Scottish VAMB

Scotland’s equalities minister, Christina McKelvie, announced that a review is under way to create a strategy for male victims of domestic abuse. This announcement was a reaction to a petition by a Mr William  Wright, who claimed that “The Scottish government ‘gender-based crime’ narrative for domestic abuse is labelling innocent men: harming them, hurting them, destroying them, and their families too.”

The equalities minister stated “The development of this strategy is ongoing. When developing any strategy, it is a priority for the Scottish government to involve key stakeholders in the process through active engagement.

“This ensures that the Scottish government is drawing on and collaborating with the opinions of trusted voices that help to inform and shape successful strategies.

“I would like to thank the petitioner for their interest in the work and reiterate that, while it is absolutely clear that women are by far most impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence, we take the issue of intimate partner violence seriously regardless of the gender of the victim, or of the perpetrator.”

The minister’s statements raise the question, if this strategy has a chance to be anything but biassed and a continuation of the gendered and seemingly discriminatory approach of the Scottish Government. The sentence “while it is absolutely clear that women are by far most impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence, we take the issue of intimate partner violence seriously regardless of the gender of the victim, or of the perpetrator” highlights the inflexible and ideological view held by the Equalities Minister that domestic abuse is a women’s issue, instead of a human issue.

When the minister mentioned “key stakeholders” and “the opinions of trusted voices” who will inform this strategy for male victims, it is to be feared that these are the same organisations and voices who have informed the policies so far, which lead to a biassed approach that all but ignores male victims.

The equalities minister is a self- proclaimed lifelong feminist with no track record of taking the specific needs of men and boys into consideration. Her strong focus is on female victims and male perpetrators as highlighted in this debate: The only men she has a history of supporting seem to be male members of the LGBT community. 

Even if she is serious about this strategy, one has to question if she can have a neutral and male-focusses approach to this strategy.

Based on the minister’s track-record and structural issues in the domestic abuse sector, our predictions regarding the creation of this strategy are as follows

  • The organisations informing this strategy will be the leading organisations of the women’s sector, such as Women’s Aid, Refuge and Respect
  • The organisation ‘Respect’ will be depicted as experts on male victims, despite less than 5% of the victims they support being male and despite subscribing to the gendered/feminist view on domestic abuse
  • One or two male-focussed organisations will be invited to testify, but their input will largely be ignored
  • The strategy will stress that domestic abuse predominantly affects women, therefore downplaying the impact on male victims
  • the strategy will be comparatively short and non-committal
  • ‘masculinity’ will be blamed as a reason that men become victims and don’t report
  • there will be no concession that there are structural obstacles affecting male victims such as lack of screening by NHS, lack of representation in media and female-victim focus of police and social services
  • provided data will minimise male victims and female perpetrators
  • data indicating that between ⅓ and ½ of victims of domestic abuse are male will be ignored
  • data showing that male victims dramatically underreport will not be presented
  • there will be no significant commitment to fund by-and-for organisations that support male victims
  • there will be a disproportionate focus on LGBT victims
  • funding, if at all, will be allocated to organisations such as SafeLives and RapeCrisis who have a 95% female focus.
  • there will be funding allocated to LGBT organisations, even though this is not the focus of the strategy
  • there will be no commitment to have a gender-neutral approach, to have proportional representation in campaigns or to have male specific support.

We hope, of course, that these predictions do not come true and that the Scottish Government creates a useful strategy with real commitment and sincere focus on male victims.

We would love to support the Minister in creating such a strategy to be proven wrong.

Philipp Tanzer for GenderParity UK

Read a selection of Christina McKelvie’s Tweet history