Why?

We, the petitioners, became interested in men’s experience of domestic abuse/violence after being deeply shaken when men we knew revealed the ordeals they were going through. We have witnessed the continuing, deepening despair of these men who, over many years, have had their lives destroyed and those of their children unnecessarily damaged.

While trying in vain to find help for these men we have witnessed a proliferation of publicly funded campaigns and services aimed at addressing only the needs of women and their children who have experienced domestic abuse and violence. The men’s plight has been rendered completely invisible or apparently unimportant.

Each of us, separately at first, tried to raise awareness of the issue to help these men who had suffered not only abuse but the added pain of having their experience denied.

In the process we have met or heard about many more abused men. We have been astonished by the number of people (men and women) who have approached us knowing our interest in the matter to tell us about their male friends and relatives, suffering in long term abusive relationships involving controlling behaviour, serious violence and psychological, financial and emotional abuse.

Many believed that these were isolated situations because the assumption is that men are usually perpetrators of domestic abuse, not victims. Such has been the power of the relentless but incomplete public information stream on the subject. We have been dismayed by the number of people in positions of influence who have told us they have personal knowledge of abused men but did not wish to ‘rock the boat’.

We have also been disturbed by examples of how institutional abuse of power can intimidate male victims into silence and isolation. In one case we know, a distraught father who had continued to live with the abuse until it became life-threatening was told by the ‘independent’ solicitor appointed by the Sheriff Court to write a child welfare report that if he continued telling her the truth about his former wife’s violence he would not be allowed to see his children.

Below are some of the actions we have taken over the past two and a half years. We have become increasingly convinced that there is a serious issue that needs to be tackled –  in a country that praises itself for supporting victims and addressing domestic abuse.

3/03/07 (AW) Email to (then) prospective SNP MSP.

I contacted Maureen Watt in response to her excellent contribution to a radio programme dealing with domestic abuse of men. I offered to provide her with more information on the subject, thinking that she would be taking the issue forward. She told me that Victim Support would offer help, but when I called VS on behalf of an abused male friend they told me they did not have anything to offer. The prospective MSP became an MSP and the issue appeared to drop off her list of priorities.

4/09/07 (AW) Email to all Scottish Ministers

I raised the issue of the marginalisation of men, including family law (causing difficulties for men who try to maintain meaningful contact with their children after family break-up) and the lack of proactive recognition or support for men suffering domestic abuse. I received no response from any minister, but a month later I did receive a response from the Violence Against Women Team in the Scottish Government Equality Unit. They explained that the Scottish Government recognised the ‘gendered analysis’ of domestic abuse. I found it difficult to understand how ‘recognising’ domestic abuse as an abuse of the power  society has given to men could help explain or address the plight of a man struggling to survive relentless abuse by his former wife.

I was also told that the Gadd Report (2002), commissioned to look at Domestic Abuse Against Men in Scotland, had concluded that a ‘specific agency for abused men’ was not needed, in spite of the fact that Dr Gadd has since admitted that some of the men in the study suffered ‘harrowing experiences’.  When I read the report for myself it was apparent that there were serious questions about the research methodology. However its conclusion still did not appear to square with its own findings. The report found:

‘The police, amongst other statutory service providers, did seem concerned about the lack of referral agencies available to support abused men’. It also acknowledged that ‘… the relative under-resourcing of agencies that provide specialist services for gay men and/or abused men … make the case for urging pre-existing statutory service providers to advertise more widely their capacity to meet the needs of men experiencing domestic abuse.’

An FOI to the Scottish Government last year asked how much it had spent on actively publicising such services (if indeed any existed) in fulfilment of the Gadd recommendation. The answer was, “Nothing”.

On 4 March 3009 The Scotsman ran an opinion piece by John Forsyth on the shortcomings of the Gadd Report and the unwillingness of Dr Gadd to speak in support of his own research. Nevertheless, Scottish Government Ministers and spokespeople have cited the Gadd Report as a justification for doing nothing for abused men for the past 7 years.

6/10/07 (AW) Submission to Gender Equality Duty website

I hoped the new ‘Gender Equality Duty’ (GED) might at last remedy the apparent discrimination against men in public policy. However, I discovered that as far as domestic abuse is concerned, ‘Gender Equality’ means eliminating ‘violence against women’ only. I clicked on the Comment button on the GED site to suggest that this did not appear, to me, to represent gender equality.

Once again a response arrived from the VAW Team. Again I was reminded of the ‘gendered analysis’ of domestic abuse, still ‘recognised’ by the Scottish Government. Again there was no acknowledgement of the needs of abused men or their children either as a group or in need of support as individuals.

