Domestic Abuse Bill

Written evidence submitted by Ian McNicholl (DAB61)

A Person Centred approach and response to supporting ALL victims – including male and LGBTQ+ victims of domestic abuse

(1) Introduction about Ian McNicholl:

1.1 In just fourteen months, I migrated from been a picture of health, a home owner, a successful businessman and been financially comfortable to become permanently scarred, registered disabled, homeless, a Benefit Claimant and on the verge of Bankruptcy. Following criminal proceedings, my Female Perpetrator, Michelle, received a custodial sentence of Seven Years for Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent. I remained in Salvation Army Hostel accommodation for a period of eighteen months.

1.2. In 2018 I was a member of the Thematic Group that met with officials from the Home Office and Ministry of Justice to ensure the voice of Male Victims are heard as part of the Government Consultation "Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse."

1.3 This submission sets out the areas I support, areas for change and related issues that can affect male victims and their children.

1.6 The areas of support include:

1. I support a Statutory Definition of Domestic Abuse being gender neutral to ensure equality of the law for all victims/perpetrators of domestic abuse.

2. I agree that Economic Abuse should be included in the statutory definition of domestic abuse.

1.7 The areas for change include:

3. I believe the Government should be defining domestic abuse as a crime against the person and no longer define it as a "gendered crime" which is a definition that marginalises male and LGBTQ+ victims and downplays their lived experiences.

4. Reference to the "Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme": "Clare’s Law" to be removed as this does not result in males asking questions about their partners or males looking out for the females in their lives.

5 There must be an inclusive and equal approach in the Statutory Guidance that assesses people on the basis of their level of "Risk" and "Need" to ensure a consistency of approach and response not one that delivers unconscious bias based upon "interpretation" of the welcome "Ending Violence Against Women and Girls" guidance.

1.8 Additional policy areas that the Government and Parliament should consider as part of a "whole system" review:

6. The implementation of an "Ending Intimate Violence Against Men and Boys" Strategy in tandem with the most welcome "Ending Violence Against Women and Girls" strategy.

7. The creation of a National Statement of Expectations on domestic abuse for men and boys alongside the current National Statement of Expectations for on women and girls.

8. The creation of a national network of Refuges and Safe Houses for males and LGBTQ+ victims including the "policing" of compliance to ensure that Local Authorities provide dedicates safe spaces for male victims (and their children).

9. The creation of proactive National/Local Awareness targeted Campaigns for male and LGBT+ victims. This must include the policing of media coverage that misinforms and therefore misdirects society’s awareness and understanding of Domestic Abuse resulting in "Diluted Curiosity" within our Neighbourhoods and Communities.

10. Include Survivor input when training to the Police, Local Councils, the Health Sector and Justice System to raise awareness on how to enhance support male victims of domestic abuse.

11. Review and reform the legal definition of rape to include male and LGBTQ+ victims who are raped by women.

(2) Proposals that are supported

2.1 I support the principles of the Domestic Abuse Bill and in particular the areas below:

The gender neutral statutory definition

Placing the definition of domestic abuse on a statutory footing

The proposed inclusion of Economic Abuse in the new legal definition of domestic abuse

The commitment and funding to support male victims of domestic abuse

Policy 1: Statutory Definition of Domestic Abuse – Gender Neutral:

2.2. I fully support the Government in ensuring that the statutory definition of domestic abuse is fully gender inclusive/neutral by embracing acknowledgement with both the reality of the prevalence of domestic abuse in the United Kingdom whilst delivering an inclusive person centred response. This will deliver compliance with Equality legislation as opposed to the existing tiered system based on interpretation of a "gendered response" which in turn, compromises understanding and dilutes awareness.

2.3. This will respond to the individual’s level of risk and need and ensure that this remains the overriding factor(s) and deliver the support for domestic abuse victims.

2.4. If one gender only was placed in the name, definition or by example of a Bill/Act, it would lead to:

The disregard and downplaying of my lived experience(s) as a male victim of these crimes,

Additional barriers impact on reporting rates for male and LGBTQ+ victims. This impacts on service provision and funding as transparency is compromised due to both the perception of "Prevalence" "Risk" and "Need" been compromised.

2.5 Include in any statutory definition anything other than a person focused/gender inclusive/neutral definition will enhance the level of risk of a breach of the Equalities Act 2010

2.6 The Government has made progress in the collective need to recognise male and LGBTQ+ victims of domestic abuse and the specific barriers they face, including their lack of recognition. This includes the Male Victims Position Statement issued in March 2019. To subsequently introduce one particular gender into the name, definition or by example of this Bill would revoke this statement.

Policy 2: Inclusion of Economic Abuse in the statutory definition:

2.7. I agree with the expansion of the definition to include economic abuse in the legislation. Economic abuse is part of the ‘poisonous cocktail’ of domestic abuse crimes that affected me and it remains one that has previously been overlooked and omitted from any Impact Assessment.

