Violence Against Men

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 10th June 2010.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 2:15 pm, 10th June 2010

The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-6531, in the name of Alex Neil, on violence against men. We have very little spare time in the debate, so members will need to stick closely to the indicated times.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party 2:55 pm, 10th June 2010

I start with the strongest message possible that violence against men will not be tolerated under any circumstances by the Scottish Government.

That is not a new message, nor is this the first time that I have said that in the Parliament. Ministers in the previous Administration said the same thing. In nearly every debate that the Parliament has had on domestic abuse, violence against women or forced marriage, the message has been the same: violence, no matter who perpetrates it against whom, is wrong.

In the past we have focused on debating issues to do with the violence that women experience at the hands of some men. On one occasion, we had a members' business debate on domestic abuse services for all victims. However, today—I think for the first time in 11 years—the Parliament debates violence against men, and in particular domestic abuse of men by women or by male partners.

I pay tribute to members who have raised the issue with me and elsewhere. In particular, I pay tribute to the work of Mary Scanlon, from the Tories; John Wilson, from the Scottish National Party; Mike Rumbles, from the Liberal Democrats; and James Kelly, from the Labour Party. I also pay tribute to John Forsyth, who has campaigned on the issue for years.

Of course, men experience many forms of violence. The Scottish ministers have demonstrated their commitment to services for the victims of violence against men through SurvivorScotland's national strategy for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, which was launched in 2005. The national reference group that was established to deliver on the strategy has a range of members, including male survivors. In 2009, services for male survivors were identified as a key priority of the SurvivorScotland strategy. Funding has been allocated to a number of organisations to take forward the development of services for male survivors in Scotland.

I will focus on the serious issue of domestic abuse and the men who experience it. In 2008-09, nearly 8,000 men reported domestic abuse to the police in Scotland. Of those incidents, 7,336 had been perpetrated by a woman. The number of reports from men of domestic abuse represents 14 per cent of reported domestic abuse incidents in Scotland.

During the past three or four decades, domestic abuse against women has been brought to the forefront of the political agenda and the public's mind—and rightly so. The vast majority of the Scottish population realises that domestic abuse is not acceptable, is a matter of concern and is a problem that needs to be addressed if we are to have a Scotland of which we can all be truly proud.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Has the minister's office had a chance to investigate whether the increase in levels of violence among women that has been noted by the police has fed into the figures that he has given us, to enable the minister to say whether the issue is that there is more violence or that more men are reporting violence?

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

We are undertaking a close examination of what is behind the figures. In that respect, I commend the work of Strathclyde Police, which has done an enormous amount under the current chief constable to get a better understanding of the complex relationship between men and women in relation to domestic abuse, and of the number of repeat offenders as well as the number of incidents and who commits them. I will say a word or two later in my speech about repeat offenders.

Because domestic abuse is now better understood and more openly talked about, many services have the knowledge and ability to cope better with either female or male victims. As recently as a decade ago, police officers could be heard saying, "It's just a domestic," when a woman reported domestic abuse, and they would never have considered that a man could be a victim. Today, it is different, and police forces across Scotland are at the forefront of tackling domestic abuse. There are innovations such as the Strathclyde domestic abuse task force, which proactively seeks out repeat offenders and brings them to justice.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

On the issue of—I have forgotten the point. I will sit down. I will come back to the minister.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Okay. I will allow another intervention from Ms Lamont when she recalls what she was going to ask me.

Some repeat offenders are women, although the majority are men.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

It is certainly an affliction for women of a certain age.

The minister referred to the police saying, "It's just a domestic." I accept that part of the point was that the police had no idea that men could be victims of violence in that way. However, surely the serious point was that the police did not regard it as part of their responsibility to do anything about violence inside the home, which was regarded as a private domain and not a matter for anybody else.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

That culture within the police has changed dramatically over the past decade, which is to be commended. For example, Strathclyde Police has been very innovative in the run-up to and immediately after old firm games when, as a direct result of police activity, there has been a 28 per cent reduction in the incidence of domestic abuse, be it against men or women.

