Over the weekend, someone tweeted a link to a page on the Ministry of Justice site. The page, headlined Legal aid for victims of domestic violence, sets out the options open to anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves separating from or divorcing an abusive partner.
Domestic violence is one of the few areas of family law for which legal aid is still available. Most people would, I’m sure, agree that it can be a genuine emergency, and nobody should be placed at risk of life or limb just because they lack the money for firm legal action.
The problem with this particular page lies in the second paragraph. Here we read:
“To get legal aid you must be able to give your solicitor some evidence that you have been a victim of domestic violence by your partner or husband.”
(Emphasis my own)
As my Twitter correspondent, Dicky Souray, righty pointed out:
“One tiny word; one huge giveaway that even MoJ doesn’t seriously expect men to apply. Discouraged at first point of call.”
Of course, a great deal of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women, but domestic violence against men does exist, more frequently than many people imagine, and it certainly should not be casually disregarded in this way. If the government feels that it is appropriate to hang ‘women only’ signs out on a website about practical help for victims, where are men in need supposed to turn? It is another message from the establishment that the distress of male victims is imaginary. In the 21st Century we should be beyond lazy stereotypes of women as passive victims and men as perpetual villains.