Islington behind in fighting domestic violence against men
Figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal the number of women convicted of perpetrating domestic abuse has quadrupled in the past seven years, yet there are still no charities for male victims in Islington
Domestic violence is the largest cause of death worldwide in women aged between 19 and 44, greater than war, cancer or motor vehicle accidents, the Home Office found in a recent report.
Domestic abuse is often mistakenly perceived as a female-only crime, however statistics show that 38% of domestic abuse victims are male. This figure has been steadily rising in recent years, so is it time to question the truth behind the famous saying “Big boys don’t cry”?
This kind of violence could be happening much closer to home than we all realise. Islington has been found to have the second highest rate of reported domestic violence offences in North London, with Tower Hamlets just topping the list.
According to a report published by Islington Council, there has been a ‘worrying increase’ in serious youth violence and attacks on women, with 2,765 assaults on females over the last twelve months. However there is a risk that as more emphasis is placed on women as the victims of domestic violence, less men will feel encouraged to speak out about their abuse.
“Two permanent indentations in my left shoulder after attacks with a hammer.”
“Two kettles of boiling water poured on my groin.”
“Bleach sprayed into my eyes.”
“Fractured skull, three fractured ribs and surgery to replace the septum in my nose.”
These fragments tell the story of Ian McNicholl, 52, a domestic abuse survivor who is slowly rebuilding his life after suffering months of mistreatment at the hands of his former fiancée.
Arriving at Grimsby Crown Court for sentencing, smartly dressed in a grey pencil skirt and a black-cropped blazer, 5 foot 1 inch Michelle Williamson was the picture of a perfectly pleasant woman. Her figure slight, her nails neatly manicured, her rich brown hair sleekly pulled off her face. Her unsuspecting demeanour however masked a much more disturbing personality.
“Her justification was that I didn’t tell her I loved her enough”, McNicholl explains her reasoning behind the senseless acts of violence. She is currently serving a seven-year jail sentence after being found guilty of grievous bodily harm.
McNicholl describes how “men are not seen as victims” and inevitably with this, “there’s a lot of gender bias”. He has since been made an honorary patron of the ManKind Initiative, a national charity providing help and support for male victims of domestic abuse and violence.
The Mankind Initiative is targeting their campaigns in areas of London with high domestic abuse rates, particularly Islington as there is no specific charity aimed at dealing with male victims. Unlike Solace Women’s Aid, a well-known Islington charity focusing on female victims, there is no male alternative in the borough. (ManKind is also struggling with funding for its helpline – according to its website, the charity receives around 1,600 calls every year.)
Across the country, there are nearly 400 specialist domestic violence organisations providing refuge accommodation for women in the UK, with 4,000 spaces for over 7,000 women and children. Yet for male victims, there are just 11 organisations offering refuge or safe house provision with a total of 58 spaces, and none of these are in Islington.
Equal rights charitable organisation, Parity, argues that local authorities at present receive over £60 million each year in government funding to specifically support female domestic abuse victims, but nothing to support male victims. Yet statistics show that every third victim of domestic violence is a man.
Chairman of the Mankind Initiative, Mark Brooks, explains how “men do not recognise that they are a victim” but if they do, “they fear they won’t be believed, that people will laugh at them and there is a sense of shame in being a male victim.”
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that male victims (29%) are nearly twice as likely than women (17%) to not tell anyone about their partner’s abuse. Brooks describes how very few men contact the police as they “still feel they will not believe them”; a preconception that is made worse “by the lack of campaigns by the police to encourage men to come forward,” Brooks states.
Every year, the Mankind Initiative speaks “to 1,600 men or people helping men”. This figure is still incredibly small considering that for every five domestic abuse victims; three will be female and two will be male.
Last year, Mankind released this powerful advert showing two very different reactions by the public to a man and a woman experiencing domestic violence on the streets of London.
The overwhelming stereotype of domestic abuse as a female-only crime will never change unless people in the public eye change their attitudes towards the subject too. Kelly Brook’s appearance on ITV’s This Morning sparked anger from many viewers and male domestic abuse charities after she was accused of trivialising violence towards men.
During an interview promoting her new book, she addressed two separate incidents when she punched ex-boyfriends Jason Statham and Danny Cipriani. “These are big men I’m going out with – I mean look at me – I’m not going to do them any damage!” she quipped.
Brook punched Statham, after he embarrassed her at the wedding of Madonna and Guy Ritchie, “In my defence, I don’t think he felt it” she giggled. Yet the ONS figures show that, out of those who suffered partner abuse, more men suffered from severe force (34%) than women (28%).
Sandra Horley, Chief Executive of national domestic violence charity Refuge, was one of many to voice her disappointment over Brook’s comments. “Domestic violence is always unacceptable,” said Horley. “Regardless of age, background, gender or sexuality, there is no excuse for using violence against a partner.”
Whilst Mankind Chairman Brooks, said the admission “did not take seriously the domestic abuse that those men received”. Her appearance on the show caused outrage from hundreds on social networking websites, such as Twitter, arguing that there would have been a public backlash had the gender roles been reversed.
So Kelly Brook admits to hitting her boyfriends and laughs about it on live TV. If that was a guy, he would've been arrested.
— Rosicky (@RobbieSteely) September 8, 2014
— SelfEsteemTeam (@_SelfEsteemTeam) September 8, 2014
Kelly Brook laughs about hitting ex boyfriends on TV. Imagine Ray Rice laughing about it on ESPN – http://t.co/fwE7SvWWlz
— Tiba (@LiberTiba) September 9, 2014
An Italian news organisation, Fanpage.it, recently produced an eye-opening video asking young boys to hit a girl they had just met. All refused, but it should be questioned whether a young girl would behave the same way if the roles were reversed. There is undeniably more of an emphasis placed on boys who are told “never hit a girl” but Lindsey Mason, from domestic abuse charity Hidden Hurt, argues “It has to start in education, so all forms of discrimination and violence are condemned.”
With the media spotlight firmly placed on feminism last year through campaigns, such as, HeForShe spearheaded by Harry Potter star Emma Watson, the focus has only been aimed at one gender and many have failed to notice other societal expectations that can harm men too.
In a society where stereotypes can dominate perceptions, more and more need to question whether famous phrases, such as, “Big boys don’t cry” and “Man up” are doing more harm than good.
Featured image by Sander van der Wel, Flickr