Domestic Abuse Bill

Written evidence submitted by White Ribbon UK (DAB64)

1. Summary

1.1 White Ribbon UK was founded in 2005, and is part of the global movement to end male violence against women. We work with men and boys to challenge those male cultures that lead to harassment, abuse and violence. White Ribbon Ambassadors are men who engage with other men and boys to promote a culture of equality and respect. The White Ribbon Accreditation programme ensures organisations take a strategic approach to ending male violence against women by engaging with men and boys, changing cultures and raising awareness. White Ribbon calls on all men to make the promise to never commit, excuse, or remain silent, about violence against women.

1.2 This submission emphasises the need to engage with men and boys in the process of preventing domestic abuse.

2. End Violence Against Women Coalition

2.1 As a member of the End Violence Against Women Coalition we support their response and evidence. The following is supplementary evidence of the need to engage directly with men and boys, taken from the specific nature of our work.

3. Addressing gender-based violence and harmful gender norms in Education

3.1 We fully support the emphasis in section 1.2 Education young people on relationships. We are, however, deeply concerned that this section makes no reference to the need to understand gender based violence or harmful gender norms. These issues need to be addressed within education settings as attitudes and experiences laid down at this formative time.

3.2 At an event held with White Ribbon Ambassadors, in October 2019, we heard how young men grow up with "…conflicting messages – emotion – resilience – need to show and treat everyone with respect". Another described how he felt that ‘stereotypical role models allow men to exert more control against women’. Ambassadors were unanimous in the need to work directly with boys, especially as they felt, as adults there had been a shift in what was expected of men.

4. The need to engage with men within communities

4.1 The need to raise public awareness of domestic abuse as outlined in 1.4 is critical but we feel there is a need to emphasise working with men and boys, throughout this section. We support that the commitment to tackle harmful gender norms through working with men and boys to challenge harmful attitudes in this section but the role of men and boys should be emphasised throughout. For example, our ambassadors describe how they have felt empowered to call out the behaviour of their friends. This has included when they have become aware that there is a situation where it is realised that a friend is a perpetrator. Men also act as role models within their own communities, something that needs direct reference. White Ribbon Ambassadors were keen to have more training so that they could be more active within their communities. At our event ambassadors said, "I think we should celebrate positive role modelling". They also spoke of difficulties within their communities, "There are some challenges in working with religious leaders – who, whilst rejecting violence, have difficulty reconciling faith and culture". There was also a discussion about the need for adult men to be able to safely exlore what positive masculinity means, "Since I grew up there’s been a shift and transition of identity – men’s identity" and "Men find it hard to think where they fit in society".

5. Conclusion

5.1 We support the development of the Domestic Abuse Bill, especially its emphasis on prevention. We feel that this can only be achieved if there is engagement with men and boys throughout. Domestic Abuse is largely a gender based crime. Men need to take responsibility for their behaviour and work with other men to do the same. The expertise of White Ribbon UK in working with men to this end is well established. We hope to work with the Government to support the essential dimension of working with men and boys that needs further development for the prevention aspects of the bill to succeed.

9 June 2020


Prepared 11th June 2020