Domestic Abuse Bill

Written evidence submitted by Philipp Tanzer (DAB62)

An inclusive approach to address all forms of Domestic Abuse, support all victims, perpetrators and families affected

1. General Comments on the Bill

I support the majority of the Bill. Domestic Abuse is a very serious issue that affects not only adults but also children that witness or experience abuse or are being used to control partners/family members. They are often greatly affected all through their life. By ending the circle of violence now, we create a safer and better future for all. We identified several areas in the bill that can be improved to better support ALL victims, families and even perpetrators.

2. Modern, equal and gender-inclusive

· Both Bill and the Guidance can only be written in a gender-neutral and inclusive language.

· A gender-focused approach is out-dated, is not supported by robust data and creates a victim hierarchy that marginalises many victims, incl. victims from the LGBT community, male victims, disabled men and women, elderly men and women and of course children. It also negatively affects the ability of perpetrators to change, both male and female.

· Focusing only on one group of victims prevents proportionally fair funding, balanced research and most of all it actively prevents many victims to seek help and fair treatment. Underreporting of some groups is a well-established fact.

· Legislation should not be based on or support stereotypes about race, gender, sexuality or ethnicity

· All victims deserve equal support based on individual circumstance. There should be no exceptions.

3. The areas we support include

· Definition Domestic Abuse: We support Statutory Definition of Domestic Abuse being gender neutral to ensure equality of the law for all victims/perpetrators of domestic abuse in line with the British Constitution

· Economic Abuse: We agree that Economic Abuse should be included in the statutory definition of domestic abuse.

4. The areas for change include

· Definition Domestic Abuse: We believe the Government should be defining domestic abuse as a crime against an individual and no longer define it as a "gendered crime" in any of their communication and legislation.

· In practice: The same non-discriminatory approach should be adopted by government funded organisations, police, government officials, DA training modules, distributed information and official communication.

· Use of gendered Language: Both genders should be mentioned in regards to statistics and in DA related communication unless announced as gender specific (if gender specific, both genders should be addressed individually)

Examples: "29% of female victims and 10% of male victims of DA reported their abuse to the police" instead of "29% of female victims of DA reported their abuse to the police". Only mentioning one side repeatedly (female victims, male perpetrators) creates an intentionally misleading narrative that can unfortunatelly be found in practice in the Guidance and Factsheets accompanying the Bill.

· Statistics: The phrase "the overwhelming majority of victims are women, the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are men" has been used frequently, incl by our Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This false narrative is (unintentionally) challenged in the Policy Equality Statement: "For the year ending March 2018, in 75% of all domestic abuse-related offences recorded by the police the victim was female"(we will assume that 25% of victims were male). The document also states:" The Office for National Statistics data (2014/15), shows that male victims (39%) are over three times as likely as women (12%) to not tell anyone about the partner abuse they are suffering from. Only 10% of male victims will tell the police (26% for women)". If 25% of victims that report DA to the police are male, but men are three times less likely to report DA, it is obvious, that there might be near parity between male and female victims experiencing DA. In light of these statistics, acknowledged and used by the government, it is factually false to portray DA as a gendered crime. In fact, it is one of the crimes with the highest gender parity.

· Prevent Domestic Abuse: Dysfunctional relationships and one-sided behavior that negatively affects the other partner needs to be addressed before the behavior becomes Domestic Abuse. A focus on mediation, relationship therapy and restorative justice is preferable to post-abuse punishment. All approaches need to be gender-inclusive and LGBT supportive.

· Parental Alienation: We believe that Parental Alienation should be included in the statutory definition as type of domestic abuse to protect mothers, fathers and mostly the children.

· Child Arrangement Orders: There should be the proper enforcement of regular, willful and deliberate breaches of Child Arrangement Orders and Non-Molestation Orders as this is a domestic abuse crime.

· False Allegations: Classifying false allegations of domestic abuse as domestic abuse itself. Every year thousands of parents’ lives and reputations are destroyed by malicious allegations. The advantage in court process that such allegations provide to a belligerent ex-partner has made their use endemic, and there is currently no deterrent. By classing false allegations as domestic abuse an essential deterrent would be provided.

· Domestic Abuse Commissioner: There should be statutory improvements in the accountability and transparency of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. The Commissioner has the duty to represent ALL victims of Domestic Abuse without preference. The position of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner should be open to a man or a woman in theory and practice.

· Situational Couple violence: High proportion of abuse happens in situational circumstances which involve both individuals. The Victim/Perpetrator narrative does not take this into account and prevents both to get the support they need to manage the conflict. A bird with two broken wings cannot fly, if only one wing heals.

This is especially urgent if children are involved.

· Fact-based Language In case of a reported incident it is vital that the person making the complaint should be referred to as ‘the accuser’ or ‘the complainant’, not ‘the victim’ and that the accused person is referred to as ‘the accused’ and not as ‘the perpetrator’ unless and until they are found guilty. It is one of the cornerstones of our legal system.