Mainstream services provided by organisations such as Victim Support Scotland, health services and local authorities have a responsibility to support all victims of domestic abuse with the same courtesy and understanding. Victim Support, for example, provides practical and emotional support to all victims of crime, including men who experience domestic abuse. It is the largest voluntary organisation addressing the needs of victims in Scotland. In addition, there is now a specialist service providing support to male victims of domestic abuse in Scotland, which I will come on to in just a moment.

It is clear that domestic abuse against a man is just as abhorrent as when a woman is the victim, and the Government is committed to tackling the issue. However, it is also clear that there are differences in the experiences of male and female victims, and in their service needs. One of the benefits of the launch of a specialist helpline is that it will help us to collect the necessary intelligence to enable us to design services for male victims of domestic abuse over a period of time.

The Government recognises that men who experience domestic abuse require a service that is specific to their needs. That is why, in March, with cross-party support, I launched the extension of the men's advice line service to Scotland. The helpline has been funded with £12,000 initially for this year on a pilot basis. The funding came from the equality unit budget and not from money that would otherwise have been used to provide services for women, and it is for one year at present, with the option to continue thereafter. The men's advice line is a confidential, freephone helpline offering emotional support, information and practical advice to male victims of domestic abuse. It will gather information on the number of callers, the purpose of the calls and what callers' needs are for support services.

It is very early days yet but, in one month alone, the helpline had 21 calls from Scotland, with five of those being from male victims of domestic abuse. If we assume that the same number of calls will be received each month this year, that will be equivalent to a rise of 150 per cent in the number of calls in a year compared with before the launch, despite the fact that publicity material is still being distributed and is still to be made widely available throughout the country. The men's advice line will be an invaluable source of information about male victims in Scotland. We have never previously had the opportunity to gather such in-depth intelligence on the issue.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I apologise for intervening again and thank the minister for taking my intervention.

As the minister may be aware, a petition has been lodged with the Parliament on the need for proper research on the issue of violence. Will he look kindly on that petition, which I do not think would cancel anything that he wants to do?

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Indeed, I had a meeting yesterday with one of the major movers behind the petition. We are working with them on the issues that the petition identifies.

As I am in my last minute, let me just underline the fact that we believe, on a cross-party basis, that the issue behind today's debate is now being properly addressed. Those efforts in no way undermine or undercut the valuable work that is being done by the violence against women national group or any of the organisations that are associated with that campaign.

There is no doubt in my mind that domestic abuse against men is not only a significant issue in Scotland but a growing problem. It would be a dereliction of duty for us not to recognise that and to respond accordingly. Working with all the other parties in the Parliament, the Government intends to ensure that we tackle head on the problem of domestic abuse against men, like the problem of violence against women, and make significant progress in the years ahead in trying to reverse the very worrying trends of recent years.

I move,

That the Parliament recognises that domestic abuse is a very serious and totally unacceptable problem in Scottish society; notes in particular that all victims, whether they be women, men or children, deserve appropriate support, and therefore welcomes the Scottish Government's provision of funding for a support helpline for male victims, which will provide the further information about their needs that is required before any future decisions about services are made.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 3:07 pm, 10th June 2010

I am happy to contribute to the debate and I thank the minister for his grace in allowing me a second chance when I remembered what I wanted to say the first time—I genuinely appreciated that.

In speaking to the amendment in my name, I should indicate that we would have supported the Tory amendment, in the name of John Lamont, but for the fact that agreeing to it would in fact delete our amendment. Therefore, it will not be possible for us to support the Tory amendment at decision time.