2.8 It is important to ensure that all statutory guidance, training and communications are person centred as economic abuse affects male victims as well as female victims.

3. Areas for Change: Domestic Abuse Bill:

Policy 3: Defining domestic abuse as a crime against an individual and not a gendered crime:

3.1. Whilst I agree with the Statutory Guidance in principle and the need for an inclusive approach, My concerns are based upon my lived experiences of more than a decade ago and I continue to observe an overarching Government policy architecture and framework narrative of this statement which features in its response to its consultation: "The government has always recognised domestic abuse as a gendered crime" and " I am in no doubt whatsoever that this compromised the response that I received from the professional organisations I came into contact with resulting in a higher (entirely avoidable) level of impact and trauma.

3.2. I believe that domestic abuse is not a gendered crime. That is an ideological position and one that is not based on equality, inclusivity or diversity. Both women and men including those in same–sex relationships are both victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse. The effect of recognising Domestic Abuse as a gendered crime is that it delivers priority tiers for victims based on their gender

3.3 My view is that domestic abuse is a crime against a person and should be defined as such. I welcome and support a gender inclusive and gender responsive approach to supporting people that recognise their gender and any individual needs within their personal scope of support.

3.4 No other crime in the UK is viewed as a gendered crime.

Policy 7: Domestic Abuse Commissioner – improvements in accountability and transparency;

3.6 I believe that the role of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner is absolutely critical. However, compliance with statutory legislation is crucial as is the appetite to address breaches and that the views of the whole domestic abuse sector (including Domestic Abuse Survivors) are taken into account.

3.7 Transparency and accountability on how the commissioner’s strategy and plans are created. There needs to be an element of public consultation else there is a risk that the full expertise of the domestic abuse sector is not engaged.

Policy 8: Ensuring an inclusive and equal approach in the Statutory Guidance

3.8 In the previous iteration of the Domestic Abuse Bill, it was proposed that the following statement was hard coded into the Act with regard to statutory guidance. "Any guidance issued under this section must, so far as relevant, take account of the fact that the majority of victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales are female"

3.9 It is not disputed that there are more female victims and of course, it would be expected that the Office for National Statistics figures would be included in any guidance. However, to hardcode this into primary legislation would mean the narrative would not take into account male or LGBTQ+ victims as been equal.

3.10 This is especially the case as the use of the phrase "overwhelming majority" as on 1st October 2019 Ede Humpherson, Director General, UK Statistics Authority stated in his correspondence to the Men and Boys Collation that "the phrase overwhelming majority is a subjective statement. However, it may imply that a larger proportion of victims are female than the statistics show." The continued use of this phraseology relegates male and LGBTQ+ victims. This will have the same effect and impact on these victims as the Government’s view that domestic abuse is a gendered crime.

3.11 It is clear that any professionals would apply the guidance in an inclusive way that took into account the gender of a victim, but to include this clause, reinforces gender stereotypes that men are not victims or that the impact upon female victims is always greater.

3.12 The only way that this could be acceptable is that if a clause in the legislation included: "This has to be achieved without excluding the recognition of men, boys, transgender and non-binary people who are victims of domestic abuse".

(4) Additional Policy Measures:

4.1 There are a range of additional policy measures that cascade from the Domestic Abuse Bill; however, they should be introduced as part of a "whole system" response of domestic abuse and one that supports male victims. Indeed in February 2018 the Chorley and South Ribble Community Safety Partnership "Domestic Homicide Review in the case of David" states:

· David was a male victim of domestic violence and homicide during a time when specialist support services for men were and proportionately still are fewer than services for women.

· This review has identified that more could be done to raise awareness of the need for services for male victims. It would certainly be beneficial to increase public awareness of domestic abuse against men, and this awareness and education (for the public and for victims) should be coupled with the development of a "whole system" response.

· Appropriate services should therefore be tailored to the needs of individuals, rather than generic ‘domestic abuse’ services.

Policy 9: The introduction of an "Ending Intimate Violence Against Men and Boys" Strategy:

4.2. I was extremely pleased to observe that the Government issued a Male Victims statement in March 2019 which recognised its commitment to supporting male victims of domestic abuse and a range of other related crimes such as sexual abuse/violence and forced marriage.

4.3. However, whilst I agree with the principle of the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, I cannot agree with that it also continues to encompass male victims of VAWG crimes – including domestic abuse, This throws a veil of male victims as it clearly fails to define and classify male victims of these crimes by absorbing each and every male victim as victims of Violence Against Women and Girls crimes.

