Detailed comments regarding the Domestic Abuse Bill Guidance

Comments regarding the Domestic Abuse Bill Guidance

The guidance regarding the Domestic Abuse Bill unfortunately has many problematic and questionable parts, most of them due to the gendered nature of the guidance and its reliance on documents that are based on ideologies and claims, rather than facts or proven theories. The guidance even contradicts itself several times.

The most problematic errors/omissions of the guidance are:

– the guidance needs to be completely gender neutral/gender inclusive (with the exception of pregnancy and FGM)

– False claims/myths regarding the cause of Domestic Abuse (gender based, power and control, misogyny, Duluth model)

– Bias data, selective evidence (cherry picked data highlighting women as victims, data that shows men as victims left out or minimized)

– gender inclusive research (50 referenced documents were either female victim/male perpetrator exclusive or female victim/male perpetrator focused; only 1 document was male victim focused.

– innocent until proven guilty (both in the bill and in the guidance there needs to be a clear distinction between “victim” and “alleged victim” and “alleged abuser” and perpetrator

– funding for male victims (The lack of funding and support for male victims needs to be addressed in the guidance and proportionate services for men need to be promised in the guidance)

– parental alienation (the guidance uses a false definition of this form of abuse)

– false allegations (false allegations of abuse must be included as Domestic Abuse)

– child contact obstruction (must be included as Domestic Abuse)

These are all the areas that we needed to comment on. Our comments are reasonable and the criticism correct. The guidance is, as it stands deeply flawed and discriminatory against male victims and in parts against LGBT victims

12. We know that domestic abuse is common but is often hidden and therefore difficult to quantify. However, in the year ending March 2019, the Crime Survey for England and Wales says that 2.4 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.6 million women and 786,000 men).  Domestic abuse can affect anyone, regardless of their gender, age or race.

We wholeheartedly support this inclusive and neutral approach.

14. Domestic abuse is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality, with women disproportionately the victims. Women are more likely to experience repeat victimisation, be physically injured or killed as result of domestic abuse and experience non-physical abuse (including emotional and financial abuse), than men. 4 In 2018-19, 92% of defendants in domestic abuse cases referred to the CPS were male and 83% of the victims were female (where sex of the defendant or victim was recorded). 5 (CPS Violence Against Women and Girls Crime report 2018-19)

The first statement is ideology and not science-based. High rates of same sex relationship domestic abuse prove this to be wrong, domestic abuse is not a cause and consequence of gender inequality. Due to gendered research , the reluctance of men to report victimisation and the failure of the police and health practitioners to identify male victims, the statement regarding repeated victimisation, being physically injured and especially the statement on non-physical abuse needs to be taken out, because this is not proven beyond very reasonable doubt. 

23. Domestic abuse most commonly takes place in intimate partner relationships. The vast majority is perpetrated by men against women, but men are also subject to abuse by female partners, and both men and women experience abuse from same sex partners.

This comment is not proven to be correct and should be excluded. Since male victims are 3 times less likely to report their abuse to the police it is more realistic that men and women experience domestic abuse in similar numbers.

25.Abuse often continues even when a relationship has ended, which can be a significantly dangerous time for a victim. Post-separation abuse, including stalking, harassment and forms of physical, emotional, sexual and economic abuse often continues and causes ongoing harm. 55% of the women killed by their ex-partner or ex-spouse in 2017 were killed within the first month of separation and 87% in the first year.

It was conveniently left out that a high proportion of men experience post-seperation abuse as well, namely fathers. A very high proportion of fathers experience controlling behavior by ex-partners regarding child custody, face false allegations and economic abuse, often facilitated by the family court system. I am sure every adult knows a man who has experienced this form of abuse that often leads to depression and suicide.

37.Domestic abuse can encompass a wide range of behaviours. It does not necessarily have to involve physical acts of violence and can include emotional, psychological, sexual and/or economic abuse under section 1(3) of the 2020 Act. Many victims will experience these abusive behaviours simultaneously. At the centre of all these abusive behaviours is the perpetrator’s desire to exercise power and control over the victim.