(AW) Telephone enquiry to Domestic Abuse Helpline

Around this time I called the Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline to ask for help on behalf of a male friend, but the operator, while most empathetic, had nothing to suggest. I asked if perhaps few men called for help but was told many did.

(AW) Educational materials

As a teacher I was aware of some of the educational materials (Respect Packs) on the subject of domestic abuse. Produced by Zero Tolerance these focus on violence against women. I discussed this with one of the staff responsible for running in-service courses for teachers on these materials. He admitted that his department insisted on this single track approach. I was similarly concerned that the ‘Keeping Myself Safe’ resources for schools, produced by Learning Curve, also minimise the experience of abused men and their children. This must be bewildering for the children of abused fathers as every example given and all the teaching outcomes concern only men as abusers and women as victims. The need for honesty in teaching children about domestic abuse has been raised in the Scotsman (2/12/09) by Hugh Reilly, and I return to this issue later.

(AW) Domestic Abuse Courses

I discovered in-service courses were on offer in my local authority on ‘Violence against Women’ and ‘Dealing with Abusive Men’. I was concerned that participants would not be trained to recognise that children may come from homes that do not fit the abusive man/abused woman stereotype, and that such children may miss out on necessary support. I raised the matter with an equalities official who informed me that it was not in her remit to challenge this imbalance. She told me in any case abused ”men should wait another 35 years for recognition as it has taken 35 years to get  services for women.’

I signed up for a day’s course on domestic abuse, run by Lothian Violence Against Women Training Consortium. This is one of 15 training consortia set up to implement the Scottish Government’s Violence Against Women’s National Training Strategy. The course  focused on ways in which women are suppressed; how abusive men could be; and how hard it can be for the women they abuse to escape. I quite accept the horror of the abuse described but there was no recognition that women can be equally abusive and men just as badly damaged – as I had witnessed at first hand.  I have yet to find any training for staff that would inform them of the problems faced by men who experience domestic abuse/violence.

Looking beyond the official public information

We became increasingly disturbed by the disjunction between  the evidence before our eyes and the information  presented by statutory bodies and the voluntary agencies that dominate the public narrative on domestic abuse/violence. Then we began to find online sources of information and independent academic research that confirmed what we had learned  from the directly affected individuals we had come to know. These sources are rarely cited in official publications but are peer reviewed and have much to offer the public debate. If we could find this information we do not understand how salaried researchers seemed to miss them.

We are now in no doubt that there is ample credible evidence beyond our first hand experience and evidence from friends and colleagues, that a significant number of men as well as women suffer long term controlling, violent and psychologically abusive behaviour by a partner. As for female victims it can result in extreme fear, physical and emotional damage, with long term mental and physical health consequences. By ignoring this we put children and even society at risk.

Mankind

We discovered The ManKind Initiative, a national non-public funded charity supporting male victims of domestic abuse. Based in Taunton, Somerset, it operates a national help-line; signposts victims to local authorities, housing, the police and other agencies; undertakes lectures and workshops and provides information to raise awareness. They receive several calls from Scotland each week. One Scottish man helped by Mankind was able in turn to offer advice to others via the Mankind telephone helpline. He told me that the most striking thing he found was the complete isolation of each man who called. Until discovering Mankind each felt he was the only man being victimised by his partner,  feeling it must therefore be his fault. He added that what ‘destroyed’ him during his years as a victim was the complete lack of anyone he could tell.

(AW) June 2008 Letter/submission to Alex Salmond

I wrote to the First Minister with my concerns about how men in Scotland are marginalised in the public narrative with regard to domestic violence as well as other issues of public policy that that tend to exclude fathers in particular. I was aware that the FM’s signature was already on the VAW Statement of Intent but saw no reason why full support for female victims should necessarily exclude any consideration for male victims. Apparently it did: he expressed the view that ‘violence in the home … is overwhelmingly *(my emphasis) perpetrated by men against their female partners or ex-partners’ and that ‘violence against women remains a priority for action’. He gave no indication that any action to support men was being or would be considered.

[*Earlier this year the independent UK Statistical Authority advised the Crown Prosecution Service and the Welsh Assembly that the phrase ‘overwhelming majority’ in describing abuse of women by men should not be used as it ‘is inconsistent with the results of home Office Studies of intimate and interpersonal violence in England and Wales.’ ]

The most recent (Dec 2009) Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (Partner Abuse, Table A1.2) indicates the term ‘overwhelmingly’  is even less appropriate than previously thought: numbers of men and women experiencing domestic abuse in the past year appear to be the same.

