It is an unfortunate reality working as a family law solicitor that we regularly come across domestic violence. Some individuals suffer in silence for years before finding a way to get away form an abusive partner. Others courageously take a stand the first time an incident happens. Every case is unique – and every one is disturbing, whether it is physical or mental abuse.
Now I chose those words carefully. I didn’t want to statements about whether victims of domestic violence are male or female. However, I would bet the vast majority of people will immediately have assumed that I am talking about female victims. Men aren’t really victims of abuse, surely? Wrong, and after all, abuse is abuse no matter what sex the victim.
A report published recently and covered in the press last week from campaign group Parity shockingly revealed that 40% of all domestic violence victims are male. However, men assaulted by wives or girlfriends are often forgotten victims because people don’t think it happens. They can often be ignored by the police, see their attackers go free and have significantly less support than female victims, according to the report. Convictions of women for domestic violence are rising – from 1,575 in 2004-05 to 4,266 in 2008-09 – but still fall shocking short of the total number of incidents. "
I find it encouraging that this often taboo issue is being highlighted in this way. It is way overdue – not just for male victims but for all victims. There should be no gender bias on reporting or the support that victims can get.
Domestic violence accounts for 16% of all crime, has more repeat victims than any other crime and will affect one in four women and one in six men in their lifetime, according to the Crime in England and Wales 2006/07 report. It includes any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (be it physical or emotional) between adults who are, or have been, in a relationship together, or between family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.
Many victims will feel trapped and that things will be worse if they try and get help. Family lawyers – indeed all professional services linked to divorce and separation – have an important role to play in broadcasting the message that there is help available and they can find a way out.
Everyone has the right to live without fear for their safety. No one has the right to cause harm or threaten an individual, however close to that person they might be.
A solicitor can help by applying for an injunction to help keep a person safe and their partner away from them. They can apply for orders under the Childrens Act to protect any offspring caught in the crossfire. They can also, of course, manage the legal divorce process. I think the slogan goes “Don’t suffer in silence”. We all need to get that message out there to both genders.