Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by PARITY

  1.  PARITY is a voluntary non-party-political charity concerned with the equal rights and treatment of men and women. It was originally established in 1996. It has had several successes in the European Courts challenging statutory sex discrimination against men in the UK.

  2.  Summary of main points in submission

    1.  PARITY is concerned that there is still widespread sex inequality in the attitudes towards and the support services offered to male victims of domestic violence in this country

    2.  A succession of reputable official surveys in the past decade have consistently shown a substantial level of female violence against male partners in intimate relationships, and a corresponding substantial level of male victims

    3.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the police and other agencies involved are often not even-handed in dealing with cases where there are male victims

    4.  PARITY believes that `zero-tolerance' policies exacerbate the plight of male victims

    5.  The lack of publicly funded treatment programmes for violent women suggests that female violence is still not taken seriously

    6.  Abused fathers and their children are particularly ill-served by the present inequality

    7.  The Government must publicly recognise the existence and plight of male victims and initiate the measures and funding necessary to promote an equitable support service for both male and female victims.

  3.  Our concern extends to all victims of domestic conflict. However, it is increasingly clear that the existence and plight of male victims of domestic abuse by intimate partners are still not being taken seriously by Government, or, indeed, the police and other agencies. The result is that they are largely ignored in public policy and funding and thereby marginalised in the support services provided for victims. This submission reflects the concern of PARITY at this widespread sex inequality.

  4.  There is now a considerable body of evidence, in particular by a succession of detailed Home Office surveys in the past decade of interpersonal violence in England and Wales, to demonstrate the existence of a substantial level of female violence against male partners, including severe and/or repeated physical assault. Despite this, support services specifically for male victims are largely absent or inadequate, and few women are actually charged or prosecuted for domestic violence against a male partner

  5.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the police and other agencies dealing with the problem of domestic conflict are often not even-handed in their responses to male victims—by not responding promptly (or by not responding at all) to their calls for help, disbelieving their claims when they do respond, and in a significant number of cases (the police) arresting the male victim instead of the female perpetrator.

  6.  We believe that so-called "zero-tolerance" policies have exacerbated the situation for male victims—since for them officers are instructed to take overt action in any incident, or explain later why they have not done so. In many incidents, this translates into arresting or removing the man involved, even though the woman is the principle culprit. Such policies are ill-tailored to deal with situations where both partners are violent to each other, particularly if there are children to be considered. Academic studies suggest that mutual violence is the most common form in the majority of violent households. These studies also suggest, by the admission of women themselves, that self-defence is not the prime reason for female violence in intimate relationships, as is often claimed.

  7.  There are also virtually no publicly funded treatment programmes available for violent women, in contrast to the numbers available for male perpetrators. This suggests that violence by females is still not taken seriously, even though it can result in homicide or serious injury to others, or trauma for their children.

  8.  Male victims with children are particularly ill-served, often being removed from the family home if they report the abuse against them, usually with subsequent problems of maintaining child contact. Courts do not usually help in this respect, granting ex-parte orders more readily to women than to men, even when it is the man who the victim.

  9.  PARITY believes that it is time for the Government publicly to recognise the need to support and protect equally male victims of intimate violence as well as female, and to provide effective measures and funding to achieve this. These must include initiatives at all levels to ensure equitable treatment of both male and female victims, including by the police and other agencies (both statutory and non-statutory), and by the criminal justice system. The implementation this year of the Equality Act 2006 and the new Gender Equality Duty reinforces the urgency of such necessary measures.

5 September 2007

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