· Cross Examination: The accused can find him/herself confronted with accusations that may be misrepresented, exaggerated or completely false. If the accused is disadvantaged in defending him/herself, then the process of finding the truth and serving justice can be obstructed. Compassion for the accuser and fairness for the accused need to be warranted, the court needs to treat the accused as innocent until proven guilty. But the emotional protection of the accuser needs to be warranted.

· Polygraph testing: We are not convinced that polygraph testing is useful, especially because personality disorders, that are often an underlying cause for (especially long term) domestic abuse, make the testing far less effective. There is also no time limit mentioned and in our estimation this is unjustifiable and cruel and can be seen as coercive control perpetrated by the legal system against an offender who served his time. It also begs the question of why we don’t use polygraph testing on all other criminals, especially multiple offenders.

This should not be our future. Neither Orwells "1984" nor Burgess’ "A Clockwerk Orange" were suggestions, they were warnings.

We are in favor of supportive therapy that takes into account previous problems with addiction, mental health and trauma. This approach needs to be available for male and female offenders.

· Funding disparity: Funding inequality must be acknowledged as form of Government sanctioned institutional discrimination affecting male victims, LGBT victims and female perpetrators.

From the Policy Equality Statement: "In March 2019, the government also published its Male Victims Position Statement35 setting out 12 specific commitments to better enable male victims and survivors of domestic abuse to come forward and receive the support they need and bring perpetrators to justice. These included:

• providing £500,000 to specialist organisations that support male victims and survivors of domestic abuse;

• awarding a specialist LGBT domestic abuse organisation that supports LGBT victims and survivors with £500,000;

• providing £24 million over the next three years for services providing advice and counseling to all victims of sexual violence, including men and boys."

We applaud the support for the LGBT community, but gay, bi and trans men are a relatively small group within the group of male victims, and even they deserve far more funding than is available to them now.

Organisations focused on straight men (they support gay, bi and trans men too and are also inclusive of female victims) are awarded 500.000. This is less than 1% of the funding for male victims; female focused organisations receive 99%.

In regards to "services providing advice and counseling to all victims of sexual violence": almost all these services are male inclusive only in theory, the websites are exclusively focused on female victims and male perpetrators and exclude male victims in representation. Example: Rape Crisis.

· Mandatory Representation: Male-victim-focused organisations need to be included in all summits, consultations and conferences. The same applies to LGBT, BAME, Disability, Elderly and Children-focused organisations. There is no support without representation.

· Violence Against Men and Boys: The introduction of an "Ending Intimate Violence Against Men and Boys" Strategy in parallel to the successful and welcome Ending Violence Against Women and Girls

· National Statement of Expectations: Introducing a National Statement of Expectations on domestic abuse for men and boys alongside the current National Statement of Expectations which focuses on women and girls

· Relationships and Sex Education: Ensure there is a gender-inclusive narrative in Relationships and Sex Education and in abuse-focused awareness programs. Negative example: White Ribbon

· National network of refuges: Create a national network of refuges and safe houses for males and LGBTQ+ victims. There are currently only 169 refuge/safe house places for men across the UK run by 35 organisations (36 of places are solely for men) – there are none in London.

· Inclusive service provision: Increase the level of appropriate and inclusive service provision for male victims of domestic abuse based on risk and need.

· Awareness: Creating proactive national/local awareness campaigns targeted at male and LGBT+ victims.

· Police and Councils: Improve and provide appropriate training to the police, local councils, the health sector and justice system to raise awareness on how to better support male victims of domestic abuse. The current training provider SafeLives applies a gendered approach.

· Support for Perpetrators: Improve support for female and LGBTQ+ perpetrators of domestic abuse and make support for male perpetrators more holistic. There are currently almost no "perpetrator programs" that support women. All support for perpetrators should be holistic, include the partner in the program and view both as part of the issue and part of the solution and acknowledge that conflicts are often initiated by both partners.

· Final thoughts: Domestic Abuse is an issue that affects all parts of society and each victim deserves support. In the past this support was almost exclusively focused on female victims and this one sided focus was based on an outdated worldview that all men are strong and all women are weak. The high suicide rates of men, the death toll of men during Covid19, the increase of men struggling with mental health show: men can be as fragile as women. Men are ashamed of being victims, of admitting their struggles. "Why do men not talk about their feelings?" Because we intentionally ignore their struggles. Please remember that only 10% of men report their abuse (compared to 26% of women). If you use gendered language in this bill or its guidelines, you re-enforce the system that pushes men into suicide. That could be your brother, a friend, your son. I would never want you to care any less about women (because so do I), but we urge you to care about men too.

June 2020


Prepared 11th June 2020