Domestic Abuse Against Men in Scotland

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Domestic Abuse Against Men in Scotland

CHAPTER SIX - SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

In this report we have detailed the first study of male victims of domestic abuse that has explicitly sought to integrate analyses of police statistics, together with the findings of survey research and men's in-depth accounts of victimisation.

This research uncovered that a number of men (over one in four) had inaccurately reported experiences of force or threats from a partner in the SCS 2000 self-completion questionnaire. Taking this into account, we argued that fewer men in Scotland are victims of domestic abuse than has previously been reported. Even so, the number of men who had experienced force or threats from current or former partners was not inconsequential 84.

We did not attempt to calculate how many female respondents inaccurately reported experiences of abuse in the SCS 2000 because we did not retrace any female respondents. Whilst it is plausible that some women inaccurately reported experiences of abuse in the SCS 2000, we note that one of the key factors that led men to report inaccurately was less pertinent for women. In 1999 ninety-five per cent of the violence experienced by men in Scotland was not domestic (MVA, 2000). Some men mistakenly reported this other violence as 'domestic violence' in the self-completion component of the SCS 2000. Only 36 per cent of the violence experienced by women in Scotland was not domestic. Hence there was smaller potential for female respondents to make this error. Needless to say, some male and female respondents who had experienced domestic abuse probably did not report these experiences in the SCS 2000 through fear of exposure, reprisal, shame, embarrassment or forgetfulness.

Whilst Scottish Crime Survey data indicated that in 1999 male victims of domestic abuse fell disproportionately within the 16-21 year old group, the police data depicted a slightly older profile. However, both sources of data suggested a fairly even distribution of male victims across the age range. Police data implied that the age range for both male and female victims is grouped predominantly around the 31-40 years age group. Police data also suggested that both male and female perpetrators were predominantly in the 31-40 year age range, although female victims and female perpetrators tended to be slightly younger than male victims and male perpetrators.

Analyses of the Scottish Crime Survey 2000 suggested that male victims were more likely than female victims to be still cohabiting with perpetrators of abuse. However, the majority of male victims in our follow-up sample had subsequently separated, suggesting that male victims tend not to leave abusive partners immediately after abusive incidents. Further research is needed to quantify the proportions of men living with male partners in the general population of Scotland (relative to the proportion of men living with female partners) before a definitive statement can be made regarding whether or not 'gay' men are at a greater risk of domestic abuse. A case could be made for undertaking further research, based on snowball samples, on experiences of abuse amongst ethnic and sexual minority populations.

Our qualitative research found recurrent themes amongst those men who had experienced domestic abuse. Men who worked in the armed forces appeared to be over-represented in our sample, as were men who were violent themselves, men whose partners felt socially isolated, and men in relationships in which one or both partners drank excessively. The Scottish Crime Survey 2000 suggested that male victims of domestic abuse tended to be poorer than men who were not victims, although it appears as if this financial disadvantage falls predominantly on those male victims who are divorced or separated. Male victims of domestic abuse tended to report better health and higher incomes than female victims, and were less likely to live in rented accommodation.

Both Scottish Police and Scottish Crime Survey data suggest that repeat physical violence is comparatively rare amongst male victims. Many of the men we interviewed had had a number of abusive arguments with their partners (which some respondents had reported as repeat victimisation in the SCS 2000). Only rarely did these abusive arguments involve actual physical assaults.

The effects of being forced or threatened by partners varied immensely amongst male victims. Many of the men we spoke to trivialised the abuse they had experienced. The majority did not consider themselves to be either 'victims' of 'crime' or of 'domestic violence', although many were embarrassed by the abuse they had experienced. Only a few of the men that we spoke to had sustained serious injuries as a consequence of their partners' violent behaviours. A few of the men who were seriously injured had lived in fear for their own and their children's safety. More commonly though, the male victims we interviewed admitted to being more upset and/or angry about the breakdown of relationships in which abuse had occurred than the actual abuse itself. Separations between abused men and their partners occasionally resulted in distressing disputes over child custody, the family home and shared finances.

Sometimes abuse against men related to one partner's hesitance to relinquish a relationship, contrary to the wishes of the other partner. This study found that when men stayed with abusive partners they tended to do so because they expected the abuse to be an isolated incident, possible to overcome, and/or because they blamed themselves for their partners' unhappiness. Many of the abused men we spoke to stressed that most of the time the positive aspects of their relationships outweighed their partners' abusiveness. Our analyses suggested that those abused men who stayed only for their children and/or through financial necessity were in the minority.

Male victims also varied in terms of what they labelled 'abuse'. Some men adopted definitions which focussed narrowly on the use of physical force, whilst others defined abuse in terms of their partners' infidelity, reluctance to trust them, restricted access to their children, and being forced to discuss relationship problems at inopportune times. Although practically and ethically difficult, there is a need for research which explores in-depth both victims' and perpetrators' perspectives on the same incidents in order to glean a clearer understanding of the dynamics of abusive domestic relationships.

At the time of writing, statutory service providers for victims have relatively few contacts with men who claim to have been abused by partners or ex-partners. Very few men report their experiences of abuse to the police. This low level of reporting, together with the smaller number of repeat and serious domestic assaults on men, probably explains why men feature so infrequently in the statistical records produced by the Scottish Police. Our analysis of men's accounts of their victimisation indicated that the police often encountered abused men on the occasions when the men themselves either instigated attacks on their partners or had retaliated physically against them. Despite this, the four abused men in our sample who had contact with the police were satisfied with the responses they received.

Police statistics suggest that those who perpetrated abuse against men in 2000 were less likely than those who perpetrated abuse against women to be arrested or referred to the Procurator Fiscal. This aggregate difference appears to be attributable, at least in part, to the smaller proportion of ex-partners amongst the female perpetrator population relative to the male perpetrator population. Men who abused male partners were less likely than men who abused female partners to be referred to the Procurator Fiscal. Men who abused female partners were less likely to have 'no further action' taken against them by the police than men who abused male partners. Research that moves beyond the aggregate statistics contained in the Executive's Bulletins is needed to glean a more nuanced account of police responses to male and female victims of domestic abuse.

The police, amongst other statutory service providers, did seem concerned about the lack of referral agencies available to support abused men. This may be a particular problem because many abused men do not see themselves as victims, and/or do not wish to have their partners arrested. This may explain why some abused men do not perceive Victim Support as a suitable service for them. Other abused men in our sample were also abusers themselves. In combination these three factors may explain why so few abused men wished to draw themselves to the attention of criminal justice agencies. It may also explain why most of those men in our sample who did seek support approached workers outside the criminal justice system (e.g. psychotherapists , local religious leaders, General Practitioners and health workers).

Domestic Abuse Forums in Scotland currently make little provision for male victims, although most member agencies maintain that the services they provide are open to both men and women. Likewise, domestic abuse issues are rarely central concerns of specialist Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) organisations, although many of these specialist organisations told us they would like to see statutory services do more for sexual minority populations experiencing domestic abuse. The small number of male victims, these victims' geographical dispersion, and the relative under-resourcing of agencies that provide specialist services for gay men and/or abused men are all factors that make the case for urging pre-existing statutory service providers to advertise more widely their capacity to meet the needs of men experiencing domestic abuse. This report finds little evidence of a need to establish specialist organisations to deal exclusively with male victims of domestic abuse. It finds a stronger case for ensuring that those men who want to leave abusive partners are not hindered by financial constraints, the absence of alternative housing and/or the lack of affordable legal assistance.