This is directly contradicted by the following statement in this guidance: “There are many reasons why an individual may become a perpetrator of domestic abuse and these can include: a desire to exert power and control over someone; misogyny; low self-esteem; or experience of abuse in their childhood.” Control CAN be a reason for Abusive Behavior; it is not at the center of ALL these abusive behaviors. This is an outright ridiculous claim that prevents victims and perpetrators and those that are both to get the support they need. The concept of “power and control” as motivator of Domestic Abuse is based on the Duluth Model, that is proven to be incorrect and based on ideology not on research and facts.   

38.The power and control wheel illustrates the common themes and experiences of victims of abuse, as well as the tactics used by perpetrators. It is important to note that the model below generally applies to women experiencing abuse by men in intimate partner relationships. However, the same means of abuse are used by perpetrators of either gender, in same sex relationships and in family abuse; the difference will be on how much they rely on any one form of abuse to gain power and control within their circumstances.

Duluth model

The Duluth Model focuses only on female victims of violence (‘battering’) and assumes that the motivation of the male batterer is ‘power and control’ over his victim.

However, this assumption turns out to be wrong! Even one of the originators, Ellen Pence, wrote in 1999 that she realised the mistake once she started to interview men who had been violent, she realised that few had been motivated by ‘power and control’.

Others have pointed out that this approach cannot explain violence in same-sex relationships. Lesbian relationships have a higher level of violence than heterosexual ones.

Official figures for 2018 show more men than women as victims of force in partner-abuse. 

Where this model (or its assumptions) are used in training courses for police, NHS, social-work etc staff this can lead to a mindset where female are generally seen as victims and males generally as perpetrators instead of looking at the facts.

57. Individuals can be the victims of multiple and different abusive behaviours because of the way different characteristics, such as immigration status, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic position and sexuality intersect and overlap, particularly in relation to accessing services and support if they are not adequately designed to meet their needs. It is important that commissioners, service providers and statutory agencies consider this intersectionality when developing their responses, in order to fully identify the lived experiences of all victims vis-a-vis the abusive behaviour they experience and ensure that services are provided to victims without discrimination. The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (‘the Victims’ Code’) also makes it clear that the offer of support should be based on the victim’s needs and all services should be offered without discrimination of any kind

“…and ensure that services are provided to victims without discrimination.” It is unquestionable that male victims of Domestic Abuse face institutional discrimination and social barriers.  This is hinted at in 65: “, men can face specific barriers, including shame and fear of stigmatization” .What was conveniently left out is the shocking lack of funding, support, representation and acknowledgement of male victims. All other victim groups, even the smallest ones are being HIGHLIGHTED as deserving of more support. This is not the case for male victims. According to the CSEW from 2014–15 26% women and 10% of men told the police. It is common knowledge that men drastically underreport due to stigma and lack of support and structural barriers.

36.The characteristics listed here are those commonly seen in intimate partner relationships. However, it is important to remember that each person’s experience of domestic abuse will be different. All victims want the abuse to stop, but not all victims want or are able to leave their abuser at a particular time. Appropriate support must always be offered.

The approach that each person’s experience of domestic abuse will be different is evidently correct and directly contradicts the narrow approach that Domestic Abuse is an expression on male power and control. Mental Health issues, addiction, external pressure, high levels of stress, relationship conflicts, separation, and many other factors can and do lead to instances of domestic abuse, perpetrated by both men and women. All people that have not been “educated” according to the not science based Duluth model, know instinctively that Domestic Abuse is complex, can affect everybody and is often reciprocal.

41.Victims can also be the subject of reproductive coercion, which can involve: restricting a partner’s access to birth control; refusing to use a birth control method; forcing a partner to get an abortion, IVF or other procedure, or denying access to such a procedure

“Threatening with abortion” should be included. A woman can use this against a man. Paternity Fraud is a form of emotional and economic abuse. It should also be included

52.Given that economic abuse does not require physical proximity it can continue, escalate or even begin after separation, creating a significant barrier for victims seeking to rebuild their lives.

A common experience  for men is that’s the partner running up impossible debts. And largely specific to men is the financial hardship which follows from being chucked out of the home and being obliged to find alternative accommodation whilst still paying for the family home or paying maintenance.

55.Examples of verbal abuse include:

Mocking someone about their disability, gender, sexual orientation, physical appearance etc.

