In 2019 Victoria Atkins, MP, Minister for Safeguarding, used the term ‘overwhelming’ to describe the proportion of female Domestic Abuse victims. A complaint by the Men and Boys Coalition to the Office for Statistics Regulation was upheld by them on 1st Oct 2019 in which they stated that the use of the word ‘overwhelming’ would “imply that a larger proportion of victims are female than the statistics show.”
In the “Domestic Abuse Bill 2020: overarching factsheet” (17th August 2020), the statistics were produced for the year ending March 2019, showing an estimated 2.4m people experiencing domestic abuse – 1.6m women and 786,000 men, which converts into 1 in every 3 victims are men and 2 in 3 victims are women which is hardly overwhelming.
This situation has changed very little from a letter written by Stephen Fitzgerald to Baroness Scotland on 5th May 2004 requesting a meeting to discuss funding for the ManKind helpline and receiving the following reply on 10th June 2004 commenting, “Although domestic violence does occur irrespective of gender, sexuality, and background, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it is predominantly women who tend to be victims of domestic violence and who are more likely to suffer lasting damage to their physical and mental health, affecting their ability to work, to support themselves, to maintain their self-confidence and build a new life. As a result, the Government’s main focus on domestic violence is with female victims”. The 1996 BCS showed that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men would suffer from domestic abuse over a lifetime which Baroness Scotland conveniently ignored.
Compliance or lack of with the 2010 Equality Act & 1998 Human Rights Act
The effect of the above attitudes has been to ensure that over the years, the Equality Act 2010 has been ignored inasmuch that men and their children have received far less than a proportionate measure of financial support. It appears that successive governments have misleadingly played the numbers game to deny men and children any meaningful support and are failing to solve what amounts to a serious social problem due to a gender apartheid approach.
During the development of the Domestic Abuse Bill, both individual women and various women’s groups were invited to attend the Oral Submission sessions – not one man or men’s group was invited. Men and Women Working Together (MWWT) requested who or which group set the rules for this. We were informed that it was undertaken in the Whips Office but were unable to obtain any further information. We submitted an FOI request in September 2020, and we are still waiting to hear who or which people did not comply with the Equality Act 2010. Refuges – this is the most glaring example of inequality. A third of domestic violence victims are male, yet only 0.8 per cent of refuge beds are reserved for them, according to the ManKind Initiative, a charity that works with male victims. (Ref. Independent report 16th Sept 2018).
Under Article 8 of the 1998 Human Rights Act it “protects your right to respect for private and family life, your home and correspondence”. Under the heading “What is meant by family life?” it states “Family life includes the right to have and maintain family relationships. It covers your right not to be separated from your family and to maintain contact if your family is split up.”
In all too many cases, lack of support for men and their children in the event of domestic abuse within the family results in the children being separated from their father when either he has to move out, or they become divorced, with the mother becoming the primary carer and able to continue with her abuse of the children.
In summary, domestic abuse affects men, women, and children regardless of race or sexuality and has to be dealt with in a holistic manner. Until Parliament applies the full rigours of equality and human rights to this appalling social condition, we will never solve the problem for all victims. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Stephen Fitzgerald was one of the co-founders of the ManKind Initiative dealing with men’s issues, including Family Law Reform. Disclaimer – Stephen Fitzgerald is no longer associated with ManKind. Many of our callers cited domestic abuse as the cause of family breakdown. Stephen was driven to set up a pilot line in his home in 2000/01 after a call from a young father in 1998, whose wife was both physically and mentally abusing their children, he had tried to access help from the police, social services, victim support and the school without success. He divorced her, and despite local neighbours sending signed statements to the court supporting his claims, they were turned down by the judge and ignored by CAFCASS. Months after the split, his children informed him that the abuse continued and he was powerless to help them.
The pilot study consisted of 251 callers which was extended to 391 during 2000/01.
Key features of the pilot are:
- Number of households with children in the house – 77%
- Ethnicity of caller – white 85%, mixed 2%, Asian 6%, black 5%, same-sex 2%
- Average years of abuse – 5.66 ranging from a few months to 20 years.
- Frequency of abuse – 2-3 times a year 10%, monthly 20%, weekly 42%, daily 29%
- Physical nature of abuse – punching 75%, scratching 58%, slapping 74%, head butting 11%, kicking 56%, spitting 28%, attacks to groin 28%, hit with blunt/sharp instrument 58%, scalding water, hot fat, bleach 15%
- Mental nature of abuse, which all callers said was worse than physical – screaming and shouting 92% ( neighbours assumed the woman was suffering ), verbal denigration 89%, controlling/coercive 87%, physical threats 67%, death threats 32%, making false allegations 68%, threatening to call the police 60%, actually calling police 46%, sleep deprivation 68%, vexatious ex-parte injunction 11%.
- Sexual abuse – denigration 44%, sexual abuse 5%.
- Financial abuse – running up debts 47%, controlling money 53%.
