Domestic Abuse Services

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:02 pm on 2nd December 2004.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 5:02 pm, 2nd December 2004

The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-2055, in the name of Mike Rumbles, on domestic abuse services for all victims.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the very serious and totally unacceptable problem of domestic violence in Scottish society; notes in particular that all victims, whether they be women, men or children, need to be supported, and therefore considers that the Scottish Executive should provide practical help and assistance to all such victims.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 5:12 pm, 2nd December 2004

I am pleased to open the debate, in which we can at last address issues that relate to all victims of violence and domestic abuse in Scotland. I make it clear that I fully support the Executive's initiatives to tackle the problem of domestic abuse against women. It is to the Executive's credit that that issue has gained the prominence that it has. However, over the years, Parliament has held many debates on violence against women in all its forms and I have become more and more concerned that, in focusing our debates in that way, we are in danger of sending out the wrong message to other victims of violence, perhaps to the effect that their suffering does not warrant so much of our attention.

The matter is not just about giving our attention to all the other victims of abuse; it is much more serious than that. To eradicate the problem, we must first recognise that the problem exists. We must tackle it and, in so doing, allocate Scottish Executive resources to help and assist victims. I will give an example of what I mean about lack of resources. Some support groups for the victims of sexual abuse have had their links with Scotland's leading rape charity severed because they offer counselling to men. Group directors were told to leave Rape Crisis Scotland's network after they decided to help men through rape ordeals. Centres in Dumfries, Stirling and Ayr have been denied Scottish Executive funding because they deal with men. Iraina McGroarty, the director of the Dumfries centre, told me that

"the Scottish Rape Crisis Network always turned a blind eye when we supported children—there was no blind eye turned when we helped men, there is a massive gap in the system".

The argument that is used for withdrawing funding is that men should, if they want a service, set it up for themselves. When I raised the issue of funding for male victims of domestic abuse with Margaret Curran, the Minister for Social Justice in the previous session of Parliament, she said the same thing. In last month's debate on domestic abuse, Johann Lamont, Malcolm Chisholm's Deputy Minister for Communities, said:

"the reality of an experience is whether self-help groups begin to develop".—[Official Report, 4 November 2004; c 11629.]

To me, that denies the reality that men suffer violence and domestic abuse. It simply is not good enough for the Government to shrug its shoulders and say that if help is to be given, men should first help themselves. All I have been trying to do is to get the Scottish Executive ministers who have responsibility in the matter to acknowledge the existence of the problem.

I will focus on the clear evidence that is available throughout the western world that indicates that domestic violence is not limited to male violence against women. I will share just a few of these studies. The British crime survey of 1996 found that the number of males and females who had experienced domestic abuse from their partner in the United Kingdom was exactly the same, at 4.2 per cent of the population. From two large national US surveys, the American social scientists Strauss and Gelles reported that husbands and wives had assaulted each other at approximately equal rates and found that more wives than husbands were severely violent towards their spouses. In a New Zealand survey of 1,037 young adults, 18 per cent of young women said they had perpetrated severe physical violence against their partners, as compared to just 6 per cent of young men who had done so. Three times more women than men said that they had kicked or bitten their partners or that they had hit them with their fists or an object.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I cannot at the moment. I must get through this part of my speech.

My point is that a wealth of studies and reports from across the western world indicate that domestic violence is not only an issue when the victim is female, a youth or a child.

I return to the domestic scene here in Scotland: The Scottish crime survey of 1996 showed that about 6 per cent of females and 4 per cent of males reported experience of abuse during the previous year. At first sight, the Scottish Executive-sponsored research on domestic abuse against men in Scotland, which was undertaken by Keele University, seems to show that 92 per cent of domestic abuse incidents were male against female. The study used as an indicator actual reports of violence that were registered by the police.

I said "seems to show", because the authors of that report caution us on over-reliance on the statistics because there is evidence of reluctance among male victims to report their experiences to the police. It appears that there are a host of reasons for their not doing so. Fewer than one in six incidents against male victims are reported to the police compared to almost one in two incidents against female victims. The report even suggests that the split of incidents in Scotland is more likely to be in the ratio of about 80 per cent female to 20 per cent male victims. That represents about 60,000 incidents of male violence against females, but also some 15,000 incidents of female violence against males.

