Mark Brooks: Why are male victims of domestic abuse ignored?
Mark Brooks, Chairman of ManKind and former parliamentary candidate for Middlesborough South and East Cleveland, asks why the Home Office provides no funding to local authorities for male victims of domestic abuse.
Did you know that whilst one in four women will become a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime, one in six men will also be a victim?
There are only at most a dozen refuge places for male victims in the UK?
The Home Office rightly allocates £60 million per year to local authorities to provide support services to female victims (and their children) but wrongly gives nothing to local authorities to provide support services for male victims (and their children)?
Nor did I until I chanced upon a charity, The ManKind Initiative.
Based in Taunton, the charity runs a help-line that provides support and information to male domestic violence victims. It receives hundreds of calls per year from distressed men or their friends and family (often women) who find they are frustrated about the lack of support or available avenues where they can receive help.
Having steered it away from being an organisation that had some old-fashioned attitudes towards women (sound familiar?), I have recently become Chairman. It is certainly not an all male-club as the help-line in the daytime is run by a couple of dedicated women and the charity has a number of female directors including a Conservative councillor (Cllr Roz Willis – North Somerset). John Penrose MP is a patron.
In theory, given the Home Office figures mentioned at the top of the article, domestic violence should be approached from a gender-neutral perspective. It is a social problem, not one just affecting women and that funding and support for men should be straightforward. Since becoming Chairman however, I have been shocked at the level of institutional and social ignorance about male victims.
Many police forces do not believe a man can be a victim and the charity receives many complaints from men who have been turned away by them or end up being accused themselves. Surrey police is a pioneer in this field and takes the issue very seriously.
Few local authorities provide specialist services for male victims mainly because the government refuses to allow them to have the same funding opportunities as female victims. Suffolk County Council have been at the forefront of raising the issue of male victims.
The third question at the top of the article shows what men and local authorities are up against. The Government has a £60 million annual fund called Supporting People and local authorities can bid for resources to support female victims. They are not allowed to bid for male victims and there is no other funding stream explicitly available. The Home Office clearly state that local authorities have to fund services for men out of their day-to-day budgets, so few do.
On paper, this is a clear case of institutionised sexism since the Government introduced the Gender Equality Duty in April and their latest mantra has been about personalising public services, yet they exclude support for 49% of the population.
Social ignorance does not help either. The media barely cover it, Superdrug sold an inflatable punch-bag encouraging women to punch men (and withdrew it after we complained) and there is an All Men Are Bastards knife block on sale from I Want One of Those web-site.
I feel the Conservatives have an opportunity of outflanking Labour on this and a number of other issues affecting men and boys. Showing the compassionate side of Conservatism does not mean just dealing with particular issues affecting women which Labour have only ever done. They can be outflanked by dealing with a number of male orientated issues as well.
There is opportunity in this domestic violence area as well prostate/testicular cancer which kills over 10,000 men a year. In addition, boys are, educationally, seven years behind girls and far fewer boys now go to university than girls. Iain Duncan Smith MP has raised the education issue but more needs to be done.
As women will be mothers, sisters, wives and have male friends, raising specific issues affecting men can of course strike a chord with women as much as men. A prostate cancer victim is likely to be a husband and father as well. It is not about women versus men it is about supporting individuals who happen to be men.
The Conservatives have an opportunity to outflank Labour in the New Year by stretching the Compassionate Conservatism agenda to include male issues as well. I hope the opportunity is taken.