4.4. I have long campaigned for male victims to acknowledged and prioritised on the basis of their individual level of risk and need and for the government to take an inclusive, person centred approach which means implementing a parallel "Ending Intimate Violence Against Men and Boys Strategy

4.5. The introduction of a parallel strategy and separate classification and categorisation would provide a pathway towards resolving many of my concerns which have such a negative impact on the wellbeing of vulnerable men and boys in our society. This includes a lack of service provision, societal recognition and an improved response from statutory authorities.

4.6. An example of how the existing interpretations of the policy works in practice is the fact that those men who came forward in 2016 and 2017 to say they were victims of sexual assault as young footballers are classified and codified by the Government as victims of VAWG crimes. Whenever this is stated in public including through training professionals in the statutory sector (police, local authority and health) – it is met with disbelief, astonishment, incredulity and a call for "change" and the Domestic Abuse Bill is a perfect opportunity to deliver.

Policy 10: Introducing a National Statement of Expectations for men and boys:

4.7 In 2016, the Government issued a policy document aimed at local areas in England entitled: "Violence against women and girls: national statement of expectations". These listed actions local areas should take to ensure victims of violence against women and girls get the support they need.

4.8 This of course is a welcome document. However, it is not inclusive of men and boys with regard to the intimate violence crimes that are covered by the National Expectations. It is vital that there is a parallel set of National Expectations covering men and boys who are victims of these crimes.

Policy 11: Ensuring a gender-inclusive narrative and training for statutory services and in Relationships and Sex Education:

4.9. The Government can continue to do more to change the societal narrative, culture and conversation on domestic abuse – to make clear that it is a crime that happens to everyone and anyone (including men and LGBTQ+ victims) as abuse has no prejudice.

4.10 I remain concerned about the responses from too many professionals in the health sector, social services and housing who do not recognise or respond to male victims of domestic abuse as well as they should.

4.11 It is also vital that guidance on relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools is inclusive ensuring equal recognition and focus is given to male and LGBTQ+ victims as well as heterosexual female victims. This is in keeping with our inclusive, modern and diverse society.

Policy 12: Creating a national network of refuges and safe houses for male victims (and their children):

4.12 It remains a problem and a matter of concern that there are limited refuges and safe houses available for male victims of domestic abuse and their children. Lessons do not appear to have been learned from my own lived experiences despite the passage of time of more than a decade.

4.13 I believe that there must be a national network of refuges and safe houses across the UK to ensure male victims (and their children) have safe spaces to which they can escape.

4.14 The Government has said in the past month that in new statutory guidance will "strongly encourage councils to prioritise domestic abuse survivors who are ready to move on from refuges when allocating social housing, to free up valuable refuge spaces for others who may need them". This must also apply to male victims.

Policy 13: Increase appropriate and inclusive service provision for male victims of domestic abuse:

4.15 Due to commissioning strategies especially at a local government level, service provision for male victims are often "we also" therefore appearing as an afterthought to existing services for female victims. It is vital that when domestic abuse services are commissioned, they are inclusive and it is imperative that commissioners consider that services for male victims should be targeted at them rather than form part of a generic service.

Policy 14: Creating proactive national and local awareness campaigns targeted at male and LGBTQ+ victims:

4.16 I remain of the view that the Government and other statutory agencies can play a key role in changing gender stereotypes with regard to domestic abuse so society and professional recognise male and LGBTQ+ victims – this can result in more male and LGBTQ+ victims reporting.

4.17 It is important therefore that the Government should create two national awareness campaigns aimed at 1. males and 2. LGBTQ+ victims and that statutory agencies and regional elected mayors adopt this strategy.

4.18 Alongside this, it is vital that all places such as GP surgeries, police stations and the courts have literature that focuses on male and LGBTQ+ victims.

Policy 15: Improving training to better support male victims of domestic abuse:

4.19 One key area of concern is the lack of specialist training that organisations and frontline staff have with regard to recognising and supporting male victims. This is of particular concern in the health service (especially GP’s and A&E are been trained by IRIS who adopt the "gendered approach"). I believe that all key front-line staff that may come into contact with a male victim receives specific training on how to support male victims. This is one of the clear lessons learned from the Chorley and South Ribble Community Safety Partnership Homicide Review.

Policy 16: Improving support for female perpetrators of domestic abuse:

4.20 There rightly has been investment to support male perpetrators and how to change their behaviour. This support is lacking for female perpetrators and there is now a need for investment in this field. For example, CAFCASS domestic violence services are only for male perpetrators, and not for females.

Policy 17: Review and reform the legal definition of rape to include male victims who are raped by women:

4.21 In British law, the treatment of male victims of rape is different depending on the gender of the perpetrator with a harsher law being applied to male perpetrators than female perpetrators. I believe there should be equality in law so that section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, is to now include cases where women force men to engage in non-consensual intercourse (these cases are currently criminalised under section 4 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, a less serious offence).

Ian McNicholl

2 June 2020


Prepared 11th June 2020