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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.

  1. Dear Sarah

    I utterly , completely and totally applaud your comments. Interestingly, Women’s Aid services across the country are supporting men where and when they can – safely. Unfortunately, with funding cuts looming, the sector (as you likely knnow) is campaigning hard to retain the funding it already has to provide the specialist shelters that exist.

  2. There are plenty of men’s groups trying to get funding for shelters and services for male victims. The problem is that feminists oppose and fight EVERY attempt to do that. This is also the reason why Parity does not align itself with any feminist groups. Feminists do not support any efforts to help male victims and will refute any statistics showing a high rate of domestic violence against men. Why would Parity align itself with people who are hostile to their goals and deny or play politics with domestic violence against men?

    As for arguing that Parity should create men’s shelters themselves, that is a red herring. The issue is the deliberately false information feminist organizations present to the public to intentionally minimize and deny the existence of male victims of domestic violence. If feminists are actually concerned about male victims, then they should support Parity in its attempt to correct the misinformation feminists have put out. If feminists wish to convince male survivors feminists support them, it would be best to do away with patronizing remarks like “domestic violence is one part of the systemic and global practice of violence against women.” Those kinds of comments imply that feminists not only are not potential allies of male victims, but also that feminists find violence against men acceptable, excusable, or negligible.

  3. I was glad to see this article and to hear the qwuestions it raises- they need to be asked, and if they get people to think about where direction should be and where the gaps are even better in terms of helping ALL victims (or as I prefer to call them ‘survivours’ ) of DV

    Toysoldier. You say womens groups ‘block’ efforts by groups trying to get dv shelters for men, but only today I saw the researched figures released for DV stats int he UK, and it included those for men. I see womens.
    “If feminists wish to convince male survivors feminists support them, it would be best to do away with patronizing remarks like “domestic violence is one part of the systemic and global practice of violence against women.” Those kinds of comments imply that feminists not only are not potential allies of male victims, but also that feminists find violence against men acceptable, excusable, or negligible.”
    So are you then trying to claim that those things stated int he article do not go on and are not directed specifically towards women (and sometimes male children)? I do not see what is patronising about that- it’s a reality int he world that needs to be fought against. I can’t see how a victim of dv male or female would see it as patronising or offensive, nor do i see how it implies abuse of men is ‘acceptable’. Whatever you’re hang ups, you need to drop them if you want to contribute constructively to the issues at hand really.

  4. Toysoldier, your comment is ridiculous and illogical; you seem highly determined not to engage with the actual article.

    Either contribute something practical and constructive about how to help and support victims of domestic abuse or at least prove how unspecified feminists are blocking the provision of services for men experiencing domestic abuse.

    Pointing out the systemic nature of violence against women isn’t “patronizing” (to say it is makes absolutely no sense by the way) it is pointing out something that is easily observable by any one with even half an eye on what’s going on in the world and that is deeply troubling. It is not some kind of point-scoring to say that women have it worse than men, it’s to say that scale of injustice and harm being done in multiple ways to women is awful and we want it to STOP. And that stopping it and helping women escape and recover from it is a mammoth task. As the article points out, today’s service provision would not exist without grassroots efforts to set up refuges and so on, nor without feminist work to get domestic abuse even seen as a problem.

    The article’s point is a good one: advocacy for domestic violence victims Is motivated by empathy for them and concern about the harm done to them. The harm done to to women has been brought to public attention by hard campaigning work – violence against women is a huge problem. The attention paid to women’s experiences is necessary and important. Work done to bring to light the experiences of male victims,( or of the particular experiences and needs of other inadequately-
    served subsets of domestic abuse victims such as men & women in same sex relationships or who are transgender), and to advocate for better support for them and to research how to most effectively help them does not need to detract from nor resent or denigrate the work done in support of female victims. It is not a zero-sum thing. Parity could be doing that work but instead it seems to want to play a numbers game. Toysoldier, I don’t know if you are involved with Parity but your comment is not helping me regard them as acting in good faith.

  5. I live in Australia. I was terribly abused by my ex wife. I rang the governments abuse hotline and was told by a woman that she didn’t believe I was abused by my wife because only men abuse women.

    When I sought help through the local community center… I shared how I was kicked, spat on, bitten, punched, threatened with a knife, threatened to be poisoned… verbally abused, had money withheld… etc the local community center wanted me to go and do a Anger Management course because basically my wifes actions were my fault.

