SAFETY AND JUSTICE – The Government’s Proposals on Domestic Violence – August 2003

Submission by Dewar Research:

The Consultation document Safety and Justice issued by the Home Office in June 2003 sought responses from organisations and individuals with an interest in the social problem of domestic violence.

This Response to the invitation has been prepared by Dr Malcolm J George FRSA and David J Yarwood MICE on behalf of Dewar Research. Dewar Research is a private initiative formed in 1996 to collate information available in the public domain in order to encourage more informed debate of social issues. Malcolm George has published widely in academic journals on the issue of domestic violence and related aspects and David Yarwood has also published on this issue on behalf of Dewar Research.

Dewar Research would request that this Response be published in full by the Home Office as part of a summary of responses to this Consultation exercise. The Response is in two main sections, the first providing a historical context applying to the issue of domestic violence, in particular to male victims, and the second, a more specific response to the Consultation document.

Dewar Research would be pleased to clarify any of the points made and provide supportive information, such as our personally published works, if required.

Malcolm J George David J Yarwood

Section 1 – Male Victims: A History of Prejudice:

Male Victims: A History of Prejudice Since the founding of a refuge for battered women in the early 70’s by Erin Pizzey, domestic violence has been the subject of both public and political concern. In the following thirty or so years, a wealth of studies, reports and articles on the subject have been published and inquiries by Parliament have been made, with resulting changes of public policy towards violence between intimate partners.

In one respect, the analysis made in Safety and Justice differs to the vast majority of these previously published sources, which have focused almost exclusively on women as victims of domestic violence. It recognises that there is
indeed an incidence of men suffering domestic violence. Men can be victims of domestic violence from either female
partners in heterosexual relationships or male partners in homosexual relationships.

Although not vast, the body of evidence available from such sources is sufficient to be able to draw a number interferences about intimate violence female-to-male. For instance:

  • There is much in common between intimate violence whether it is female-to-male or male-tofemale.
    The motives of perpetrators, be they male or female, are often ones of a need to control or to punish
    the victims.
  • Female perpetrators are most often smaller than their male victims, but often overcome lack of physical
    size or strength by attacking males using a variety of objects as offensive weapons or by using means of
    assault which do not depend upon strength for effect. Thus, men can be attacked when asleep or otherwise
    unsuspecting. Hence, contrary to popular misconception, such female assaults can often be premeditated and
    with a callous intent to harm or disregard for the victim’s wellbeing.
  • Male victims report experiencing a wide range of types of physical assault from female partners. The injuries
    sustained are mostly minor such as bruising, but serious injuries such as severe cuts, stabbings, burns and scalds
    and even broken bones are also reported in the worst cases. Aminority also report experience of violent sexual assaults.
    Many male victims report that they are strongly of the belief that it is wrong for a man to hit a woman and so refrain
    from retaliation despite provocation.
  • Often male victims also report high levels of emotional/psychological abuse from female perpetrators of intimate physical violence.
    Threats are often a part of this female perpetrated emotional/psychological abuse. Importantly, this includes threats to make false allegations
    against the male victim and, where the couple have children, to harm the relationship between the man and his children. Not infrequently, such
    threats and the abduction or alienation of children are indeed carried out by the mother.
  • Male victims are reluctant to report assaults or to seek help for a variety of reasons including a strong perception that agencies, such as the
    police, who they might approach will be unhelpful or prejudicial towards male victims. They also complain that the female perpetrators are able to
    manipulate and deceive such agencies and professional networks with ease as part of their strategy of abuse of the male victim.
  • Male victims of female perpetrated intimate violence experience prejudicial attitudes where there is involvement of any of the agencies that provide
    a service to domestic violence victims. Police forces and the operation of family law courts, especially in relation to matters about children, are
    particularly identified in this context, although no institution or agency is seen as completely equitable and unprejudiced. Most usually, male victims
    are offered no real help, protection or service from such agencies, and they frequently find that they suffer highly discriminatory responses and actions
    both by the police and in the family courts.

The unacceptable and prejudicial nature of action or inaction by police forces in relation to male victims has been validated in other research, where it has been noted that is evident even when male victims are more severely injured than female victims (Buzawa and Austin, 1993).

