Male Victims of Domestic Abuse
Father victims are especially disadvantaged, since if they do report, the chances are that it is they who will be ousted from the family home and subsequently lose any meaningful contact, or indeed any contact at all, with their children, who are allowed to remain with the violent mother by the courts and social agencies.
Some facts about male victims in England and Wales
- Men account for between one third and one half of all victims in intimate relationships, the proportion rising with the severity of the abuse suffered by them.
- Police records of domestic violence incidents show much lower proportions of male victims than this. Partly because of ‘macho’ attitudes and anticipated unsympathetic police responses, male victims tend to under-report even more than female victims, particularly younger men who experience only minor assault.
- There are over 400 publicly funded refuges for abused women and their children, but none specifically for abused men and their children, although five of the women’s refuges do allocate about 11 places for men and their children on an ad hoc basis. Generally, however, women’s refuges prohibit any men or older male children from the premises.
- Abused fathers wishing to leave the family home with their children face a possible charge of abducting the children as well as nowhere to go with them except bed and breakfasts. Many therefore continue to ‘live’ with the violence in order to protect their children.
- There are only three small charities, funded mainly by donations, helping male victims: in contrast, the national charities helping women victims receive substantial public funding.
- Local authorities at present receive about £60 million each year in government funding to specifically support female domestic violence victims, but nothing to support male victims. Indeed, authorities are measured by government on the support they specifically give female victims (by performance indicator BV 225). The result is that local authorities are discouraged from providing any support to specifically help male victims and their children in their areas since they receive no specific government funding for this.
- The government response to this inequality is that local authorities must show a ‘need’ by male victims for such support funding. Based on the numbers of actual male victims, including fathers, revealed by government studies, the need for some funded support is surely obvious.
- Government funding for male victims at present appears to extend only to one national helpline.
- The persisting lack of government funding for male victims in the light of its own research evidence, in defiance of the new Gender Equality Duty, appears to be unduly influenced by cost and by sexual politics at high level.
- Strategies on domestic violence and funding provision produced annually by Government for state agencies to implement are still primarily aimed at female victims.
A challenge for the future
Domestic violence is a social problem affecting both sexes, albeit to different extents. Ignoring the plight of male victims is not only inequitable, but is unlikely to solve the problem. It also ignores the plight of their children, which could be argued is a form of official child abuse if the father victim is ousted and they are left with a violent mother.
It is now time for the government to officially recognise the problem and to produce and fund and see implemented a nation-wide strategy to help victims of both sexes, including support especially for those charities at present involved in helping male victims.