Labour starts from a position that all victims of violence need support. As a society, we need to challenge violence, not tolerate it. When it was in office in the first eight years of this Parliament, Labour's approach was focused, in dealing with violence and crime more generally, on listening to victims, giving them a voice and understanding how they were affected by violence. We focused on how victims were affected by lack of action or support by the agency that should have acted on their behalf and how they felt reporting crime, going through the court process and afterwards. We wrestled with the implications of repeat victimisation and how that can damage the individual and disempower communities when intimidation goes unchecked. At no stage have we sought to silence the voices of any victim, man or woman, in confronting violence. The debate should not be cast as if some people had been somehow wilfully and deliberately excluded because of our approach to violence and justice.

I would argue that such an approach, which involves listening to direct experience, offering support through Victim Support, providing information for victims and so on, and then trying to understand the why of that violence, by looking for patterns and ensuring that those patterns shape policy and action, is central to changing a culture in which violence can blight communities such that victims—male and female—are left feeling helpless.

It is evident that, in taking such an approach, we cannot and should not say that violence happens and that we are all potential victims in a very generalised way. That would take us nowhere. In tackling crime and the causes of crime, it is self-evident that not all causes are the same. Therefore, we need to talk about the way in which violence is experienced, such as the way in which community bullying is used to silence older people and leaves them feeling besieged. We need to understand and speak out against racist attacks, sectarian violence and homophobic bullying and threats. In all those, victims might be subject to the same weapon of choice, such as a fist, but we will not change matters if we do not look beyond the immediate weapon or wound to an understanding of what drove that fist in the first place.

That is no more evident than in knife crime, in which the overwhelming majority of perpetrators and victims are young men. We owe it to those young men—perpetrators and victims—to address the issue with a gendered analysis so that we can understand what it is about being a young man that makes him more likely to be involved in knife crime. That is what a gendered analysis means.

So it is with domestic abuse. We cannot eradicate it if we look only at the bruises, or if we ask about and understand the what of it, but we do not ask the why. I do not dismiss the concerns and pain of male victims, and I am sure that the helpline will improve our understanding of their experience. Many of those who champion the needs of those victims do so simply because they want those needs to be met.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I will make my point first. However, we must be alive to the fact that, for some, this is a proxy debate for a far more contentious and perhaps fundamental political argument that seeks to deny the reality of women's inequality in work, opportunities, and life chances. That argument does not accept that male violence against women is a fearful expression and consequence of that inequality.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

I have listened carefully to what the member has said. Given that she has listened to all victims since the Parliament started in 1999, why is it that the best support that a male victim in Scotland can get is a telephone helpline in Brighton?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I do not accept that representation of what happens to male victims. I have described and characterised how we advanced the rights and interests of victims.

Although the motion talks of support for male victims, and we recognise that, our amendment affirms what has been accepted for a long time, which is that the problem is overwhelmingly one of gender inequality. We affirm that because a gendered analysis of the problem is central to addressing it, not just one point of view among many others. It is a reflection of international agreements and obligations relating to gender inequality and violence against women. There is also international recognition of women's experience of domestic abuse. We know about it from our communities and our surgeries. The police, doctors, housing officers, social workers and schools tell us about the disproportionate number of women who are victims, and the disproportionate number of men who are perpetrators. That is not to deny one right of a male victim of violence in his own home.

I have a stark statistic that must shape our policy. Of men who are murdered, 5 per cent are murdered by a partner or ex-partner. Of women who are murdered, 44 per cent are murdered by a partner or ex-partner. When anyone asks, "Why did she not leave?" that is the statistic that keeps a woman from going through the door and out of violence because it shows the consequences for so many women when they leave.

I recognise the demand for further research, and I reflect on some of the commentary that we have already that, when men report domestic abuse, there are stark differences. I ought not to have to repeat that I have compassion for all victims of violence, men and women, but there is a difference in the levels of fear and panic that men and women report. When victims are male, a disproportionate number of the perpetrators are also male, and—

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I am not saying that anything is okay. We have to understand the problem in order to tackle it.

The argument is put at its gentlest when it says that men do not report because of the stigma and because it is humiliating. I appreciate that that will be a motivating force for some of the men who are caught in such circumstances.