Section 2 – Comments relating to Consultation proposals:

The diverse research resources referred to above provide evidence of an established history of bias and prejudice against male victims of female perpetrated domestic violence extending into current policy and practice on domestic violence. It can be aptly demonstrated that the extent and depth of this bias and prejudice extends even into Safety and Justice, despite the brief references made to male victimisation.

It is revealing that the Consultation document quotes from Home Office Research Study 191 only the prevalence found for life-time victimisation (1 in 4 for females and 1 in 6 for males, giving a proportion of 40% of male victims), rather than that of the immediate past-year experience, for which Study 191 found an equal proportion of female and male
victims (4.2% for each sex). The fact that the Study found such numerical equality of reported victimisation of males and females in couple relationships in the shorter, and more relevant period, thus appears to have been deliberately omitted by the Consultation document. Further, all other statistics or sources quoted in the document relate to or focus on women as victims and men as assailants. No attempt is made to quote any other single reference in which discussion of male victims is presented. This results in a distorted and erroneous picture that domestic violence is “predominantly violence by men against women”.

There is thus no balance in the ‘picture’ of the issue presented by the Home Office in the document. A justifiable accusation can be made therefore against Safety and Justice, and the proposals in it, that male victims and their particular needs and plight receive almost no attention, and the brief mention of their existence is simply token.

The Consultation document contains no proposals to address the fact that a substantial proportion of male victim fathers report they have little or no contact with their children post-separation, despite court orders. Although advocating stronger measures to deal with the breach of other forms of court orders, the comparable issue of breach of court contact orders without good reason, now widespread, is ignored by the document, despite it being arguably also a form of both parental and child abuse, which greatly increases the prospect of post-separation parental conflict.

The seemingly gender neutral language used in the Consultation document actually hides, quite deceitfully, the underlying gender bias of the practice and application of policy really intended whereby female to male intimate violence is not only to be largely ignored, but tacit encouragement is given to the violent female to further abuse her male partner within the sanction of public policy. In effect, the publicly displayed prejudice against the male victim of the Skimmington of old is now being translated into contemporary practice within the opacity of the authorities, agencies and professions dealing with domestic violence.

The findings of this study confirm yet again the problems and prejudice facing male victims. The manner in which prejudice and discrimination operates means that in many cases not only is the man’s victimisation ignored, but fertile ground is given to a violent woman to make the unfounded allegations she has already often threatened to make as part of victimising her partner, and have these accepted. The situation then becomes one in which the agencies and authorities collude in the process of abuse of the male victim, allowing the abuse and violence directed against him to become more severe and distressing.

The attempts by abusive women to manipulate due process to their advantage to victimise male partners can be seen in many of the case histories reported in the studies previously cited.

HO Consultation Paper on Domestic Violence Submission by Dewar Research, August 2003 studies previously cited. In the case of the Dispatches survey summarised by a leading Home Office expert (Professor Kevin Browne), evidence was deduced that women who were abusing their male partners called out the police to the home far more frequently than women who genuinely were being victimised by male partners. Further, it was also found that these men were more likely to be arrested by attending police officers, and then more likely to be charged and end up in court, than in cases of genuine wife or female partner abuse.

A Summary of responses to this Consultation exercise was published by the Home Office on the 2 December 2003(1), coinciding with publication of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill.

The Consultation exercise attracted 407 responses. A list of 384 respondents, mainly organisations, is given in the Summary.

The responses appear not to have changed any of the main proposals contained in the Home Office Consultation Paper, which have now been taken forward in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill.

The main legislative measures proposed are:

  • Make common assault an arrestable offence.
  • Criminalise the breaches of non-molestation orders made under the Family Law Act 1996
    which will allow the police always to arrest for breach; and rationalise the availability of the
    orders, to harmonise the position of same-sex couples and extend protection to couples who
    have never cohabited or never been married.
  • Extend the availability of restraining orders under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997 to
    cover all offences.
  • Set out how and when reviews for domestic violence homicides should take place.
  • Extend restraining orders where a person is not convicted of a criminal charge but the court
    considers that it is necessary to make the order to protect the victim.

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