    Btw I am suffer a disability and was disabled when this was going on… The police came to our home because of an escalation of violence against me..I was bitten on the wrist to the bone. …I was advised to move out and had to live in the back of my car for 6 weeks because no organisation would help me…..

  6. Thanks LB for your comments. There’s been an interesting debate over at my Facebook page actually, where a domestic violence worker (supporting women and men – she’s also a feminist, for the record) pointed out that male and female victims often need very different types of support, for example, men are less likely to request crisis accommodation, but more likely to request ongoing or one off support services. It’s an area I hadn’t looked at, and it’s good to hear that Women’s Aid has been involved in that, and I hope they can continue through the current funding challenges.

    Toysoldier, thanks for your comments, I really appreciate hearing a different point of view. I haven’t found any evidence about feminists fighting attempts for male victims to have support services. Womens Aid signpost men to dedicated services run by men for men, as does, as does Refuge.

    Where I think the issue becomes one that we will never agree on is the fact that women’s organisations working against domestic violence tend to view domestic violence – as I outline in the article and as you take issue with – as part of a systemic and global practice of violence against women. If you don’t believe that to be true, then trust me, we’re never going to agree, but that’s ok, the world is more interesting with diversity of opinion and thought in it!

    Personally, as I say in the article, I really don’t see why it has to be an either/or scenario on this issue. To be clear, I find domestic violence as abhorrent an experience for male survivors as I do for women and I simply see no evidence for, nor do I believe that, feminists placing domestic violence on a spectrum of violence against women negates the fact that men experience domestic violence too(and many other forms of, very gender specific violence – the streets are a more dangerous place for men at night than for women, for example). I also don’t see how taking this view prevents men’s organisations from accessing funding, and I’d be interested to hear more about your thoughts on that.

    Thanks again both for the comments.

  7. Wow! What a great response, somehow my comment is on here last, but when I posted it, only LB and Toysoldier had commented, I promise!

    I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t been added already, but thanks Londoner and Maria S for your comments.

    Thanks also Craig, for your honesty in sharing your story with us. I’ve heard similar stories from male survivors of domestic abuse. Given that there are still – after so many years of campaigning – so many women whose complaints are not taken seriously, I am sadly unsurprised to hear of your experiences. Many men report not being believed or not being taken seriously when they try to report abuse or to seek help and that’s unacceptable. As I mentioned in my comments to Toysoldier, where I part company with critics is when people hold that the fact that men have problems accessing support or funding for support that this is somehow the fault of feminism.

    I think I’ve outlined my reasons on that fairly clearly, so I won’t say anymore on that. But thanks so much for sharing your story with us, it’s really important I think that people hear about the experiences of all domestic violence survivors – it’s so valuable to anyone still suffering in silence.

    Again, thanks all for your comments, and please keep them coming!

  8. Toysoldier says:

    Sarah, this topic has been covered several times in UK and international news over the last ten years. There are several organizations in the UK, Australia, and the United States that frequently cover this issue, and a quick google search lists several articles about this. Being such, I am inclined to ask where you looked for evidence of feminists opposing efforts to help male victims. If you sought out feminist sources then you would obviously not find evidence of bias in the same way that if you asked prison officials about prison rape you would find no evidence of it.

    Parity does not present this as a zero sum scenario. All the organization wants is for male victims to receive the same acknowledgement, treatment, and access to services that females receive. There is no logical reason for anyone, let alone feminists, to object to this. As for how feminist bias against male victims prevents men’s organizations from accessing funding, there was a recent example in Scotland in which Labour party members held up a policy extending services to male victims unless the policy included language stating that domestic violence results from men’s desire to oppress women and that men are not actually victims. There was similar opposition to a push in California to extend domestic violence services to male victims.

  9. Thanks Sarah.

    Two of the areas of abuse you have failed to address is women abusing women. Women abusing children.

    Across western nations we are seeing an increasing rise of women harming other women through fights, weapons, etc. Young girls going out on the town, high on drugs, drunk etc… fighting each other. There is ample evidence to show that the level of abuse is higher within same sex relationships then what is shown within heterosexual relationships.

    Research is showing that 70% of parental homicide of children is by the mother… and not the father. There is also increasingly reported incidences of females raping children… mothers raping their sons etc… A good friend of mine is an example where his mother raped him repeatedly between the ages of 9 – 13….

    While I note that you mention rape in war… this is a terrible issue… there has been much ample evidence that shows in some nations / conflicts the women are just as brutal as men are… in the Eithiopian conflicts if western soldiers were captured by Bedouin women they would be skinned alive by the women.
    In some African and Asian conflicts it has been known for the women to cut off and collect the genitalia from captured enemy.

