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The European Women’s Lobby is a multi million pound organisation which supports feminist legislation at the European Union level. Its agenda includes banning prostitution, banning pornography and banning strip clubs which, as they claim, inherently exploit women.
Less controversial and less regressive is another effort, V-Day, an annual movement aimed at ending violence against women and girls. A worthy cause if there ever was one however I am concerned as to whether the EWL’s framing the debate, a framing that exclusively portrays men as aggressors and monopolises victimhood in favour of women is actually helpful to all victims of domestic violence, if not detrimental to a considerable minority. After all, how can victims from both genders be cared for, if our lobbying system focuses solely on the issues of one gender? What do we do when the presupposed dynamics of men oppressing women simply don’t fit?
Contrary to many feminist press releases, men (on average) make up for over 40% of all domestic violence victims. In an average year this consists of some 800,000 male victims in the UK alone. Indeed there are more female victims of abuse and assault (1,200,000 a year at an estimate) but even so the myth that domestic violence is an inherently male thing is clearly still contradicted
The severity of abuse experienced by victims is also symmetrical across the genders with 29% of men and 27% of women suffering from the most extreme forms of abuse respectively. Whilst it is true that men are more likely to be victims of abuse if they live in homosexual relationships the same is also true of women in lesbian relationships. 6% of men in homosexual relationships become victims but so did 3% of Heterosexual men and 12.4% of lesbian women in relationships compared to 4.3% of straight women. Do these statistics not undermine the popular notion that men are inherently violent or considerably more abusive than their female counterparts, or that being an abuser is a purely male characteristic?
To claim that only 10% of victims are male (as feminist lobbies have done in the past) is an outright lie and one that has had dire consequences for our ability to deal with domestic abuse.
Considering the amount of funding that has been allocated to victim support over the past decades dealing with male victims should not present as a serious problem. Some £60 million a year are given each year to local authorities but almost none of this money ever reaches male victims. In fact we now find ourselves in the situation where 99% of all bed placements sheltering abuse victims are totally unavailable to men.
There are some 8,000 beds that are exclusively available to female victims and only 60 – 70 available to men, however even this statistic is optimistic. Of the 70 placements scattered across the country to these 800,000 victims, 41 are also available to women and 18 only available to gay men. So to the heterosexual male victim of domestic abuse a grand total of 24 spaces remain exclusively available. Given that heterosexual men still make up the majority of male victims it goes without saying that this state of affairs is woeful and perhaps even contributes to the fact that 70% of homeless people are male.
It seems highly probable that the skewing of this funding towards female victims is thanks to the efforts of pressure groups who have acted out of the belief that domestic abuse is a one way street. After all, the purpose of a pressure group is to secure as much funding for its members as possible. Why should men be accounted for by lobbyists when they don’t get paid for it? Surely according to the rhetoric, men are the oppressors, not the victims and their welfare certainly isn’t their responsibility.
Due to traditional gender roles, men often face considerable difficulty reporting domestic abuse. Men are 3 times more likely to refuse to inform the police of their victimhood than women; twice as likely not to inform anyone as women and only 4% of male victims are able to inform a medical professional of injuries associated with domestic violence. Their fear of the police in such situations is sadly not unfounded as in 2012, 1.25% of all male victims (over 8,000 men) were falsely assumed to be the perpetrators of domestic abuse and therefore arrested. Due to sexist interpretation of 1989 Children Act, concerning “welfare of the child”, men also frequently face abduction charges when attempting to escape abusive relationships during or immediately after divorce with their children. Not a surprising phenomenon when only 5% of men are granted residential custody in contested cases. All of which paints a very bleak outlook for a male domestic abuse victim in the UK.
A woman is killed every 4 days and every 17 days a man is murdered by an abusive partner in the UK. It is time we all stopped pretending that this is only a feminist cause. It’s a human rights cause.