The argument is sometimes more strongly put that the women's lobby and women's organisations are resistant and hostile to the idea that we have a responsibility to men. I rebut that latter argument just as strongly. Women who have been confronted daily by the pain caused by violence are already shaped by compassion and anger about what the abuse of power can do. It is interesting to see how exercised feminists in particular are about antisocial behaviour in our communities, for example, because they understand the abuse of power and powerlessness.

I acknowledge that the issue of stigma strikes a serious chord but, when a man feels that he is stigmatised and humiliated because he suffers violence at the hands of a woman, that confirms that we are all shaped and affected by the gender roles that we are expected to take. Their experience also describes that gender challenge. Women's equality is freedom for men too. The argument confirms the underlying issue of gender inequality and the unacceptable roles that we are expected to take.

We should be clear that domestic abuse is not about poverty or about alcohol; it is about power and the way in which people abuse that power. In some circumstances, it will be women abusing power over the man with whom they live. We must talk about provision, and an assurance about funding for next year would be welcome. We must also talk about protection and recognise the progress that the police have made in acknowledging that the home is not just a private domain. However, crucially, when it comes to prevention, this understanding is central. In speaking to our boys and girls about what a damaging, corrosive problem this is for us all, we must also get them to confront the why—it must never be "just the way things are".

In conclusion, this is not an argument about resources predicated on some kind of battle of the sexes or some sort of fight for attention between men and women. It is an argument—in the interests of women and men, our daughters and our sons—that, in dealing with the lived experience of domestic abuse, we confront the ideas that trap women with violence and the messages to men that this is what they do and that they are a lesser kind of man if they are the victim of violence at the hands of a woman rather than a man. It is in naming the crime that we expose the inequality and create a fairer, more equal and safer society for us all—men and women.

I move amendment S3M-6531.2, to insert at end:

", and reaffirms that domestic abuse is rooted in gender inequality, that overwhelmingly victims are women and that eradicating domestic abuse will only succeed where that pattern is acknowledged."

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont Conservative 3:16 pm, 10th June 2010

I welcome today's debate on violence against men.

In 2003, during the annual debate on violence against women, my colleague Murdo Fraser asked the then Scottish Executive when it intended to bring forward a debate on violence against men. As much as I welcome today's debate, and I am pleased to be able to take part, I am saddened and ashamed that it has taken seven years for the Parliament to recognise this as an issue that needs to be discussed.

It is important to recognise that abuse or violence by one person against another, regardless of the relationship or sex, is always unacceptable. Domestic violence must be one of the worst violations of trust, in which someone turns what should be a loving and caring relationship and makes it perverse, creating a situation where someone feels torn between their love and the pain that is being inflicted on them.

Nobody is in any doubt that the majority of victims of domestic abuse are female: 85 per cent of those who were victims of domestic abuse in Scotland in 2008-09 were, indeed, female and it is vital that we continue to support and work with those that provide services to women who find themselves living in abusive and violent relationships.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

It would be helpful if John Lamont gave us the source of those percentages. Were those reported cases?

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont Conservative

Indeed, they are the reported cases. Sorry—in 85 per cent of reported cases of domestic violence, the victim was female.

However, that does not mean that we should ignore other groups who find themselves victims purely because they are in a minority. Male victims of domestic violence may be a minority, but it is a growing minority and one that is growing rapidly. More and more men are coming forward as victims of domestic violence. As the minister stated in his opening remarks, in 2008-09 just under 8,000 incidents of domestic abuse in which the victim was male were recorded. That represents an increase, since 2000-01, of 175 per cent, which is an incredible increase and a shocking number of incidents. Fifteen per cent of domestic abuse incidents report a male victim—that figure is too high, and too high to continue to ignore.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

Do the member's statistics show how many of those were counter-allegations?

Photo of John Lamont John Lamont Conservative

I do not have those figures to hand. However, the point that I am making is that it is not just a matter of members of one sex being the victims of domestic violence. Both sexes are affected—they are not affected to the same extent, but there is a growing problem that is affecting male victims, which the Parliament has to recognise.

