuse/violence are overhauled to fully acknowledge the extent to which men are at the receiving end and to address the needs of male victims and their children.’

The petition is now closed to signatures. Evidence was heard by the Petitions Committee on26th Jan. Proceedings may be viewed at:

http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?iPid=3&section=43&title=Public+Petitions

All documentation generated as the petition progresses may be viewed at:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/petitions/docs/PE1307.htm

Below is the text of the background information that is included in the ePetition on the Scottish Parliament website. The version here contains live links.

(To read an account of what we have done so far in our attempts to have this issue addressed click on the ‘WHY? tab.)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Scottish Government and the previous Scottish Executive have made tackling domestic abuse/violence a priority. Over £100m has been spent or committed (1999/2011) in supporting organisations to provide refuges, counselling, legal support, help with housing and other services and projects for victims and their children. There is a list of 22 standards to which all providers of domestic abuse services should aspire. The Scottish Government also runs public information campaigns on domestic abuse; produces a stream of publications; commissions school educational materials; funds information websites for victims and their children; has set up training courses for staff in social services, education, the procurator fiscal service and voluntary organisations, and funds a 24hr phone helpline.

Every single one of these is designed to raise awareness of, and encourage reporting of violence against women and to address the needs of female victims and their children. Not a penny from all those millions has gone to fund services or campaigns specifically designed for the needs of abused men and their children; there is no awareness-raising about their experience of domestic abuse, and no active encouragement to report it.

There will now be (welcome) funding for a programme (The Caledonian System) for male perpetrators willing to address their abusive behaviour, but not even a suggestion that any female perpetrators, let alone their partners and children, might also benefit from such programmes.

Yet police domestic abuse figures over the past 9 years have shown an overall increase of incidents of abuse where men are recorded as victims of 176%, while the increase for female victims has been 39%.  The rate of increase of male victims has been faster than that of female victims in every year since the series began in 1999/2000. We are not talking about small numbers: in 2008/09 police forces recorded men as victim in 7,336 (14%) of domestic abuse incidents to which they were called, in which the perpetrator was female and a further 546 (1%) in same sex cases.

Police figures, of course, do not tell the full story of domestic abuse. It is widely recognised that men are less inclined to report abuse than women. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (Partner Abuse) published on December 15 2009 revealed that only 8% of incidents in which men experienced domestic abuse during the past 12 months became known to the police compared to 35% for women.

A reluctance of males to report abuse or emotional problems of any sort is also recognised in a Childline Casenote. In 2002-03, in its report, ‘Boys Allowed’ it was noted that boys made only a fifth of calls to the helpline. Not convinced that boys suffered so much less than girls and concerned about the much higher tendency of young males to commit suicide, Childline initiated an advertising campaign to encourage more boys to come forward and their counsellors also received specific training on working with boys. Now one third of calls are from boys. This could be a model for approaching underreporting by male victims.

The experiences of males need not be undermined by the creation of a false competition with the experiences of females. A gender equality perception that allows particular support for women as victims should not be mistaken for an excuse to do nothing for men as victims. We believe all victims of crime or anti-social behaviour have the same rights, as citizens of a compassionate Scotland, to appropriate support.

However, a political narrative, embraced by the current Scottish Government and its predecessors, has concentrated on domestic abuse/violence as a problem almost entirely for women victims. This has tended to mislead the public about the issue by minimising the fact that domestic abuse/violence also affects a very significant number of men.

Research findings published in the recent Scottish Crime and Justice Survey reveal that the extent and nature of partner abuse is massively at odds with the present public narrative on domestic abuse/violence. This mismatch between reality and government policy needs to be addressed without delay.

There are at present no services in Scotland, specifically designed for the needs of abused men and their children, nor any general front line services that adequately address their problems. For example, while Victim Support has encountered ‘many cases of serious violence carried out by women’, their Lothian and Borders Area Director, Alan McCloskey told Edinburgh’s Evening News (6/10/09) that the ‘lack of dedicated support services for male victims of domestic abuse… should be addressed’.

Anyone seeking information and advice for a male victim may well find that a service that sounds as if it might have something to offer quickly turns into a dead end. On arriving at the Domestic Abuse There’s no Excuse website, one is greeted by the faces of nine women. Even the single page devoted to men as victims has the faces of nine women on it and references to the plight of women victims. The page for male victims has a   link to the Men’s Advice Line. However this is a part time helpline funded by the Home Office for men in England and Wales only. It carries no information for men in Scotland though it does tell abused men who call that they ‘will be believed’ – an important right offered by no part of the domestic abuse apparatus to men in Scotland.

Children seeking help through the Scottish Domestic Abuse website or through individual police forces are linked to the Women’s Aid Site for children, The Hideout. Although it begins commendably gender fair, it also becomes a dead end for children with abused dads. The Children’s pages on the Scottish Government domestic abuse site only mention abused mums.

We are not calling for any reduction in services that actively help women and children who experience domestic abuse/violence. However these or similar services should also be provided as a matter of course for the men (and their children) who are being damaged by domestic abuse/violence. As first steps we are calling for:

1)  The Scottish Government, local authorities and public agencies to acknowledge publicly that each individual who suffers from domestic abuse/violence is entitled as a basic right, to recognition and support according to need, not gender (or, of course, ethnic/social background, age, dis/ability or sexual orientation).

2) A requirement for all publicly funded websites, publicity campaigns, literature, training and educational materials on domestic abuse/violence to provide full and impartial information that does not set one group of victims above another.

3)The Scottish Government to facilitate/fund/extend provision of domestic abuse helplines and other support services, with staff trained/experienced in understanding the issues relevant to all affected groups, explicitly including men and their children, experiencing domestic abuse/violence.

4) The Scottish Government to seek out and take account of information and advice from impartial individuals and organisations with experience and knowledge of domestic abuse/violence as it affects all identifiable groups; where necessary be proactive in commissioning research about and encouraging reporting by male or other under-represented victims.

5) Provision of domestic abuse support services that meet the Service Standards (at present specified for women’s services) for all victims.

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