So, the evidence is clear that, although the vast majority of victims of domestic violence in Scotland are women, there is a substantial minority of male victims, and a large number of female perpetrators, of violence. The research goes on to say that

"disbelief and lack of service provision are both factors that can compound male victims' experience of abuse".

What I am trying to do in the debate, while I have the attention of the minister, is focus on the disbelief and lack of recognition that seems to emanate from the Scottish Executive ministers who have responsibility in the matter.

The report is clear in what it says:

"male victims would benefit from support and advice regarding housing and welfare. Men who are trying to separate from abusive partners may benefit from the provision of alternative accommodation for themselves and their children and better legal and financial support."

There is no doubt at all that Scottish Executive ministers are doing good work in driving through efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. In the motions that they have lodged, we have seen ministers move their focus from exclusive identification of females as the victims of domestic abuse to inclusion of children and young people. However, ministers seem to have a mental block when it comes to the inclusion of male victims. I do not know why. I am simply asking the minister to do the obvious thing, which is to take just one more step: he should recognise that men are also victims of domestic violence and provide them with real help and support. We need to ensure that all victims of domestic abuse, whether they are women, children or men are helped and assisted with appropriate services that are funded by the Scottish Executive.

In the terms of my motion, effective domestic abuse services should, in a modern 21st century Scotland, be available for all victims

Photo of Carolyn Leckie Carolyn Leckie SSP 5:20 pm, 2nd December 2004

Here we go again—almost. I will say at the outset that nobody, including me, has ever claimed that there should be a denial of services to anyone who suffers violence.

Mike Rumbles cannot escape the facts. According to the Scottish crime survey 2000, which he did not quote, 93 per cent of domestic abuse victims are female and 93 per cent of the perpetrators are male. That is just the start. In nature and in the vast majority of cases, such abuse is a gender-based crime; it is the most extreme manifestation of sexism and misogyny.

I will not do as Mike Rumbles did: I will not let my whole speech be dominated by confronting him and his beliefs. I will not do as he has done in the debates on violence against women and domestic abuse in the past few weeks. However, I wish in passing to raise some issues about Fathers 4 Justice. It is becoming evident that the actions of at least some members of that group are a continuation of domestic abuse. Some men will go to persistent lengths to project and perpetuate their dominance in the living rooms of women and children, via the television screen. That is one reason why I will leave the chamber after my speech to join the demonstration against violence against women, which is assembling on Market Street at 6 pm.

All victims of abuse and violence need appropriate resources and support. Unless, however, there is a recognition that the majority of domestic abuse is gender based and is rooted in the inequality of women in society, it cannot be expected that services will be appropriate for either women or men. The prevalence and severity of domestic abuse is greater against women. Women are more likely to be strangled, they are more likely to be raped, they are more likely to suffer actual physical injury and they are more likely to have to go to hospital.

Attitudes and perceptions are completely different between men and women. I will quote from a survey that perhaps explains why the prevalence of violence against women is higher than it is against men. When asked whether they thought domestic violence was

"wrong, but not a crime",

38 per cent of women said yes, compared with only 18 per cent of men. When asked whether domestic violence was "just something that happens", 54 per cent of men thought that that was the case, compared with 22 per cent of women. Those attitudes are engrained, and they are at the root of the violence and batterings that women receive.

I support universal services for all, but they need to be appropriate for the violence and abuse that are perpetrated. For Mike Rumbles consistently to argue that the Executive's strategies on domestic abuse should refer generically to domestic abuse and make no reference to the gender-specific nature of abuse is to deny appropriate services for either gender. Mike Rumbles needs to understand the nature of the issue and to know what it is he argues for. It would not be appropriate for services designed for women who experience gender-specific abuse to be rolled out to men because those services would not be appropriate for the type of abuse that men suffer. I suggest that Mike Rumbles develop his arguments, and that he ask for specific services.

Mike Rumbles has pointed out that the Executive expects men to self-organise, but women have had to self-organise for centuries. Women have only ever achieved concessions, services or recognition of the abuse and violence that they have suffered because they have self-organised. Every single service for women who have suffered abuse and violence exists only because women fought for it, organised for it, funded it and battled for inadequate resources. It would be a good thing for men to battle for services that are appropriate for them, to determine what those are and to organise for them. That would be more appropriate than for them to breenge their way into services that are gender specific for women.