We think “Sexual Performance” should be included

62. Domestic abuse perpetrated towards women by men is a form of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and is linked to wider gender inequality, misogyny and perceptions around harmful gender norms. These may include a belief in stereotypical gender roles, such as men being dominant in relationships and women being submissive, or that men should be in charge of family finances and should be entitled to make all decisions. 

This paragraph has to be removed. It is not based on any scientific evidence and has been refuted by many scientific studies. The paragraph is based exclusively on (feminist) ideology and theories that have never been proven and have often been proven to be false. Our legal system cannot be based on ideologies that are pushed by lobby and interest groups.

63. Whilst the statutory definition of domestic abuse is gender-neutral, we recognise that more women than men are affected by domestic abuse. Statistics from the last ONS bulletin showed that in the year ending March 2019 women were around twice as likely to have experienced domestic abuse as men. Research  also suggests that when controlling or coercive behavior is taken into account, the differences between the experiences of male and female victims becomes more apparent, with the vast majority of victims being women

It is not self-evident or proven that the vast majority or even the majority of DA victims are female. It is an assumption based on research that was gender specific, police reports that are proven to underrepresent male victims due to their reluctance to report  and statistics from the ONS who only asked 1000 women and 1000 men. Many of their questions were based on how people felt, rather than what actually happened to them. This form of question works far better for women than for men, who often fail to identify what happens to them as abuse and who are reluctant to express fear or concern.

We would also like to ask why gender, or more specific Women are being highlighted in such a persistant way. There could only be one justification for the gendered focus of Domestic Abuse legislation: If female victims were NOT supported proportionally compared to male victims. But this is demonstrably NOT the case. The focus of legislation, training, awareness, public debate is almost exclusively on female victims, to a degree that clearly discriminates against male and LGBT victims. This clear discrimination is evident in the process of creating this bill that completely ignored the voices of male victims and organisations that support men . Example: The scrutiny committee mentioned female victims 397 time, male victims 4 times.

64. Women are far more likely than men to experience repeated and severe forms of abuse, including sexual violence. Women experience higher rates of repeated victimisation and are much more likely to be seriously hurt or killed than male victims of domestic abuse. Figures show that from the year ending March 2016 to the year ending March 2018, the majority of victims of domestic homicides (homicides by an ex/partner or by a family member) were female (74%). This contrasts with non-domestic homicides where the majority of victims were male (87%). Of the female victims, 81% were killed by a partner or ex-partner, 9% were killed by a parent and 10% were killed by a child or other family relative, such as a brother or sister.

87% of non-domestic homicides have a male victim. This means non-domestic homicide is a far more “gendered” crime than domestic homicide. The gender of the perpetrator makes absolutely no difference, regarding the seriousness of the crime.  Yet, nobody is arguing to have an almost exclusive focus on male (non-domestic) homicide victims, just because they are the majority of victims. In fact, female homicide victims get far more attention than male victims.

Male domestic homicide victims are constantly left out of statistics, are not mentioned in media and by politicians. This is a direct result of the gendered approach the government and institutions adopted from gender-focused lobby groups.

Regarding the claims that women are far more likely to:

Experience repeated and severe forms of abuse –

(A) Physical Force Prevalence

The CSEW used to report the incidence of the most severe type of physical violence under a category “severe force”. For male victims, between 2009/10 and 2012/13 the incidence of “severe force” increased from 0.8% to 1.0%, whilst for women it decreased from 1.5% to 1.1% (relating to incidence in the last year). Thus, incidence in the severe force category had become essentially equal for the two sexes by 2012/13. Oddly, the use of the category “severe force” was then dropped by the CSEW.

However, the CSEW continues to report in the category “force”, which will include less severe as well as more severe incidents. In 2018/19, 1.0% of men and 1.3% of women were victims of force at the hands of their partner, Ref.[1]. I conclude that physical abuse (“force”) does not differ greatly in prevalence between the sexes, and there may be no difference in the more severe category although this has been obscured.  (B) Physical Injury In 2017/18, of those that suffered from partner abuse, 32% men and 23% of women suffered a physical injury. Of those seeking medical attention because of partner abuse in 2017/18, 26.4% were male and 73.6% female.