  10. Once again, Craig and Toysoldier, thanks for the comments.

    I don’t see the feminist movement as either: one homogenous movement, nor one that has much interest in misrepresenting men. The evidence for the position I’ve put forth on male violence against women is beyond abundant, in my view. I’ve never disputed that male victims of female domestic violence exist but I do hold the position that it is not comparable within a spectrum of violence against women.

    To be clear, again, my position is based on this: women and men can be violent – no one with eyes and a brain would dispute that. But systematic, global violence by one sex against the other, happens only one way round – by men against women. Systematic. Global.

    I know that we are not going to agree on this one. Probably ever. But I do appreciate your taking the time to express your views here on WVoN. Thanks again.

  11. Sarah, I am curious as to how you define systematic? And how you define it without ending up labeling those 40% male victims as second-rate victims or even non-victims?

    You say that you wonder why 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.”. But at the same time you’re clearly stating that DV against men are NOT the same as DV against women. One is systematic and global, the other is not. And that male victims of female domestic violence is not comparable within a spectrum of violence against women. Here you imply that male victims count less than female victims.

    You express sympathy with male victims and acknowledge their existence, but at the same time you manage to sound like they count less than female victims. So to me it seems like Parity is saying that “any spousal, partner or domestic abuse is wrong” and points out a discrepancy in help available for male victims while you seem to be saying that any spousal, partner or domestic abuse is wrong, but male against female domestic abuse is worse and that men should bloody well help themselves.

    I see it’s not easy to reconcile those two views.

  12. Tamen: “One is systematic and global, the other is not.” does NOT imply “that male victims count less than female victims”. that is simply NOT a logical implication.

    that violence against women is systematic and global is a fact. that men are abused is a fact. men are not systematically and globally victims of gender-based violence. in fact, the tend to be the perpetrators of violence against women globally. this does not mean that male victims matter less, and sarah has certainly not implied that they matter less by stating that women are systematically and globally victims of DV. all victims of abuse should be supported. as sarah has said.

    in order to gain services, what womens groups have tended to do is to provide stuff for very little, begging, and borrowing, doing stuff for free, and buying stuff out of their own pockets until they can get together evidence of what they are doing, why it is beneficial, and then trying to gain funding. i know it shouldn’t have to be done this way, but there you have it. it’s the story of many women’s lives anyway, this working for free malarky. sometimes you’ve just gota get on with it, because the systems are not fair, and life is hard. if men’s groups need advice, they could certainly ask womens groups and listen to the years of expertise. as sarah has said.

    sorry, high horsed it there, but that’s just my experience.

  13. Sarah Cheverton says:

    Thanks for your comments, Tamen and Eve.

    Tamen, it might be worth reading the article again and the comments that followed it, as I’ve made clear throughout that I am not dismissing the experience of male domestic violence sufferers. Other than that, there’s nothing I need to add that Eve hasn’t addressed in her comment, or that I haven’t addressed in the article, or in the comments that followed it.

    Eve, thanks so much for your comments; you’ve captured my sentiments perfectly and completely understood what I was trying to say in the original article and the comments that have followed it. Cheers!

    Thanks again for your comments everyone, keep em coming!

  14. Eve: What exactly is gender based violence then? It must be something else than the fact that the abuser and the victim have different gender as you say that men are not victims of gender based violence. And what else than prevalence makes you say that this gender based violence against women is systematic? I am wondering since the number presented by Parity show no big difference in prevalence of DV victims based on gender (40 vs 60%). I really am curious your answer to this and I would appreciate if you or Sarah would take the effort to answer it.

  15. Douglas Quaid says:

    Feminists openly state that acknowledging that there are so many male vicitms out there would harm their funding. They regard male victims as competition.

    Male dv charities have tried to work with the feminists and basically been told where to go 95% of the time. In the occasional isolated case where a women’s aid branch agrees to help men they then get kicked out of the National Women’s Aid Federation due to very strict sexist rules written into the constitution which mean you aren’t allowed to help men to any significant extent.

    The question you should be asking is why did feminists hijack the issue of domestic violence back in the 1970s for political purposes. The first shelters didn’t have a hateful outlook at all and were founded by men and women working together, not by women alone and they were so ahead of their time that they were even attempting to start up shelters for males vicitms right back then. it wasn’t until later that men (and those genuinely concerned with equality) were forced out of the shelter movement.