I will leave now, because I want to attend the demonstration. Maybe Mike Rumbles will come down and get us at 6 pm—see you there.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 5:25 pm, 2nd December 2004

I find myself in a rather curious position, not because of my solitary presence on the SNP benches—a by-election is attracting the attention of many of my colleagues who are elsewhere—but because I find myself wanting to stand and defend the Executive against someone who has risen frequently to defend it, but who on this occasion, in the deployment of his argument and in his speech, is in essence attacking it.

We will not be voting on the motion, but we would find it easy to vote for if we were—indeed a number of my colleagues have signed it—because its terms are fair and proper. However, the picture that Mike Rumbles paints for us is one of a new Boudicca coming across the horizon with the scimitars attached to the wheels of her chariot to cut the legs off any man foolish enough to stand in her way.

Of course I accept that the test of a real civilisation is not how it treats its majority—although it must respect and respond to the wishes of the majority—but how it supports and respects the rights of minorities. I am far from convinced that there is merit in Mike Rumbles's case. He has to acknowledge that he is talking about a significantly small minority and he is doing his case no justice with his rather spurious manipulation of statistics, based on small percentages, from which it is unwise to extrapolate.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I really do not have time.

Before coming to the chamber, I put two phrases into the Google search engine to get a feel for the issue. I put in "female violence against men" and "male violence against women". The hits were 98 per cent for "male violence against women" and 2 per cent for "female violence against men". Of course that does not tell us about the incidence of the violence, but it does tell us how big a problem it is perceived to be by the people who are engaged in that technology, who are predominantly men. The oldest paper that I could find on female violence against men dates from 1975. It is not as if the issue has surfaced suddenly; it has been around for 30 years, but it has yet to make the kind of impact that, quite properly, male violence against women has made.

The figures that the Executive uses in its papers suggest that there are more than 10 times as many victims recorded where the perpetrator is male than there are where the perpetrator is female. That gives us the scale. It takes nothing away from men to support women.

Mike Rumbles made a rather curious argument, which I suspect the minister will address. He appeared to suggest that even though the Executive provided a grant for one purpose—protecting women—it would be okay to pretend in a Nelsonian manner that we were not seeing that it was being misused for other purposes. It is vital that we ensure that there is support for all people affected by domestic violence—women, children and men—but men are not being neglected just because we are giving women the support that they deserve and need.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative 5:29 pm, 2nd December 2004

There is no doubt that male violence towards women is the most prevalent form of domestic abuse and rightly deserves the prominence that it is given. However, the debate is welcome, because it allows us to talk about all victims of domestic abuse. Our social culture does not allow men to be vulnerable or weak and it is hard to encourage dialogue between men and health professionals when it comes to physical, emotional or mental health problems.

Some 20 per cent more women than men visit their general practitioner. Men are more likely to suffer in silence and tend to ignore symptoms of illness or delay seeking medical attention until a crisis point is reached. Suicide rates for men are more than three times higher than those for women. It is rare for me to agree with Mike Rumbles, but I hope that those who trivialise the fact that men have a problem will look at some of the background statistics.

The Executive's definition refers to people who experience domestic abuse as women because they represent the majority of victims, and rightly so, but they are not 100 per cent. We must maintain an awareness that domestic abuse can take place in any relationship and defining those who experience it in gendered language reinforces the belief that it is not macho for a man to be a victim of violence.

It is difficult to ascertain accurate figures for male victims of domestic abuse because the problem is likely to be seriously under-reported. We cannot get an accurate picture simply by looking at police reports. The Executive's study "Domestic Abuse Against Men in Scotland" found that the embarrassment that many male victims feel is a factor that explains the infrequency with which male victims of domestic abuse come to the attention of the Scottish police. Among the men who were interviewed for the report there was a common feeling of being more upset or angry about the breakdown of a relationship in which abuse had occurred than about the abuse. We cannot allow male victims of violence to be trivialised—or indeed ignored—simply because they are not represented in the same distressing number as females.