The 2017/18 CSEW indicates that of those victims who suffered from partner abuse once or more in 2017/18, in the category “force” were 45.7% of male victims and  28% of female victims;

(C) Emotional Harm

In 2017/18, 41% of men who suffered partner abuse had emotional or mental problems

compared with 52% of women. However, the severity of this mental distress may be better

indicated by the greater percentage of male victims of partner abuse who attempted suicide

(11% compared with 7.2% of female victims).

Experience sexual violence

None of the data in this area is reliable. Men and women experience unwanted sexual conduct very differently and men do not report experiences of abuse..Men do experience unwanted sexual conduct far more often than assumed.  Independent studies that take this into consideration are long overdue. 

Women experience greater prevalence of sexual abuse according to official statistics (though this is arguably in part because society does not recognise sexual abuse of males by females). Partner homicide is addressed elsewhere. However, the above claims regarding physical abuse short of death, and emotional abuse, are seriously misleading at best, if not just wrong.  

65. We recognise that men are also victims of domestic abuse. Whilst they may experience many similar types of abuse as women, men can face specific barriers, including shame and fear of stigmatisation, which may be due to myths around masculinity and that men cannot be victims of domestic abuse.

The gendered approach, supported in this guidance and established in all support sectors (NHS, Police, Social Services) by well -funded interest groups like Women’s Aid and Refuge is the main reason why male victims don’t get the appropriate support. The government is actively participating in marginalizing male victims. The solution is easy: A neutral approach that recognizes all victims of abuse equally.

66. A research study found five key themes explaining men’s reluctance to seek help: service target perception ; shame and/or embarrassment; denial; stigmatisation; and fear. In addition, structural inequalities can discriminate or exclude, explicitly or implicitly, groups of victims and survivors such as gay, bisexual and transgender (GBT) men and boys.

The reluctance of male victims to seek help is exceeded by the reluctance of  the government to provide support and recognition for male victims. It is not the fault of male victims or masculinity that they are reluctant to reach out for help. Their reluctance is based on the gender-stereotypical (and false) depiction of Domestic Abuse, the lack of support for male victims, the lack of awareness due to gendered campaigns (run by women’s organisations with support of the government), media coverage,  female focused training of NHS, health practitioners, therapists, police and social services. Even the Men’s Advice Helpline (connected to Womans Aid) uses a gendered anti-male approach that screens male victims assuming they might be perpetrators.

We propose the addition of the following to the guidance:

Men may experience additional barriers to receiving help or reporting abuse. This may include:

We could create the same for male victims

Men may experience additional barriers to receiving help or reporting abuse. This may include:

  • Not recognizing that it is abuse
  • Lack of awareness/visibility of male DA victims
  • Lack of male support services
  • Lack of awareness and support at work
  • Concerns about not being believed, abuse not being taken seriously
  • Concerns about losing children/custody
  • Fear of false allegations by perpetrator
  • Reluctance to inform police and support services due to assumed gender bias
  • Shame of reporting sexual violence

72. Heterosexual and LGBTQ+ people may experience similar patterns of domestic abuse. ONS research indicates that LGBTQ+ people experience higher levels of domestic abuse than heterosexual people.

The female-focused approach and the false narrative that Domestic Abuse is a gendered issue makes LGBT victims almost as invisible as straight male victims. The prevalence of Domestic Abuse in same-sex relationships makes it abundantly clear that Domestic Abuse is not based on gender imbalance but on personal and individual experiences and behaviors.

88. There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ stalking perpetrator or a ‘typical’ stalking victim. This crime disproportionately affects women and girls but it is important to recognise that men and boys may be victims too. Stalking affects people of all ages, and victims come from a wide range of backgrounds – stalking is not restricted to public figures and celebrities.

There is no reason to highlight that it “disproportionately” affects women and girls, unless they are currently overlooked as a victim group. And it is incorrect to say that it MAY affect man and boys too. It DOES affect men and boys that are victims. Gendered language undermines male victims, makes it harder to ask for help, less likely for police and services to take it seriously and for services and practitioners to recognise it. The gendered approach also discriminates against LGBT victims. 

89. Stalking is often a characteristic of domestic abuse, particularly once the relationship has ended. A study of female homicides that occurred as a result of male violence found that stalking behaviours were present in 94% of cases and in 71% of cases the victim and perpetrator were in, or had previously had, an intimate relationship.