It is disappointing that there is an annual increase in the number of incidents that occur. We should question whether that is due partly to an increased feeling of confidence about reporting such events. If that is so, we should perhaps be relieved that people who are living in such abusive relationships feel able to come forward and seek help. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of males who have reported domestic abuse. If that is due to better reporting, that should perhaps be welcomed. I welcome it for two reasons: first, because of the bravery that is shown by these men and any victim who tries to break the vicious circle that they have found themselves in; and, secondly, because it shows that stereotypes and stigmas are finally starting to be broken.

In 2008-09, 57 per cent of domestic abuse incidents that were recorded by the police involved a victim who had previously been abused. That is why it is vital that we do everything that we can to encourage victims to come forward, regardless of sex, and support them in making a change.

The other part of the debate concerns the fact that support has not been made available to male victims of domestic abuse in the same way that it has been for female victims. To follow that point through, does that mean that there has been inadequate provision for female domestic abuse offenders, compared with that which has been in place for males? That is a point that Mary Scanlon raised when the Public Petitions Committee considered this issue.

The Scottish Conservatives are not calling for funding to be withdrawn from services that provide security and support for female victims of domestic abuse, but we can no longer ignore the prevalence of violence against men and not address it.

Much of the support that is available for domestic abuse victims is targeted at meeting the needs of female victims, because they are the majority and because those who are subjected to domestic abuse require a specific sort of help. However, that latter point also applies to males. The figures show that 43 per cent of men said that their most recent experience of physical domestic abuse was

"just something that happens", in comparison with 14 per cent of women who felt the same way. That percentage of women is far too high, but it is unacceptable, in a modern society, for 43 per cent of male victims to believe that.

I hope that I have gone some way towards dispelling the myth that seems to persist in some parts of this Parliament that, in supporting provisions that provide help for male victims of domestic abuse, we are in some way not supportive of the provision of support for female victims. That is simply nonsense. That argument does not work the other way round, it does not work on any other topic and it should not be allowed to work on this issue, either.

The Scottish Conservatives welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to supply funding for the men's advice line helpline. I especially welcome the Government's commitment to collect statistics and information. Now that we all, quite clearly, recognise this as a problem, if we are to tackle it efficiently and effectively, we need to have a better understanding of what we are dealing with.

I hope that the Scottish Government and other parties can support our amendment, which will enable us to come to a better understanding of the scope of the problem that Scotland faces and how best to address it. I am disappointed in the amendment in the name of Johann Lamont. Frankly, she seems to be fighting the battles of yesterday when this debate has moved on.

I move amendment S3M-6531.1, to leave out from fourth "that" to end and insert:

", and requires the Scottish Government to report back to the Parliament with further details on the information collected and what action it plans to take before any future decisions about services are made."

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 3:23 pm, 10th June 2010

I am pleased to be opening this debate for the Liberal Democrats. Almost 11 years ago, in a debate on 27 October 1999, I first raised the issue of the need to debate the problem of domestic violence against men. The annual debates that we have had since then have focused on the issue of men's violence against women. Although that is important, until now—with the arrival in government of Alex Neil—this Parliament has been negligent in highlighting women's violence against men.

I do not like history being rewritten. During the period of the previous coalition Government, I was dumbfounded when the Executive repeatedly refused to entertain the idea that we should have a debate on this issue, let alone do anything practical to help the victims of women's violence against men. I had several meetings with Labour ministers to that end. I thought that any reasonable person would understand that the victims of domestic violence should be assisted. I could not believe it when the minister responsible—I will spare her from identification—told me that there was no need for a debate because it was not an issue, that it was a so-called gender issue and that resources would be wasted if they were misdirected to help a small number of male victims rather than a much larger number of female victims.

In responding to me in the debate in October 1999, Johann Lamont said:

"If there were significant evidence of women's violence against men, the first place it would be seen is in the development of self-help organisations."—[Official Report, 27 October 1999; c 38.]