I will say a few words about rehabilitation programmes. In several local authorities, criminal justice workers provide programmes for men who have been convicted of domestic violence offences. Such programmes aim to encourage men to identify and rethink some of the attitudes and fears that underpin their use of violence. That is necessary and praiseworthy, but I note that the Royal College of Psychiatrists states that male abusers tend to be emotionally inexpressive, to have low self-esteem and to lack assertiveness, and by the time they get to programmes it is often too late. We should consider more preventive measures. The level of repeat incidence is alarmingly high, which points to the fact that the help that is available, for both men and women, is not sufficient. Although preventive work to repair the culture that permits violence is difficult to undertake, it might provoke healthier results than our forcing a convicted male to undertake a rehabilitation course in what will already be a crisis.

The priority is confirmed and well outlined in the motion. It is to open service provision to men and to make men aware of the support that is available to them just as it is available to females who wish to leave a situation of domestic abuse. Every effort must be made to ensure that the act of leaving an abusive partner, whether they are male or female, is not hindered by financial, housing or other constraints. Everyone in Scotland is entitled to the social and natural justice and protection that we expect from our public and voluntary agencies.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 5:34 pm, 2nd December 2004

To some extent, we are arguing about a non-argument. I am sure that everyone in the Parliament is committed to supporting the Executive's praiseworthy emphasis on improving services for women who are assaulted in the home, outside the home, or wherever. Historically, women have undoubtedly had problems in our society. In many places and many homes they are not regarded as equal partners. We must support women, give them more self-confidence and help them when they are physically attacked. None of that means that we should not also help other people who have a problem. If there is violence in 10 homes in a street and, in nine of them, men are hitting women but, in one of them, a woman is hitting a man, we should help all 10 households. That need not be done in a fashion that in any way diminishes the support for the women.

I have tried to argue in correspondence with the Lord Advocate that domestic abuse is abuse in the domus—the home—and affects everyone. I even used Latin, which seemed to me to be the correct thing to do when arguing with a Scottish lawyer. Domestic abuse can be an age issue; grandparents, aunties, cousins or children can be victims and mothers can be victims of large sons. Partners can be victims of each other. The Executive's working group thought—no doubt correctly, at the time—that priority should be given to violence between partners. It is important that that support should be given, but it would surely be easier for the police to deal with all sorts of violence in the home. The same can be said for the supporting agencies, because there is often fallout from domestic violence. Often, if the man drunkenly beats up the woman, the children get involved and he beats them up too.

We must consider domestic violence in the round, and we must do so in relation to alcohol, from which we shy away. We are all for banning smoking, but we are not banning alcohol. I am not suggesting that we can ban alcohol instantly, but we can take much more serious steps than we do at the moment against the misuse of alcohol, which can lead to all sorts of domestic violence.

We are not disputing about nothing, but everyone is reading into what other members are saying what they think that they are saying rather than listening to what they are really saying. There are no grounds for dispute. There is a big problem of violence towards women and the Executive is correct to be dealing with it. We probably need more resources for that work, but we also need to take an holistic view of domestic violence so that we can deal with everyone who gets involved in it. I hope that peace can break out, because we have debated the issue often and we should now concentrate on getting something done to help all those who need support.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green 5:37 pm, 2nd December 2004

Like other members, I welcome the motion and the fact that society is taking domestic abuse far more seriously. I also welcome the Scottish Executive's work to raise awareness of the issues and to fund services for those who suffer from domestic abuse.

Although there is nothing with which I disagree in the motion, I was rather disappointed with Mike Rumbles's speech and his presentation of the arguments, particularly the way in which he seemed to dwell on various international examples but skipped quickly over the report "Domestic Abuse Against Men in Scotland", which the Executive commissioned. That report's main finding is that, on the available evidence, there are considerably fewer male victims than female victims of domestic abuse in Scotland. That is the basic fact, although Mike Rumbles can quibble about the percentages.

In general, the abuse that male victims experience is less frequent and less severe than the abuse that female victims experience. Mike Rumbles fails to understand that we are talking about different things in different contexts and situations. Among the men who were interviewed, the majority of those who were abused were themselves perpetrators of violence. The research found little evidence in the responses of abused men or service providers to suggest that there is a need for a new agency with the specific remit of supporting male victims of domestic abuse or that there is a need for refuges for abused men.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green

Mike Rumbles did not give way to me, so I do not see why I should give way to him.

