Although recognised for many centuries, the problem of domestic violence first became a real political iissue in western societies in the early 1970s. In the UK, Erin Pizzey founded in Chiswick in 1971 the first refuge for abused women and their children in Britain. She was later to write that “of the first 100 women who came to the refuge, 61 were as violent or as violent prone as the men they had left”.
Since then, the issue has been polarised and distorted, largely by sexual politics, into female victims and male perpetrators. Government and public policies and funding in the UK are still largely based on this perception.
This, despite the wealth of academic studies published worldwide in the past three decades, coupled with successive government studies in the past twenty years, all showing a significant level of female aggression or abuse in intimate relationships. Such studies suggest that, in intimate couple relationships affected by abusive behaviour, women initiate this against male partners in about a quarter of cases, men in another quarter, and the rest is mutual.
Although women tend to be more harmed or frightened by violent abuse, and are more likely to be injured or victims of repeated assaults, significant proportions of male victims are also severely assaulted and about one third of those injured are men.
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 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.
Table 1 Estimated numbers of victims of intimate violence during the year ending March 2016, England and Wales.
The risk of intimate violence varies by demographic, socio-economic and lifestyle characteristics. Characteristics that were independently associated with an increased risk of intimate violence across all the forms included marital status (in particular being unmarried), housing tenure, age (under the age of 45), and having a limiting disability or illess.
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