MALE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS SURVEY 2001 – Dewar Research MAIN FINDINGS – October 2004

Introduction:

In the autumn of 1998, the Dispatches programme carried out a detailed survey of the experiences of over one hundred male victims of domestic violence nation-wide, the largest qualitative survey specifically of male victims ever carried out in this country. A summary of the results of the survey, of the experiences of 100 such victims in the UK, was broadcast on Channel 4 on the 7 January 1999. However, the detailed results have never been published, although most are now available on the Dewar Research website. (See Footnote 1).

One smaller study of 20 male victims had been carried out previously in the Merseyside area in 1994/95 by Stitt and Macklin(1), and a preliminary study of 38 male victims was reported to the Home Affairs Select Committee in 1992(2). Otherwise, knowledge of the particular circumstances and difficulties of male victims has been researched within unpublished post-graduate research studies. (For references, see George, 2003(3) or Archer, 2000(4). See also Footnote 2).

Thus, whilst the occurrence of male victims in the UK has been established by gender-neutral nationally representative surveys both from academia (eg. Carrado et al, 1996(5)) and as part of the British Crime Surveys (eg. Home Office Research Study 191 published in January 1999(6)), there is a dearth of knowledge about the particular circumstances of male victims of domestic violence in this country.

The Dispatches survey showed that angry women can be as violent as angry men. One third of male victims were attacked whilst they were sleeping, and one third were kicked in the groin. The men were often deprived of sleep. Half stayed with their violent partners for more than five years. Among the reasons the men gave for staying was that they didn’t want to walk out on their children, some were frightened as they had nowhere else to go, and others still loved their partner and hoped her behaviour would change.

Overall, the picture that emerged was that much of the plight of male victims of domestic abuse by female partners was very similar to the plight of female victims of abuse by male partners.

However, some notable differences emerged. Many of the male victims were very critical of the police. Those who had contacted the police said that their complaints were not taken seriously and in some cases the male victims were themselves treated as the aggressor. One quarter of the men had themselves been arrested instead of the violent female partner. Many of the men had not discussed their partner’s violence towards them with anyone else as they feared they would be ridiculed.

The survey concluded that there is very little support for male victims of domestic violence nor sources of help for violent women who want to change their behaviour.

Dewar Research Survey 2001:

In 2001, as a follow-up to the Dispatches survey, Dewar Research, a private research initiative, in collaboration with Dr Malcolm George of London University, decided to carry out a further qualitative study of the domestic abuse of men in England and Wales, and Ireland, by female partners. The results are summarised in Part 1 of the Main Findings and are based on the responses of 100 male victims, 49 from England and Wales and 51 from Ireland.

The results generally corroborate the findings of the Dispatches survey and of Study 191. Male victims face particular difficulties, with almost no publicly funded support services specifically for them, and little public or official sympathy. Indeed, they often face antagonism by the police and social agencies, as evidenced by the significant proportions of male victims who are themselves arrested after seeking help.

A large proportion of father victims are forced to leave the family home, whilst their children remain with the violent mother, and subsequently face considerable difficulties in maintaining meaningful or any contact with the children. The cumulative effect of highlighting the plight only of women victims of domestic violence in public and official policies over the last three decades, whilst no doubt helping many genuine female victims, has also clearly served to ignore or marginalise the plight of genuine male victims and their children.

The Survey did not set out to debate the prevalence of male victims. This has already been well established by gender-neutral studies. This aspect will also be further covered in detail by the forthcoming report on Interpersonal Violence to be published by the Home Office sometime this year, based on a self-completion supplement to the 2001 British Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Supplementary Enquiries:

In order to provide some context for the Dewar Research Survey 2001, supplementary enquiries were made to a random sample of police forces in England and Wales requesting information on the prevalence of male victims reporting domestic violence to their forces and the attitudes and policies of the forces concerning male victims. Enquiries were also made to a range of other agencies.

A summary of the results of these enquiries is given in Part 2 of the Main Findings.

SUMMARY OF RESPONSES:

The Main Findings report on the experiences of 100 male victims of domestic violence in England and Wales and Ireland as revealed by the Dewar Research Survey 2001, and focus on the kinds of physical assault and threat suffered by male victims, typical injuries received, weapons used, the reasons given by male victims for not reporting violence against them, the responses of the police if they became involved, the responses of counsellors if they also became involved, and the subsequent relationship, if any, with their children.

Details of other aspects covered by the Survey, including fuller details of respondents and their partners, other types of abuse suffered, the male victim’s responses to the female partner’s abuse, and aspects concerning children involved, are available but not presented in this report.

With just a few exceptions, the men responding to the Survey were both taller and heavier than their violent or abusive female partners. The average age of English and Welsh victims reporting was 43.7 years and of Irish victims 43.4 years. The average ages of the female partner were 38.7 and 40.2 years respectively. The majority of men were either divorced or separated (55% of English and Welsh victims and 53% of Irish victims) at the time of reporting. Only 12% of English and Welsh victims were married compared to 39% of Irish victims.

10% of English and Welsh victims were cohabiting compared to just 2% Irish victims. These differences in marital status no doubt reflect the less liberal divorce laws applying in Ireland, a difference also reflected in the much longer average periods of assault suffered by Irish men. 88% of English and Welsh victims and 96% of Irish victims had children in the family.

CONCLUSIONS:

The experiences reported to the Dewar Research Survey 2001 suggest that genuine male victims of female violence in couple relationships suffer no less physical and emotional consequences than female victims in many instances. Over half had been threatened with a weapon and a significant proportion reported serious forms of injury. One third had been kicked or hit in the genitals, and others burnt or scalded, stabbed, or hit with heavy objects. Male victims are also less likely than female victims to report the violence or abuse against them, and when they do report, are often faced with what appears to be widespread prejudice or discrimination against them by the police, social agencies and courts.

About one fifth of male victims were themselves arrested. Little action was taken by the police against female assailants unless the man had a visible and significant injury.

Nearly half of male victims who reported abuse against them were subsequently excluded from the family home, and a significant proportion lost meaningful or any contact with their children, who usually remained with the violent mother. Father victims who report abuse against them by the mother are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of parental separation and the continuing hostility and obstruction of the mother. Only a small proportion of father victims subsequently had regular unimpeded contact with their children. Over three quarters of the 203 children involved witnessed the violence by the mother against the father.

Zero tolerance and pro-arrest policies appear to be directed mainly at men and currently offer little protection to genuine male victims and their children. The responses to the Survey suggest that in a substantial number of emergency attendances, the police did not act either impartially or fairly. A male victim appears to be over twice as likely as a female assailant of being arrested when the police respond to an emergency call. There appears to be a marked reluctance on the part of the police to arrest a violent female partner in a domestic incident. Few violent female partners were arrested, fewer still charged, and fewer still ever convicted.

About half of male victims sought counselling for their partner’s aggressive behaviour. The responses suggest that counselling did help some couples but that some counsellors are still reluctant to accept that women can be violent or abusive in couple relationships.

Bias against male victims appears to extend to the courts. Male victims had limited success in obtaining non molestation and exclusion orders against violent female

partners. None of the male victims responding to the Dewar Research Survey 2001 who had applied for an exclusion order had been granted one, compared to a high success rate by female partners against them. Overall, the responses from the 100 male victims suggest that, in many cases, male victims are being marginalised by current attitudes and policies in the public domain relating to domestic violence, being reduced, in effect, to the status of second-class citizens.

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