1 April 2022
Statement from Mark Brooks OBE, Chair of the ManKind Initiative, with regard to the Government’s Supporting Male Victims document and aligned documents.
We welcome the fact that the Government has made improvements to its refreshed Supporting Male Victims document which supersedes its predecessor, and that it has been made clear this new document sits alongside the Domestic Abuse Plan and the Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. Better highlighting of the barriers that male victims face is a clear improvement as is the addition of male victims to the published remit of the Minister for Safeguarding. That is an important marker.
Aligned to this, it was welcome to see clearer and explicit acknowledgement in the National Statement of Expectations and the Toolkit on the need for public services to ensure they are supporting male victims of crimes such as sexual violence, domestic abuse and forced marriage.
The continuing investment in the domestic abuse sector is also welcome too and as a result we have seen a gradual growth in the number of IDVA positions focused on male and LGBT+ clients. We hope that this growth continues and accelerates which it should and must do given the additional funding specifically for IDVA roles.
There still remain significant issues in how male victims are described and recognised, as well as the need to accelerate the dismantling of the cultural, societal and public service delivery barriers they face. These need to be tackled at pace.
It is clear male victims of crimes such as sexual violence and domestic abuse need an overarching strategy that will address their needs and tackle the gender-specific barriers to recognition and support. We and others stand ready to work positively with the Government on this. This has been the policy position of this charity and others for well over five years and was a request that we made again during the VAWG consultation. We raised this directly again with the Government this week.
At a high level, the male victim document’s title (“Supporting male victims of crimes considered violence against women and girls”) reads as if male victims of sexual violence, domestic abuse and forced marriage are considered women and girls. We have been reassured on Thursday by the Government that this is not what it meant. This was in a positive meeting we had with the Minister about male victims of domestic abuse. However, it remains a clear problem in terms of language and positioning, making it harder for male victims to be recognised and ‘seen’ by themselves, by society and public services. We urge the Government to rethink the title and we will write formally on this matter. We and others would be happy to work with the Government on this.
Throughout the whole process of creating this document, and related consultations (including the VAWG Consultation itself), we had set out that it needed to pass the Male Survivors Test: more men recognise they are victims of domestic abuse, are positively supported, are able to escape and then are able to rebuild their lives.
As helpfully described in the document there are clear obstacles for male victims in each of the above areas, evidencing the need for a cultural, societal and whole system change to overcome them.
The change that is needed to make this breakthrough includes clear hard coded accountabilities, commitments and responsibilities throughout the public services especially the police, councils (including flowing through to their commissioned services) and the health service (including referral pathways, GPs and A&E). Better service response and service provision is crucial and this requires targets and teeth. It needs a clear and measurable monitoring process and a very stark explicit requirement on public bodies that with respect to their legal, equality and statutory duties, they have to be applied equally to men and women who are victims of these crimes.
Very few men are being supported by a community-based service in the local area and we need to see that rise, and, of course we need to see a fall in offending against men with respect to these crimes too.
The actions in this document and in other related documents do not address these overarching issues at the pace required in terms of more male victims of sexual violence, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, stalking, forced marriage and so-called ‘honour’-based abuse escaping the crimes they suffer from. This also includes their children who are now victims in their own right.
The solution would be through creating an overarching “Ending Intimate Violence Against Men and Boys Strategy” with clear targets, accountabilities, commitments and responsibilities for public services. It must also have robust monitoring and reporting mechanisms.
This strategy must be on men and boys’ own terms and not place them in the context or in comparison with the terrible crimes that affect women and girls. Male victims, both individually and collectively, need and deserve their own distinct voice and place at the table. This would also not negate the experiences, barriers and understanding of female victims nor diminish the very important Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. It would in fact, produce clearer and cleaner policy making for all. Men and boys would no longer be placed into a strategy that does not bear their name.
A specific tailored strategy would drive the cultural, societal and whole system change needed and would be the best way to move the dial forward at a faster pace in helping meet the Male Survivors Test. Until then, the barriers male victims face such as being marginalised, not ‘seen’ and not being adequately supported will be addressed far too slowly.
We and other organisations stand ready to work positively and in partnership with the Government on such a strategy, as the next step forward in meeting the Male Survivors Test.
Mark Brooks OBE, Chair, ManKind Initiative