As always, there is no data on male victims and the connection of stalking and female perpetrated homicide. We need consistent data that shows female and male experiences.

95. A forced marriage is where one or both people do not consent to the marriage as they are pressurised, or abuse is used, to force them to do so. In the case of a person lacking capacity to consent to the marriage, a marriage can be forced notwithstanding there is no pressure or abuse. It is recognised in the UK as a form of domestic or child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights

It is extraordinary and very positive that forced marriage is addressed in a gender neutral way even though it is more “gendered” than other forms of domestic Abuse with 20% of victims (according to statistics) being male and 80% being female. It is important to address Forced Marriage in a gender neutral way, so mae victims are not overlooked. This will not lead to female victims being overlooked. This gender neutral approach needs to be consistent in all government publications on Domestic Abuse unless it is exclusively focussed on one gender, in which case there should be an equivalent for the other gender and both should take LGBT concerns into considerations.

98. FGM is a form of violence against women and girls which is, in itself, both a cause and consequence of gender inequality.

FGM is recognized as child abuse and rightfully so. If FGM is a cause and consequence of gender inequality, then how the fact that MGM (Circumcision) is NOT should acknowledged as child abuse be interpreted? ALL forms of FGM are illegal (no matter how “small” or intrusive) and again: Rightfully so. MGM is not illegal, though it can have very traumatizing effects on the physical, emotional and sexual health of boys. Gender inequality seem to be completely ignored by the government if it (as it very often does) affect boys and men.

100. Domestic abuse perpetrators can be particularly adept at manipulating professionals, agencies and systems and may use a range of tactics in order to perpetuate contact with and control over the victim. These can include:

• Causing or creating vexation or using the system against the victim by making false or vexatious allegations;

• Using the courts to continue abuse, for example not turning up to court dates, sending unnecessary and repeated legal letters and making threats around contact;

• Making counter-allegations against the victim;

• Using threats in order to manipulate the victim. For example, by telling the victim they will not be believed by the police or other agencies, that they will inform social services, that their children will be taken away

These are all very good points and the points highlighted are most commonly experienced by male victims BUT this fact should, of course not be mentioned or highlighted, because we consistently support a neutral approach.

101. There are many reasons why an individual may become a perpetrator of domestic abuse and these can include: a desire to exert power and control over someone; misogyny; low self-esteem; or experience of abuse in their childhood

It needs to be acknowledged that majority of Domestic Abuse is Bi-directional, that means it is perpetrated from both sides and both are victims and perpetrators.

“Exerting power and control” is most closely related to coercive control, experienced by men and women in similar ways and numbers.Controlling behavior of men towards women is far more recognized, controlling behavior of women towards men is far more noramlised and even culturally portrayed  as “positive”, which causes male victims not to be recognised and to not even recognise it themselves

“Misogyny” as cause of Domestic Abuse is practically nonexistent in western culture.

What is completely missing on this list of reasons why an individual may become a perpetrator are mental health issues and situational reasons:

  • escalation of an argument
  • alcohol & drugs
  • external factors (extreme stress due to financial difficulties, job loss, lack of sleep)
  • hormonal imbalances and extreme mood swings

This are not excuses for abusive behavior but reasons for abusive behavior.

106. Domestic abuse can have a long-lasting effect on adult and child victims. It can lead to the development of lasting health problems, such as mental health issues including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders. It is estimated that around three women a week take their own lives as a result of domestic abuse and that women who experience domestic abuse are twice as likely to experience depression.

The lack of acknowledgement and the lack of research of male experiences is staggering, especially in regards to issues like suicide, incarceration and homelessness. These areas are sadly dominated by men yet how childhood trauma, domestic abuse and mental health issues affect men in these areas is far less focused on then in regards to women. Men are 3 times a s likely to end their own lives and it is silly to assume that the % of men that commit suicide is lower than amongst women, taking into account that male victims are far less likely to report the abuse, less likely to get support, less likely to be identified as a victim by health practitioners and less likely to have a social support system. They are also more likely to use alcohol and drugs to deal with emotional trauma and stress. To address Homelessness, crime and suicide in a holistic way, we have to look at men as humans and potential victims as it is already being practiced in regards to women.