She was in denial of the problem in that debate, and I note from today's debate that she is in denial of the problem now. I was disappointed to hear her say on the radio this morning that many of the male victims are perpetrators themselves.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I was going to say that she did not have the courage to say that in this debate, but she has just nodded and said that it is true. I thought that we had consigned those prejudices to the dustbin, but obviously not.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

No, I will not.

Despite not being able to persuade Labour ministers even to debate the issue, I was able to get a members' business debate on it, which has already been mentioned, on 2 December 2004. My motion read:

"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

No, thank you.

I would like to thank in particular Mary Scanlon and Alex Neil for supporting my motion. Not one member of the Labour Party could bring themselves to support it.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

No, I will not. The member had his chance. For 11 years, he has had a chance.

Whenever campaigners fight for justice, they have to overcome prejudice and ignorance.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

You do not have to tell me that.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

We do, unfortunately, Johann.

Petitioners have come forward to ask MSPs to lend a hand in standing up for the victims of domestic abuse. That means all victims of domestic abuse and not just some. I have had both men and women victims of domestic abuse in tears in my advice surgeries, each with their terrible problems, asking for help. Across the benches in the Parliament, we are all aware of the problems that are associated with men's violence against women, but some are unaware of or choose to ignore the problems of women's violence against men. That has held up any practical help for victims.

The victims of women's violence against men seem to have to face an added burden. They are often disbelieved when they come forward. They face an extra problem because of the stigma that is attached to the issue. Male victims have told me that, when they summoned up the courage to call the police, because of assumptions that were made the police automatically arrested them. Imagine that— the victim was arrested. That added further insult to the real injury to the person who called for help. We need to change those perceptions. Would it not be helpful to all the male victims of domestic abuse to see even one advert on television in which their situation was depicted? I ask the minister to consider that.

After 11 years of asking, I am delighted with the appointment of Alex Neil as the responsible minister. We now have someone who is committed to addressing the issue. Whatever the political differences between us—there are many—I take the opportunity to commend Alex Neil for his courage and his commitment in coming to the aid of all victims of domestic abuse, whether male or female.

I hope that we will all see the evil of domestic abuse for what it is—an evil that is perpetrated on the weaker member of a relationship. It is not a gender issue. If we treat it as such, no progress will be made in tackling its true evil. Members should not continue with the mistake of saying that it is simply a gender issue. It is about the abuse of one person in a relationship by their partner. Once we recognise that, we might at last get on the right track and have a chance of helping all those victims who really do need our help.

Photo of Gil Paterson Gil Paterson Scottish National Party 3:29 pm, 10th June 2010

I declare an interest. I am a board member of Rape Crisis Scotland and a member of the cross-party group on men's violence against women and children. I make it clear that I am speaking for myself and not on behalf of either of those organisations.

Any violence, whether in the home or in the street, must be tackled. Those who cause violence must be dealt with by the authorities and the courts. Equally, all those who are at the wrong end of abuse need our support. It is therefore easy for me to back plans to provide a helpline to support men who are the victims of domestic abuse.

I want to inform members why I am very much involved in highlighting the plight of women and children at the hands of men. I cannot recall when I last heard that a woman had been raped by another woman or sexually assaulted by a female partner. No doubt that happens—I am sure about that—but it is rare. On the other hand, tens of thousands of women do not even report offences by men, whether they are rapes or serious assaults, because they believe that if they do they will be seen at best as not credible and at worst as the cause of the attack. They believe that because of bad information that they have received about cases that failed because of issues that were irrelevant to the merits of the case, such as sexual history, what the woman was wearing and whether she had been drinking.

The ratio of men to women who abuse—particularly sexually abuse—children is massively geared towards men being the abusers. Paedophilia is almost exclusive to men, although I admit that, in some high-profile cases that have involved children who have been sexually abused, the sex rings that have carried out that abuse have included women.