We need a different service for men because the context is different. We have to understand the domestic abuse of women in the context of a sexist society and of societal violence against women. Different services are required. I am pleased that the Scottish Executive supports the Scottish Women's Aid network and I am worried by anything that implies that that network should be undermined. It is there to provide women-only spaces and support for the women who form the vast majority of those who face sustained abuse in domestic settings. That is the context in which we have to see the issue. We have to challenge the legitimisation of violence against women, which still exists in our society.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

Would Mark Ballard also exclude from support services males who were the victims of males?

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green

The contexts are different. If there is a need for specific services for same-sex couples, I will support them, although I do not see any evidence of that need. I am saying that we should not undermine the Women's Aid network or the Scottish Rape Crisis Network but challenge the legitimisation of violence against women.

I was appalled when, while pursuing research for the debate, I read that, in a survey carried out in Glasgow in 2001, half the boys and a third of the girls who were questioned thought that hitting a woman was acceptable in some circumstances. Mary Scanlon is right to say that we need early intervention. In a previous members' business debate, Chris Ballance spoke of peace education and the need to develop, especially among young men, the skills for conflict resolution, co-operation and the avoidance of violence. Our education system must combat the context of domestic abuse against women—a context of sexism in society and the condoning of violence by society. If our education system does that, we will get to the root of some of the problems.

Conflating what happens to men in domestic abuse settings with what happens to women misses the social context. I am disappointed by Mike Rumbles's speech because of that.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 5:42 pm, 2nd December 2004

I congratulate Mike Rumbles on obtaining this debate on an issue about which I know he feels strongly. As members have said, it is difficult to disagree with the terms of the motion. However, the motion is pregnant—if I may be permitted to use a gender-specific word—with latent implications and overtones, some of which have been developed by other members. It would have been helpful if Mike Rumbles had given us some practical examples relating to domestic abuse services—not services for rape victims and others—which might have been developed in response to his point.

A heavy dose of perspective and attention to practical issues is required if the discussion is to cast light on policy options.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

No. With respect, I have only four minutes.

I have some professional experience of the issues under discussion from my past legal practice and I think that I can make some useful observations. First, every case is different: the backgrounds, the personalities that are involved and the way in which they interrelate are different. Donald Gorrie rightly talked about the issues as they relate to children, older people and others in the house. Secondly, policy makers have to recognise certain patterns. Domestic violence does not exist in a vacuum; it is linked to other forms of abuse, both verbal and psychological. In last week's debate on violence against women, my colleague Margaret Smith spoke of the many guises in which abuse comes, including threats and what she compellingly described as

"not only the fist raised in anger, but the voice raised to belittle and demean."—[Official Report, 25 November 2004; c 12352.]

Domestic violence is at the high end of domestic abuse, to which other aspects of abuse can escalate. I have—as I am sure other members have—come across many cases in which there has been a snapping point at which the borderline into violence has been crossed and, once crossed, is likely to be crossed again.

Domestic violence is also closely linked to the excess consumption of alcohol. Donald Gorrie rightly touched on that point. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and increases the causes of domestic dissension. It remains the case that our investment in tackling alcohol problems is too low, although alcohol does more damage to individuals in society than drugs do. The scourge of domestic violence could be reduced if excess alcohol consumption was tackled effectively.

The victims of domestic violence are, without question, women. Statistics show that 92.1 per cent of all incidents recorded by the police involved a male perpetrator and a female victim. I accept that there are issues of under-recording and under-reporting, but the perspective is pretty clear. Only 7.2 per cent of incidents involved a male perpetrator and a male victim, some of whom would, undoubtedly, be teenage boys in the household.

There are, of course, some male victims, but the research study that members have spoken about, which was carried out by the Executive in 2002, suggests that male victims are usually more upset about the breakdown of the relationship than about the abuse. The research also found little evidence of a need to establish specialist organisations to deal with male victims of domestic violence. However, it made a stronger case that men, like women, should not be hindered from leaving an abusive partner because of financial constraints or the absence of alternative housing or affordable legal assistance.