107. There are strong links between women’s experience of domestic abuse and coercive relationships, and their offending. Almost 60% of female offenders have experienced domestic abuse and more than a third have a problem with a current partner. This means that women are often trapped in a vicious cycle of victimisation and criminal activity. Highlighting lack of research in male offenders, bias data/research

The experience of male offenders is, again, not mentioned and not taken into account. What is the number of male offenders that have experienced childhood abuse and domestic abuse? And since over 90% of the prison population is male, how high is the number of men that need support to deal with trauma?

“more than a third have a problem with a current partner”. This is hardly surprising, it is not mentioned if these women were also perpetrators of abusive behavior as well as victims. The same is to be expected of male offenders. This issue is not gendered and not black and white.

108. Some victims may also use drugs or alcohol to help cope with abuse. For some, substance abuse may progress to addiction. Perpetrators can also exploit and sustain addictions to keep a victim controlled and dependent on them, as well as manipulate the threat of exposing this to professionals (given the possible subsequent impacts should the victim have children). Research has shown that first responders can find it difficult to correctly identify perpetrators of abuse due to a tendency to see the perpetrator as the individual who is abusing alcohol or drugs. Alcohol use by women in particular has in other studies been found to be a response to experience of abuse from partners.

Gendered research will lead to gendered results. It is time for the government to invest in independent research instead of relying on research that either focuses strongly on women or excludes male victims completely.

109. Many victims can also be made homeless by domestic abuse. Statistics show that domestic abuse accounts for at least one in ten people who require local authority support for homelessness in England and Wales. The majority of women who experience homelessness have been abused. Women who are homeless are particularly vulnerable to being further targeted by perpetrators of both physical and sexual abuse, with 28% of homeless women having formed an unwanted sexual partnership to get a roof over their heads, and 20% having engaged in prostitution to  raise money for accommodation. Evidence also indicates that 13% of men sleeping rough have experienced domestic abuse from a partner.

The numbers in this research were, again, provided by a highly gendered approach that marginalises male victims and men experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping.

It is categorically false that female victims of homelessness are particularly vulnerable to being further targeted by perpetrators of physical abuse. Men are far more likely to experiencing physical violence, especially when facing homelessness, since far more homeless women than men are ending up sleeping rough. Men sleeping rough are extremely vulnerable to physical violence and abusive behavior.

“28% of homeless women having formed an unwanted sexual partnership to get a roof over their heads”. As harsh as it sounds, this is not an option for men experiencing homelessness, so they end up sleeping rough. Young gay men, that end up homeless engage in sexual interactions and prostitution too to not sleep on the street. As a gay man who has been in this very situation, I can attest that I was glad to have the option to exchange sexuality for a warm place. This comes with danger, but  unlike straight men, women and gay men at least have the option to access a warm place in this way. It is quite telling that the struggles of women, who have more options are highlighted, while the lack of options with the result of sleeping rough is ignored.

113. Between 25-30% of children in the UK live in households with domestic abuse and domestic abuse is a factor in 50% of social worker assessments of children in need, over half of serious case reviews and two-thirds of child contact applications from 2017- 2018.

Para 113

Issue: “….domestic abuse is a factor in ………. two-thirds of child contact applications from 2017-2018.”

Response: Unjustifed statement.

Ref.54 (Dept of Education) is actually about children in need and has no stats on DA in contact applications. So the source of the claim needs correcting, as a minimum.

However, the MOJ clearly do not even read the material they publish themselves. In the output from the Family Justice Review – specifically Adrienne Barnett’s literature review – the correct sources are given which show that close to 50% (not two-thirds) of child contact applications involve allegations of DA. 

The same report also tells us that not more than 10% of these allegations are subject to any examination. Hence a more accurate statement is that allegations of DA feature in 50% of contact applications. What percentage of such applications actually involve abuse is unknown.

My guess is that the two-thirds figure is derived from a joint CAFCASS – Women’s Aid report which examined only a very small set of cases in which CAFCASS was involved, and were flagged as DA related according to CAFCASS’s own internal opinion – and was probably a skewed sample.