(JW) Fife Services

Jackie Walls also became engaged with the issue when a long standing male friend confided in her the details of long term abuse and violent behaviour by his wife. Jackie had had no idea such behaviour could be perpetrated by a women and had accepted the notion that abuse is what some men do to women. She sought help for her friend from the local agencies that are funded and advertise themselves as providing support for victims of domestic abuse. She found all the doors were closed to him. She let it be known locally therefore that she would set up a Scottish Men’s Aid site and gave out her phone number. She was overwhelmed with callers. She could provide a listening ear but had nothing practical to offer. She realised from the nature of the calls (many men in real distress) that specialist services are required for men, in particular to deal with their fear. She suspended the website and began lobbying for local services on the assumption that if a good infrastructure already existed for women’s services it could surely be extended to cater for men in similar plight.

She made several approaches to Fife Domestic and Sexual Abuse Partnership (FDSAP) for support, advice and asking to be involved in domestic abuse events and forums but did not receive a helpful or encouraging response.

(JW) Presentation to Fife Councillors, Touch Community Centre, Dunfermline. Chaired by Councillor Walker.

Jackie realised she needed to focus her efforts at her own local level. With a working name of FMVODA (Fife Male Victims of Domestic Abuse) she arranged at her own expense a ‘briefing’ for Fife councillors. All councillors were sent individual invitations. An email was leaked to her showing that council leaders had instructed councillors not to attend or respond to the invitation. The briefing comprised a speech by Jackie and a presentation by journalist, John Forsyth, who had researched the subject in some depth. The event met with a good response from the 5 councillors who did attend. Several others who could not attend intimated their support. Observers from Fife Police and FDSAP attended.

14/05/09 Motion to Fife Council

Subsequent to the briefing councillors Dempsey and Caird put a motion to the full Fife Council pressing for development of services for male victims of domestic abuse. A small working party of councillors was formed resulting in the need for support for abused men now appearing in some of the Partnership documentation. An undertaking has been made to remove some of the wording now acknowledged to be ‘inappropriate’  fromn their 2008-11 Action Plan. The Fife Councillors have taken a brave lead on this issue but they need to have support from the Scottish Government.

Fife Police meeting

A meeting was organised by FMVODA and Detective Chief Inspector Lee Dickson of Fife Constabulary who stated that Fife Police would welcome the establishment of an organisation to which their officers could refer abused men and would be willing to support such an organisation while confirming that their own services are non-gender specific.

(JW) BBC Radio 4 programme: Give Me a Voice

Jackie and three of the abused men who had come forward were interviewed and the men’s stories were told. In all cases serious, long term violence and psychological abuse was perpetrated by a former wife or female partner. In all cases the men still lived in constant fear and in two of the cases, the men continue to suffer from post traumatic stress. One of them had himself been arrested and spent a night in the cells after he called the police when his partner attempted to murder him.

(AW) FOI – on publicity campaigns

I obtained details of all government publicity campaigns on domestic abuse since 2000. I have  found all either explicitly stated or implied men are abusers while women and children are their victims. Not one showed a male victim.

Strathclyde Police has just launched a TV and press campaign for Christmas. The advertisements are to be commended for including males in their mute series of victims. STV news reports on the launch highlighted the case of a woman killed by her partner. Strathclyde Police’s own figures show 11 homicides in 2008/9 connected with domestic abuse: 7 were women; 4 were men.  Information on partner homicide in Scotland through an  FOI request revealed that in the years 2003/4 to 2007/8  40 women were killed by a male partner and 28 men killed by a female partner: 42% of the victims were male.

(AW) Query to local authority re  CEHR Campaign: Map of Gaps

On discovering that my local authority appeared to be reasonably well served in services for abused women I enquired about the services provided for abused men. I received responses from a series of three council equalities officials who each gave me details of different services that they said ‘supported men’. When I checked, none of them did. Eventually a fourth respondent was honest enough to admit there is no support in Edinburgh specifically for men who experience domestic abuse.

(AW) Motions presented to Educational Institute of Scotland AGM

In June 2009, I presented two motions to the EIS AGM:

Motion 27 “That this AGM recognise the destructive effects of domestic physical and emotional abuse on men as well as women and children, and on children abused by a parent of either gender. This AGM instruct Council to update EIS publications and information to schools accordingly.”

The Conference agreed and passed the motion.

Motion 28: That this AGM call on the Scottish Government:

1)     to ensure that publicly funded teaching materials on domestic abuse do not discriminate against the children of abused fathers

2)     to ensure that teaching materials on domestic abuse provides boys and young men with the knowledge that they may become victims of domestic abuse in equivalent terms to the material that raises such awareness amongst girls

This was remitted to Council. The issues are still being considered.

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