Soapbox: gender is a central issue to consider in understanding domestic abuse

Written by Nick Smithers on 18 May 2015 in Comment

Nick Smithers, national development officer from Abused Men in Scotland, on recognising the gendered needs of male victims of domestic abuse

With the announcement of funding for the FearLess project, Big Lottery have shown commitment to providing services for minority victims of domestic abuse. The project, managed by Sacro, will provide support for BME men and women, LGBT victims and heterosexual men in 18 local authority areas.

The commitment of Big Lottery to funding services for men contrasts with resistance amongst public sector agencies in Scotland to provide targeted support for men who are suffering domestic abuse every day. An issue which falls squarely within the public sector equality duty struggles to be taken seriously by mainstream providers who interpret their task as being to provide services only for women and children.


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The harsh reality is that one in three domestic homicide victims in Scotland over the last 10 years have been men, the vast majority killed by female partners. Twenty per cent of recorded police incidents of domestic abuse have a male victim and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey suggests approximately one man suffers an incident of domestic abuse for every two women. 

Gender is a central issue to consider when understanding and intervening with domestic abuse. While parallels can often be observed in domestic abuse cases, ultimately gender shapes the individual’s experience. More women than men experience domestic abuse, therefore men constitute a minority. Services need to take this into account because, as a minority, male victims are currently marginalised from mainstream services.

The next step in evolution of services and gender awareness is for the government and local authorities to design and implement policies recognising that men need targeted services in the same way that other marginalised groups do. 

No service has ever been impoverished by recognising and addressing inequalities. Recognising the gendered needs of male victims of domestic abuse will improve delivery across the whole sector.

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