Beyond words: where is the male campaign for domestic violence shelters for men?
Leading men’s rights group, Parity, released new research asserting that 40% of victims of domestic violence in the UK are men, reports the Observer. You can read the findings yourself from Parity’s website here.
Most interesting to me about this research is how starkly Parity have chosen to pit themselves against the feminist movement’s anti-domestic violence arm, rather than taking the more obvious choice to align themselves alongside it, on the grounds that any spousal, partner or domestic abuse is wrong. This approach is mystifying to me and, unfortunately, has the effect of making me question both the organisation’s stated intentions of ‘campaigning for equal rights for UK men and women’ and question how much they really care about the male victims of domestic violence.
I know male victims of domestic abuse, just as I know female victims. I know a lot more female victims, as it goes. Although I know that there are different experiences of shame attached to domestic violence for men and women (Parity argue that it is harder for men to admit to experiencing domestic violence), it is important to note that regardless of the sex of the victim, there is always shame, and it is always difficult, and for some impossible, to talk about.
The experiences these men have endured echoes the experience of women survivors: the devastating impact on self esteem and confidence, feelings of complete isolation, profound emotional breakdown and often depression. The impact on these men’s self esteem can last for years and can devastate the prospects of relationships for years to come.
So why are Parity pitting male sufferers and survivors against their female counterparts? They point to the lack of equal treatment of survivors, and if you’re unsure about the difference in the number of shelters, the Observer has turned the statistics into a helpful – if somewhat patronising – visual aid for you.
But what’s missing from this discussion is the fact that domestic violence shelters were not magically cast out by the Home Office fairy in a fit of benevolent generosity. Domesitc violence shelters in the UK were hard fought for, and hard won over many, many years by, guess who? Yes, that’s right, women’s NGOs in the UK, many of whom, like Women’s Aid continue to lead in their provision. Domestic violence crisis shelters and support centres are still massively underfunded by the UK government, and the coalition government is unlikely to increase funding anytime in the foreseeable future, if their current record is anything to go by.
So where is Parity’s work in creating similar shelters for male victims? Where are the men’s groups, the male campaigners opening their own homes to male victims or fundraising solidly night and day on their behalf? Given how long it took the women’s movement to receive official government support on domestic violence, Parity might want to rethink their strategy of attacking them for having more shelters and learn to work alongside their more militant sisters. We clearly possess considerably more experience in ‘doing for themselves’ than it seems Parity do.
And before we get any comments addressing Parity’s fundamental dispute that domestic violence is gender neutral and should be treated as such, please don’t trouble yourself, you’re barking up the wrong website.
In case you’re new to WVON, I’m going to outline this in simple terms. Domestic violence is one part of the systemic and global practice of violence against women, which includes not only domestic violence, but FGM, sexual harassment and assault, rape (including the use of rape as a weapon in conflict zones), trafficking, and forced marriages – to name just a few. Violence against women is not gender neutral – just as male violence against males isn’t neutral. But if you want to make a case that female violence against men is as widespread and systemic as the reverse scenario, I’m dying to see your research.
Domestic violence against men happens, and it happens to women, too. Domestic violence is always wrong. Let’s start together and work from there.