- Effects on children – witness physical abuse 45%, witness mental abuse 55%, Hear the abuse 62%, children mentally abused 31%, physically abused 14%.
- Use of children – threatened to remove 39%, encouraged to ignore or undermine the father 34%, encouraged to assault father 10%.
- Seeking help from police 60%, arrested 27%, asked to leave 18%, sympathetic – no help 36%, sympathetic helped 19%.
- Social Services – sided with wife 39%, ignored problem 42%, helpful 19%.
- Housing – helpful 28%, unhelpful 71%.
- Services for men – good 10%, poor 30%, non-existent 52%.
- Services for men wanted – confidential helplines 90%, refuges 66%, drop-ins 73%, equal access to existing services 95%.
Recently filmed interviews by MWWT
Voices of children who suffered from physical/mental abuse from mothers
- Manor – whose mother was extremely violent, causing him to attempt suicide on many occasions. Despite being in his 20s, he is still suicidal. Link https://youtu.be/noG2wrk-ZIc filmed in 2020
- Heaven – as a child, he and his sister suffered from an extremely controlling mother. He is also in his 20’s and has been suicidal. Link https://youtu.be/IHaam91L8eI filmed in 2020
- Young father unable to access help for his boys. Link https://youtu.be/SbayVku4PuI filmed in 2001
All names, places etc, have been altered to provide anonymity for the survivors.
|Pilot Survey 2001||Number of forms – 1008|
|Married||67%||Screaming and shouting||93%|
|Number of yrs together||11%||Physical threats||69%|
|Are there any children in the house||76%||Making false allegations||64%|
|If yes, how many are 5 & under||32%||Threatening to call the police||57%|
|6 to 12||40%||Actually calling the police||46%|
|13 and over||29%||Sleep deprivation||65%|
|Personal details – self||Vexatious ex-parte injunction||10%|
|Height (metric cm)||2.02||Denigration||39%|
|Weight (metric kg )||75.37||Sexual Abuse||9%|
|Occupation – professional||39%||Financial|
|skilled||35%||Running up debts||44%|
|mixed||2%||Witness physical abuse||44%|
|Asian||7%||Witness mental abuse||53%|
|black||6%||Hear the abuse||61%|
|Chinese||0%||Were the children|
|Are you reg. disabled||9%||Physically abused||13%|
|Partner||Use of children|
|Age||38.92||Did your wife/partner|
|Height (metric cm)||1.66||Threaten to remove the children||39%|
|Weight (metric kg)||65.41||Encourage the children to|
|Occupation – professional||31%||Ignore and undermine you||30%|
|semi-skilled||19%||Did you seek help from the|
|Ethnicity||white||80%||How did they help?|
|Asian||10%||Ask you to leave||14%|
|black||6%||Sympathetic – no help||32%|
|Chinese||1%||Sympathetic – Help offered||29%|
|Are you reg. disabled||6%||How did they help?|
|Frequency of abuse||Sided with wife/partner||39%|
|How many yrs did abuse last||5.79||Ignore the problem||43%|
|was the abuse||Helpful||18%|
|infrequent||2/3 times a year||10%||Housing||23%|
|frequent||monthly||20%||Were they –|
|Nature of Abuse physical assaults||Services for men|
|punching||75%||Were they –|
|head butting||12%||Non- existent||54%|
|kicking||55%||What services would you like|
|attacks to groin||29%||Refuges||70%|
|hit with blunt/sharp instrument||58%||Drop-in Centres||75%|
|scalding water/hot fat/bleach||14%||Equal access to existing serv.||Nature of Abuse Physical assaults|
I (Stephen Fitzgerald) originally entered the minefield of gender politics in around 1998 largely as a result of reading an article in a National Newspaper describing the awful experience that a young father had gone through in the family courts resulting in the total loss of his children, home and left penniless through no fault of his own. In contrast I am a very happily married man and now have 4 children, 10 grandchildren and 1 great granddaughter all leading very happy and settled lives.
At that time, I was appalled at the gross injustice of it and had no awareness that such things could take place in a so-called caring society. As I went on it was clear that many breakdowns were created by domestic abuse against either the man or the woman and of course the children. It became all too obvious that the wellbeing of men and their children were callously disregarded as was espoused by Baroness Scotland’s reply to me in 2004 that “the Government’s main focus on domestic violence is with female victims” So, no equality nor human rights for men and children there and no inclusion for individual men or men’s groups in the oral submission stage of the Domestic Abuse Bill.
This attitude prevails throughout all of MWWT’s submissions to parliament which is one of protection for women and girls (no problems there) but the protective drawbridge is pulled up against men and boys and a Gender Apartheid Policy is firmly put in place. Of all our issues, the Bench Book, Family Courts, Domestic Abuse are probably the worst of all leading to very high rates of male suicide. None of this will change until we have a Minister for Men as there are no real voices speaking on behalf of men who have effectively become disenfranchised.
Stephen Fitzgerald – Chairman of MWWT (Men & Women Working Together)