I don’t normally do these quick signal-boosters, but I couldn’t let this one pass.
The charity Abused Men in Scotland have published a report, funded by the Scottish Government and written by Brian Dempsey of Dundee University law school, entitled “Men’s experience of domestic abuse in Scotland: What we know and how we can know more.”
It’s a superb piece of work that really gets a handle on the nuances and complexities of the issues. I’m particularly impressed by the way Dempsey leans without apology upon research and theory from across the ideological spectrum, applying valuable insights from feminist and non-feminist sources alike, while offering informed critique and criticism where required. Similarly, he is happy to jump between disciplines, describing Connell’s theories of masculinity one page and Dutton’s psychological theories of abusive personalities the next. He even applies intersectional thinking to the diverse experiences and lived identities of men which, I’ll confess, made me squee just a little.
Most importantly, it is practice- and policy-focused. Even if you don’t fancy reading the whole thing, please note the key recommendations, all of which could apply to the rest of the UK, and most of it elsewhere too.
- Policy responses to, and service provision for, men who experience domestic abuse should be evidence-based. Appropriate methodologies can be developed for both academic and practitioner research.
- The needs of children affected by abuse perpetrated against their fathers or other male carers must be addressed by central and local government and other service providers as a matter of the greatest urgency.
- As a priority, resources should be devoted to capturing and respecting the “lived experience” and the “voice” of men who experience domestic abuse. Attention should be paid to the potentially different experiences, challenges and strengths of a diverse range of men (e.g. older men, BME men).
- Research into, and policy responses to, the experiences of abused men should engage with insights from gender theory to explore how gender inequality and hegemonic masculinity negatively affect abused men. Insights from the work on gay, bisexual and trans men’s experience of domestic abuse should be developed.
- The role of the “public story” of domestic abuse in marginalising men who experience abuse should be considered in policy development and research. Anti-domestic abuse campaigns should include reference to, and images of, men. Representation of domestic abuse in newspapers, magazines and television should be inclusive of men’s experiences.
- Those working in the legal system (including solicitors, police, procurators and the judiciary) should identify and remove barriers to men seeking to access legal protection, whether civil or criminal.
- Service providers should address their responsibilities under the Equality Duty and/or the charity regulator’s equality requirements by following good practice demonstrated by, e.g., Citizen’s Advice Scotland and Victim Support Scotland. Where services wish to make themselves available to abused men and their children that should be made clear by way of overt statements and inclusive imagery and case studies.
- Public sector service providers such as the NHS, local authorities and the police must, as a matter of urgency, review their compliance with their legal obligations under the Equality Duty and may draw on Children in Scotland’s project “Making the Gender Equality Duty Real for Children, Young People and their Fathers”.
- Police Scotland, the NHS and others should build on already existing good practice to seek ways to ensure that abused men are able to disclose their experiences.
- Where some men trivialise the abuse they experience as “just something that happens” that should not be used to justify lack of recognition and support. Awareness raising campaigns should be developed that make clear that domestic abuse in all its forms is not something that will be tolerated or ignored in Scottish society.
- Innovative service provision for both women and men who abuse their male partners should be developed.
Final note, just in case anyone needs reminding… AMIS (like the Mankind Initiative who do similar work elsewhere in the UK) always emphasise that providing services and policies to meet the needs of men should only ever happen in addition to services provided for women, never at the expense of women in need. Something I wholeheartedly endorse.