In short, the issues for policy makers centre overwhelmingly on the nature of support for women and children who are caught up in domestic abuse situations. I do not want to enter into the language of gender inequality and the struggle for women's equality, because I do not believe that most victims see their situation in such terms. However, such situations are undoubtedly about the abuse of power. Many women experience a sense of powerlessness, a loss of ability to change things and a loss of control over their lives and the lives of their dependent children that come with being a domestic abuse victim and with having no job or place to go.

This debate would have had value if it had concentrated on need, on the practical resources that the Executive was being asked to provide and on the sources and extent of demand. However, we have heard nothing about those matters.

Although we are taking many practical measures to support victims, more could and should be done. The biggest change that we could make would be to alter the attitude and culture of adults and young people to ensure that the domestic abuse of men, women, children or older people is no longer tolerated in the 21st century, that domestic abuse victims are supported and that work is started to remove contributory causes, such as alcohol abuse. The issue is far more complex than some have suggested.

Photo of John Farquhar Munro John Farquhar Munro Liberal Democrat 5:46 pm, 2nd December 2004

Over the past month, the Parliament has sent a strong message to the people of Scotland that domestic violence is unacceptable and should not—indeed, must not—be tolerated. Today's debate will make an important contribution to the discussion about how we address the causes and tackle the consequences of domestic violence and I congratulate Mike Rumbles on securing it. Several members have already outlined what they see as the main causes and effects of abuse.

Like Mike Rumbles, I wish to make it clear that the motion is in no way intended to belittle, downplay or denigrate the issue of domestic violence against women. I strongly support the Executive's approach to tackling abuse and will continue to support its efforts to ensure that women can access the vital support services that they need to escape from domestic violence and to rebuild their lives and their family's lives. I will also continue to support the Executive's efforts in doing all that it can to change some men's view that domestic abuse is acceptable. I repeat that such abuse is not acceptable.

In 2002, the Scottish police recorded 36,000 incidents of domestic abuse and I am sure that behind each of them lies a personal story of pain, anguish and fear. Given that the victim in 90 per cent of those incidents was female, it is only right and proper that much of the attention has focused on addressing women's needs.

However, I expect that, just as those women and their children have experienced pain, anguish and fear, terrible stories are to be found behind the 3,439 incidents of domestic abuse in which the victim was male. The Keele University study for the Scottish Executive raised some interesting points. For example, in cases in which men were victims, the police seem to have been less likely to deem as crimes the actions of their female perpetrators. Men also seem less likely to report abuse, because they do not consider it to be a criminal offence, as Mary Scanlon said. The true number of abuse cases involving violence against men could be higher than statistics suggest. However, the same research found evidence of over-reporting by some men, so the number of cases might be fewer than the research suggests.

Whatever the statistics, there is a human cost to men and women from domestic abuse and we must ensure that we tackle the problem. The Keele University study suggests that there is no need for more services. However, its report was written before it became known that services were closing down, which was the evidence that Mike Rumbles presented. I encourage the Executive to look into domestic abuse and address the problems that affect not only female partners and their children, but male partners in any arrangement.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 5:50 pm, 2nd December 2004

One month ago we debated fully the subject of domestic abuse in Scotland. Parliament then endorsed the Executive's motion and recognised the very serious and totally unacceptable problem of domestic abuse in Scottish society. It may surprise some, therefore, that Mike Rumbles has chosen to lodge his motion for debate when the issues have already been well aired. However, the reason that he has done so is not a secret. As he argued today, and on 4 November and on 25 November, he does not accept that domestic abuse is primarily a gender-based issue and that the nature and scale of domestic abuse perpetrated by men against women are totally different from that perpetrated by women against men and they require different solutions.

As Carolyn Leckie said, Mike Rumbles cannot escape the facts. Recorded crime statistics from 2002 show that, in over 90 per cent of cases of domestic abuse, the victim was female.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

No, I will not because I am going on the march at six o'clock and I must get through my speech before then.

In addition, as Mark Ballard pointed out, research that the Executive published in 2002 shows that, in general, male victims are less likely to be repeat victims of assault, to be seriously injured or to report feeling fearful in their own homes.

As Carolyn Leckie said, men and women typically have different attitudes and perceptions concerning domestic abuse. Underlying that is the gender inequality and abuse of power that makes domestic abuse a gender-based problem that requires a gender-based approach. We must acknowledge the patterns of behaviour, challenge the attitudes that underlie those patterns and set domestic abuse within a wider context of violence against women, which was the subject of last week's debate.