118. Research59 also shows that perpetrators of domestic abuse may target and undermine parents’ relationships with their children, using power and control dynamics, for example using vexatious applications to the family court to prolong proceedings (sometimes referred to as “parental alienation”). Perpetrators can also use contact with children as a form of abuse. Therefore, providing support to both children and the nonabusive parent is essential. There should be a focus on the importance of joint and parallel work for victims, including children and a range of services to sensitively address and overcome the harm domestic abuse has caused to the parent-child relationship. This should also include appropriate access to relevant services for the perpetrator.

The guidance uses an incorrect definition on “parental alienation” CAFCASS use the following definition, which needs to be used in the guidance:

“What is parental alienation?

We recognise parental alienation as when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.”

“While not restricted to alienation, behaviours and indicators can include: a parent constantly badmouthing or belittling the other; limiting contact; forbidding discussion about them; and creating the impression that the other parent dislikes or does not love the child.

They can also include spurning, terrorising, isolating, corrupting or exploiting, and denying emotional responsiveness. These tactics can foster a false belief that the alienated parent is dangerous or unworthy. Children may adapt their own behaviours and feelings to the alienating parent to ensure that their attachment needs are met (Baker, 2010).

It is worth noting that even the most alienated child will hold strong views of their own in addition to those they may have been coached to hold. Where a child is being alienated, it may be in their interests for the authority of the court to be used to work towards restoring the relationship, although we are aware of how difficult this can be. The court must carefully balance its decisions to ensure that both children and adults are kept safe, and ensure that children are able to maintain relationships with both parents where this is safe and in the child’s best interests.”

123. Given that only one in five victims report their abuse to the police, many victims of domestic abuse do not come into contact with the criminal justice system. So it is important that a wide range of agencies and bodies are able to identify victims and know how to provide the right response. Early intervention by the voluntary sector and statutory agencies working together can help to protect adults and children from further harm, as well as preventing escalation and recurrence of abuse.

According to the CSEW from 2014–15 26% women and 10% of men told the police. It is common knowledge that men drastically underreport due to stigma and lack of support and structural barriers. Since men report almost 3 times less than women, it is important to highlight male victims of abuse and to train services to recognise male victims

126. Below is a non-exhaustive list of agencies that victims of domestic abuse and their families may come into contact with. The information below is to assist those organisations exercising public protection duties and frontline professionals so they can properly identify all the victims of the abuse, including children, and ensure that they receive support and protection tailored to their particular needs.

This is currently not happening in regards to male victims, including boys and young men. LGBT victims are also marginalized by a system that is almost exclusively targeted towards women experiencing abuse at the hands of men. Even if lesbian victims are being supported, it is hard for organisations working under the gendered approach to acknowledge the actions of the female perpetrator, because it directly contradicts the gendered narrative. There is also a lack of perpetrator programs for women, both straight and LBT.

132. Educating young people about domestic abuse through age-appropriate materials is vital in ensuring they can experience healthy relationships. From September 2020, Relationships Education for all primary pupils and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) for all secondary pupils will be compulsory. Health Education will also be compulsory for all pupils in state-funded schools. Schools will be required to consult with parents when developing and reviewing their policies for Relationships Education and RSE. These policies must be published online and must be available to any individual free of charge.

In many cases “healthy relationship” training for young people follows the approach: teach girls to respect themselves and not let men control you and teach boys to respect woman and not to be violent towards women. Healthy Relationships need to be built on MUTUAL respect. This gendered approach re-enforces gender stereotypes and creates imbalance in relationships. 

133. Domestic abuse is the most common risk factor identified by social workers in assessments and is a key driver of need for children’s social care. Children’s social workers are therefore an important partner both in the identification of domestic abuse and the service response – whether by engaging families to keep children safe from harm, finding the best possible care when children cannot live at home, or creating the conditions that enable children to thrive and achieve. Children’s social workers play a crucial role within the wider multi-agency response, alongside other safeguarding partners like the police, schools and NHS to help protect children.

Training for social workers needs to be gender-inclusive and neutral. Bias in favor of mothers and against fathers puts many children at risk.