The point that I am trying to make is that there is still massive ignorance about the problems that women and children face from violent men, and that most violence against men is carried out by men. We still have not reached into the consciousness of male society to get men to be proactive in not accepting violence that is carried out by men. The levels of condemnation that are required to make the difference in attitudes to male violence have not been reached. I contrast that with the condemnation of drink driving and the stigma that is attached to it. The public have got the message on drink driving.

The police and any accident and emergency department member of staff will tell us about the aftermath of Celtic versus Rangers football matches. People who have been injured by violent men are there for all to see in hospitals. The hidden part of that is that some supporters of the beaten team will be monsters who take out their frustrations and take revenge on their own families. That is why there is a spike in domestic abuse incidents at such times. Women and children wait for their turn to be abused just because the man's team has lost. I therefore welcome the initiative, but the message should also be given that we should not take our eyes off the ball of men's violence against women and children. Far more women and children are abused and assaulted by men.

In June 2009, Professor Marianne Hester of the University of Bristol published a paper entitled "Who Does What to Whom? Gender and Domestic Violence Perpetrators", which demonstrated that there were significant differences between men and women as domestic violence perpetrators. Men are much more likely to be repeat offenders. She said:

"the intensity and severity of violence and abusive behaviours from the men was much more extreme. This is also reflected in the nature of the violence used ... Men's violence tended to create a context of fear and related to that, control. This was not similarly the case where women were perpetrators."

The fact that men also suffer from domestic abuse should not be a signal to those whom we have been working to convince over the years that we have a real problem with male violence against women and children that we can somehow take our foot off the gas in expressing that, and that those in power who are dealing with the matter can take their foot off the gas.

When the cross-party group on men's violence against women and children was set up, I was the convener. I was asked, not in a friendly manner but in a threatening manner, why the title did not also contain the words "violence against men by women". As far as I was concerned, at least 70 per cent of domestic abuse was caused by men and, if we could have a 10 per cent reduction in that, it would be significant progress. If others had wanted to set up a group to deal with the other forms of domestic abuse, they would have got my full and unreserved support and blessing, but my focus was on the 70 per cent, and it still is. Nevertheless, I fully support the Government's positive step to tackle violence against men. It is worth while and will assist the men who need our support, and I give that today.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour 3:35 pm, 10th June 2010

I rise to support the amendment in the name of my colleague, Johann Lamont.

The subject of this afternoon's debate is, as the Government's motion describes it, a

"very serious and totally unacceptable problem in Scottish society".

Domestic abuse, whether physical or psychological, is always abhorrent. Scottish Labour, along with, I am sure, all or certainly most members across the chamber believes that domestic abuse is never a legitimate form of behaviour. As a response to a situation, it is beyond the pale, regardless of the gender of the victim.

No thinking person could have anything but sympathy with male victims of domestic abuse at the hands of female perpetrators. The most recent statistics show that such incidents account for 14 per cent of incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police in 2008-09.

It is unquestionably the case that Scotland has a significant problem with domestic abuse. For instance, 53,881 incidents of domestic abuse were reported in 2008-09, compared with 49,655 recorded incidents in 2007-08. That constitutes an 8 per cent increase, which in itself is part of a steady rise in incidents reported since 2000-01.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

Does the member believe that the particular problem that Scotland evidently has with domestic abuse may have something to do in part with the problem that Scotland has with alcohol?

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

There is no doubt that alcohol is part of the problem—I accept that—but how we deal with it is a question for another debate.

I want to say one last thing about the statistics. Given that there is thought still to be an underreporting of domestic abuse, the recent figures are alarming and point to a problem that obviously is widespread.

Behind the cold statistics lies the human cost. There is clear evidence that the likelihood of the abuse of a child taking place is substantially higher when domestic violence is the norm within the household. It is also beyond dispute that domestic violence has a profoundly damaging impact on children. Whether they witness incidents directly or live in a home where it occurs, domestic abuse has a terrible negative impact on children. It scars them emotionally and psychologically.