  16. Just came across this whilst looking for some links on the issue of support groups for men experiencing domestic violence.

    This is because suddenly out of the blue two right wing newspapers have had stories about how Judges have been given directions to be more lenient on women convicted of crimes. When you look at the source of this information not only is it quite old, so why is it being raised only now, but also that it seems to be linked to campaigning by Parity.

    I would suggest having looked at their website that you will find this anti feminist mis-information about women “hijacking the issue” is more than likely to be because Erin Pizzey is on the board of the organisation and has been relentlessly bad mouthing feminists every since she was expelled from the Women’s Liberation Workshop after informing the police about confidnetial discussions.

    Since then she has relentlessly used her useful to the media lonely heroine image to complain about feminists.

    More interestingly she has tried to re-write not only women’s history but her own by claiming that she set up the first women’s refuge in London (not true the first refuge was set up by Black Women’s Groups in Brixton) but also that Chiswick Women’s Refuge (as it then was) was open to men. Not forgetting of course that Refuge (formerly Chiswick Women’s Refuge) got rid of her.

    It is firghtening how one woman’s relentless campaign against feminist because of a perceived wrong has had such a malign impact on so many others.

    Silly arguments about feminists blocking men from setting up parallel services are because they choose not to understand that feminist refuges are set up on the principle of a shared or common experience of violence against women. If men choose not to do that for themselves it is hardly women’s fault.

    As to women’s refuges that choose (or are forced by local authority funders saying their grant will be withdrwan unless they do – a deliberate misunderstanding of the Gender Duty) to provide services to men being expelled from Women’s Aid Federation, that is no different than if you have a campaign group around say cervical cancer saying that if you want to campaign around the needs of all cancer sufferers than you cant be part of a campaign about a specific one.

    As has been remarked, it is fairly depressing to know that so much effort is being put into negative campaigning rather than positive campaigning about the need for more funding for survivors of domestic violence and the right of those survivors to have appropriate support services.

    Many autonomous women’s refuges have been swallowed up by Housing Associations who now operate as big bussinesses for no other reason than historically DV funding in the UK was linked to housing need (a wy of massaging the crime statistics on violence). The struggle for feminists to keep a space that is by and for women is being attacked on two sides, one by funders looking to save money and on the other by male antagonists who will go out of their way to undermine any small victory that women have.

    I would suggest a third arm to this whittling away of autonomous women’s groups and that is Third Wave Feminism that is so busy saying we aren’t like the 2nd Wave (ie old and angry) that not enough women’s activists are coming forward to maintain the momentum started by Women’s Liberation in 70s. Instead we know on unconnected invward looking self identifying groups, focusing on making public statements to the (male) media, we aren’t old fashioned feminists. Please like us!

  17. oops!

    Just realised that in a bout of hyeractive hyperlink jumping I have confused the campaign group Parity with the support group Mankind, and it is the latter that Erin Pizzey is a Patron of.

    So although I stand by the points I was trying to make, I need to withdraw the assertion that the activities of Parity are linked to Erin Pizzey. A recent debate on this issue in the Guardian was totally hijacked by individuals promoting Erin Pizzey as the only true voice on domestic violence so there is no doubt she is influential.

    It is no different than the influence that Murdoch is able to excert to continue his anti TU tirades because of some past perceived wrong done against his father. In the end it does come down to those who by into these biased representations that allow the Murdochs and the Pizzeys of this world to have a dispropotionate power in relation to their actual importance.

    To turn it on its head, why is their no influential feminist voice that the media willingly turns to?

  18. Presenting this “parity in domestic violence” thing as an established fact, like Parity does is just false.

    Some sources that criticise all of this stuff:

    “Equality with a Vengeance: Men’s Rights Groups, Battered Women, and Antifeminist Backlash” by Molly Dragiewicz reviews this issue in detail.

    The type of argument given above is all based on selectively quoting one narrow part of the lit on the subject. This stuff has been thoroughly refuted. At the very least, the very very least, it is undeniable that it’s controversial. But Men’s Rights organisations usually completely ignore this. Parity still have the shameless audacity to present this as a closed case that has overwhelming research support on their website, and they are not the only ones.

    Basically the antifeminist movement has been pedalling this stuff, and getting repeatedly refuted, and acting like that never happened, since the beginning of women organising around battery and abuse. Readers probably have experience of similar cases of misrepresentation of facts for political purposes, so I won’t go on.

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