I often write here on the subject of domestic abuse, usually referring to news stories on the subject. Most of those stories relate to domestic abuse committed against women. The reason for this is obviously because the majority of victims are women, as we will see in a moment.
However, that does not, of course, signify that I am being unbalanced in my coverage of the subject – I am only reporting stories from other sources. And to make that point clear, when writing about such stories I often mention that men can be victims of abuse as well as women, as I did here just last week in this post.
The fact that I don’t include that ‘disclaimer’ with every post I write relating to stories about domestic abuse against women does not mean I am promoting a view that only women are victims.
But it seems that there are still some who think that just because I have made no mention of male victims in relation to a story about domestic abuse that means I am being unbalanced in my reporting, or that I simply refuse to acknowledge that men are victims too.
In an attempt to put that right I will repeat what I have done here on at least two occasions previously: write a post solely about domestic abuse against men.
I will begin with some statistics, which will indicate just how serious the problem is. They are the latest that I am aware of, coming from the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) article Domestic abuse: findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales: year ending March 2017, which you can find here.
Amongst its main points, the article states:
“The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated that 26% of women and 15% of men aged 16 to 59 had experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 4.3 million female and 2.4 million male victims, according to the year ending March 2017 CSEW.”
“An estimated 7.5% of women (1.2 million) and 4.3% of men (713,000) experienced domestic abuse in the last year.”
By my maths, the first figures indicated that male victims comprised about 35% of the whole, and the second figures indicated that they comprised about 37% of the whole.
In other words, if these figures are reasonably accurate then more than one in three victims of domestic abuse are men.
And the number of victims may be even higher than the figures set out above suggest. As the ONS explains, the Crime Survey used a definition of domestic abuse that broadly matches the cross-government definition of domestic abuse (which you can find here), but the CSEW estimates do not currently completely capture the offence of “coercive and controlling behaviour”, which was introduced in December 2015.
The statistic of one in three domestic abuse victims being male may come as a surprise to some. I remember when I first looked at the figures a few years ago I was surprised myself by how high the proportion of male victims was. I had of course always been aware that men were victims of abuse as well as women – like all family lawyers, I had come across male victims many times during the time I was practising – but I had always subconsciously assumed that the proportion of male victims was much lower. I suspect that most people who have not seen the figures may have the same assumption.
And that leads me to my next point. Whilst it is absolutely clear that men, and a large number of them, are victims of domestic abuse, the fact is that much of the population generally is not aware of this, and many people still refuse to take the issue seriously. We still, for example, come across the comedy stereotype of the ‘hen-pecked’ husband, unable to stand up to his domineering wife.
But being a victim of domestic abuse is not a joke, and such stereotypical thinking can make it much harder for male victims to be believed, particularly if their abusers are female, and especially if the abuse consists of physical violence. I acknowledge that this is likely to be a serious issue for many male victims. Hopefully, in its small way this post will help to raise awareness of men as victims of abuse, but more clearly needs to be done
So what can a man do if he is the victim of abuse? Well, everything that a woman can do. The law does not distinguish between male and female victims, even if it can be harder for a man to establish his case. Male victims can seek the assistance of the police or can take legal steps of their own to protect themselves. More information is available here.