I believe that Mike Rumbles has misrepresented the Executive's position because nobody is saying that some men are not victims of domestic abuse and nobody is saying that they should not receive services.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I will do so.

Nobody is denying that anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse should receive protection and support, to pick up on Donald Gorrie's point. It is wrong to say that the Executive is not funding services for men. I have visited the Central Scotland Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre in Stirling to which the Executive has given funding and which provides services for men. However, it is up to the Scottish Rape Crisis Network, which is an independent network, to make its decisions about who is affiliated to it. Moreover, the Executive funds Men Against Sexual Abuse through £31,000 of section 10 funding. That organisation is exclusively for male sexual abuse survivors and they typically offer helpline advice, support and counselling.

As Stewart Stevenson said in the previous debate on the issue, to talk of violence against women is not to ignore violence against men. The Executive has repeatedly made it clear that our approach does not mean that we have a disregard for the small minority of men who are victims or for those who experience abuse within same-sex relationships. The domestic abuse strategy sets out plainly that

"The existence of violence against men is not denied, nor is the existence of violence in same sex relationships, nor other forms of abuse".

Moreover, the law protects men who are victims of domestic abuse. Various legal remedies are open to all victims, as appropriate, such as interdicts and court orders or non-harassment orders. The Matrimonial Homes (Family Protection) (Scotland) Act 1981 offers further remedies to spouses and opposite sex partners. The criminal law applies equally to criminal acts that are perpetrated by women against men or that are perpetrated within same-sex relationships. Similarly, when it comes to support, Victim Support Scotland provides a free and confidential service to all victims of crime.

The research that was carried out by the Executive, which has already been referred to, examined the prevalence of domestic abuse that was perpetrated against men in Scotland, gauged the nature, frequency and seriousness of that abuse, examined the perspectives of those men who had been abused and assessed the adequacy of levels of service provision for such men. It concluded that there did not seem to be a need for an agency whose specific remit was to support male victims of domestic abuse in Scotland. It also concluded that there did not appear to be a need for refuges for abused men, although some male victims would benefit from support and advice on housing and welfare. It suggested that men who were trying to separate from abusive partners might benefit from the provision of alternative accommodation for themselves and their children and better legal and financial support.

It is right that homelessness legislation in Scotland recognises that everyone who is fleeing domestic abuse should have a priority need for housing; that applies to men just as much as it applies to women, as do regulations that set out the advice and information that should be available to homeless people.

The research suggested that abused men were not making full use of the support services that are available to them, which perhaps indicates that some service providers need to publicise their remit more widely. As a consequence, ministers wrote to relevant agencies—local authorities and other service providers—to encourage them to make their services more visible to male victims.

In future, if evidence emerges that there are gaps in service provision or legal protection, of course we will consider them. For example, we are in the early stages of discussion with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisations to identify whether there is a need for research into issues to do with abuse in same-sex relationships.

However, the research on men and domestic abuse confirmed the position as we know it, which is that there is not a demand or a need for specific services to parallel those that are in place for women.

Although much of the available support is mainstream and open to all, it is women who require the specific additional support that is offered through refuge provision, support to Scottish Women's Aid and funds such as the domestic abuse service development fund. The structural nature of women's inequality and the relative positions of power of men and women provide the context for men's abuse of women and mean that the approach that is required is both singular and specific.

During the debate on 4 November, Mike Rumbles said:

"We must stop pretending that only men are violent and that women cannot be violent."—[Official Report, 4 November 2004; c 11624.]

No one is pretending any such thing. Women can be violent towards men, but that violence is not rooted in a deeper gender inequality within Scotland. That does not mean that we should ignore it—we do not—but the solutions are different. I continue to believe that the Executive's approach is right. By virtue of its scale and nature, domestic abuse can be seen as gender-based abuse. If we do not acknowledge that fact, we cannot be serious about challenging the inequalities that allow it to continue.

I apologise for not taking interventions, but I hope that members will join me on the Edinburgh march against violence against women, at which I will speak. It is unfortunate that the march has to happen every year as part of the 16 days of action that are now so necessary, but we hope that, in the not-too-distant future, such marches will no longer be necessary.

Meeting closed at 17:58.