135. Social Work England’s Professional Standards Guidance states that social workers must use social work theories, models and research alongside the evidence from assessments in making their professional judgements. In responding to domestic abuse this might include taking into account known risk factors associated with domestic abuse such as pregnancy, as well as co-occurrence with other factors including adult mental ill-health and substance use. It is important that social workers continue to develop their knowledge and skills through continuing professional development; this should include understanding of the different forms of domestic abuse.

There needs to be an effort to dismantle gender bias and prejudices in regards to fathers and men. It is well known that men and women are not being treated equal by social workers. If tjis was the case regarding race, we would, rightfully so see and address the issue. Bias against men needs to be addressed and tackled in the same way.

136. Given the insidious and often hidden nature of domestic abuse, it is critical that social workers employ professional curiosity to recognise patterns of behaviour over time.

This is absolutely true and needs to be done in an objective, non-gendered way.

160. The NHS has a key role in providing care and support to victims of domestic abuse through a wide range of health care services, including services for physical and mental health. Staff working in the NHS can help to identify victims and potential victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse and provide, signpost or refer them to appropriate support, for example to local safeguarding arrangements or specialist domestic abuse services

Under the “Safeguarding Children, Young People and Adults at Risk in the NHS: Safeguarding Accountability and Assurance Framework” health and care providers (4.3.1) have a statutory duty to ensure ‘safeguarding must be included in induction programmes’. Across all healthcare workers, most induction program have become very focused on women, to the point of visibly erasing the experience of male victims of domestic violence. Anecdotal and personal interviews of health care workers have revealed that many do not have the adequate information, and have no knowledge on experiences of male victims of domestic violence and where to signpost them while being fully aware of where to signpost female victims. The training has also ensured many health care workers-from the A/E to GP surgeries are more likely to ask a female if she is experiencing DV. A significant number have never, and will not, ask a male presenting to A/E or GP surgeries if they are experiencing domestic abuse.

163. DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) published an online domestic abuse resource for health professionals and have developed a number of e-learning and training modules with the Institute of Health Professionals and the Royal Colleges of Nursing and GPs. Further details of the DHSC online resource can be found here.

The “Responding to domestic abuse A resource for health professionals” emphasized that ‘All health practitioners, whether working in emergency, acute, primary care or community health, have a professional responsibility, if you identify signs of domestic abuse or if things are not adding up, to ask..’ For most health practitioner professional responsibility is a product of professional training and expectations. Many healthcare workers have had training in their formative years that significantly ignore male victims of DV, portrays them as “always” the perpetrator, or seek to undermine their ability to open up on experiences. As a result it is unlikely they will get around to “Ask”

 The “EMRCS”, an online exam bank nearly (if not all) surgeons across the United Kingdom have utilised as a study aid to sit for the Membership of the Royal College of Surgeon (MRCS) exam-a mandatory first step post-qualification and mandatory exam for ALL surgeons and surgeons-in training, covertly or overtly, portrays all male as ‘troublesome’. In discussing consent regarding a child where both parents have parental responsibility, most of the question fuels the rhetoric wherein opinions of the mother are gold-standard and, that of the father (male) not to be given much weight. Other question while ensuring safe practice amongst surgeons portrays this gendered narrative. As a result, many surgeons and surgeon-in training will be more likely to recognise, support and signpost female victims but not so for male victims.

For many (if not all) UK-registered Practitioner, the Situation Judgement test (SJT) is a core requirement for all doctors who wish to become GPs. Many doctors undertaking the exam to become GP have used study aids, mostly “Passmedicine”. Nearly, all SJT questions portartrayed male as the perpetrators and gave annotations on how to recognise, and sensitively support female victims. Not one question or accompanying annotation, referred to male victims of female perpetrated DV. The short- and long-term effect is that nearly all GPs and GPs-in training, has had fair exposure to female victims of DV and how to ‘ask’. While this knowledge might not correlate with accurate reporting of interactions, the worst can be assumed of male victims of DV wherein many have no knowledge of how to ‘ask’ male victims.

“I will add that in 2019 when I decided to sit for the GP exam, I wrote to the CEO of the online question bank, Nick, about the damaging effect those SJTs are posing to male victims of DV and how shocking it is to see male victims being brushed off. His response “I think you make some very valid points regarding male victims of domestic violence. We will ‘try’ and address this in future questions”. I will leave you to imagine my wrath.