Scottish Labour believes that male victims of violence should have the appropriate support. Let me make it very clear that my party abhors domestic violence in all its manifestations. We agree, along with organisations such as White Ribbon Scotland, that

"the launch of the men's advice line in Scotland is an important step".

That is why we have no problem with the content of the Scottish Government's motion as long as the amendment in the name of Johann Lamont is accepted. It is an important and necessary amendment because, if accepted, it will ensure that this Parliament's approach to the serious matter of domestic abuse is both balanced and proportionate. There is no doubt that male victims of violence should have support that complements but does not detract from the continuing struggle against violence against women—a pattern of unacceptable behaviour that is rooted in gender inequality.

According to the Home Office British crime survey for 2004-05 and the homicide statistics for 2006-07, women form the majority of the victims of sexual assaults, threats, physical violence and chronic long-term violence. We must always keep that indisputable fact to the fore in seeking to reach a rational consensus on the approach that we should adopt to deal constructively with this serious social problem.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

Not at the moment.

Furthermore, we must acknowledge the importance of context and responses. Gil Paterson referred to a 2009 study by Marianne Hester of the University of Bristol, which said that

"Men and women tend to use and/or experience violence and describe it in different ways".

In effect,

"When women use violence in intimate relationships it is often, though not always, in self defence or defence of a child or as a form of resistance."

In that context, it should also be noted that the Respect briefing paper states:

"A significant number of men calling the Men's Advice Line who initially identify as victims change their own identification by the end of the call or provide information about the violence in their relationships which strongly suggests that they are either not a victim or in fact are the perpetrator."

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

This is no laughing matter, Mr Rumbles.

I accept that both men and women can be victims of domestic violence and abuse. Violence in relationships, in all its forms, is to be abhorred, and appropriate support must be on offer in all circumstances. Nevertheless, our approach must be balanced and evidence based if it is to be constructive and effective. Labour's amendment makes it clear that women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to be the victims of domestic violence in general, to experience sexual assault and threats in particular, to experience domestic violence in the long term and to be injured or killed by—

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I am afraid that the member's time is up. He must stop.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative 3:42 pm, 10th June 2010

I thank the Scottish Government and the business managers for agreeing to hold the debate—the first on domestic violence against men in 11 years of the Scottish Parliament. I also welcome to the public gallery the petitioner Alison Waugh. I thank Alex Neil for listening to those who have campaigned on the issue for a long time and for funding a helpline for male victims of domestic abuse. Like others, I would have preferred the helpline to be in Scotland, and I would have been even more pleased had there been any services for male victims in Scotland to which the helpline could refer callers. I also thank Mike Rumbles for his first-class, excellent speech, as well as John Wilson, with whom I have worked on the issue for some years. Finally, I thank Paul Martin for being the bravest man in the Labour ranks and coming along to the launch of the helpline on behalf of the Labour Party. To every male victim and associated child in Scotland, I say that Labour is not listening to you. According to Labour, men feel no pain.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

No, sorry.

Although we constantly talk about violence against women—and now men—we should not forget the children who are often caught in the crossfire of exchanges. Where there is help for women, there is also, rightly, help and support for their children, as well as opportunities for the male perpetrators to address their anger management and other issues. However, when the perpetrator is female, there is no help with anger management, because in Scotland there is no recognition of the fact that women can be the perpetrators. Neither is there help for the male victims or their children. That cannot and should not continue. As I stated in the debate on violence against women, no one is claiming that the resources that are allocated to support female victims and their children should be challenged or, indeed, reduced; we are asking only for a level playing field and social justice for male victims.

Data from the Scottish crime and justice survey from September 2009 highlighted in the Scotland on Sunday "Spectrum" magazine showed that, in the preceding 12 months, young men aged 16 to 24 experienced physical and/or psychological abuse more often than young women and more often than any other demographic group. The survey also revealed that 48 per cent of perpetrators of partner abuse are male and that 45 per cent are female. Police came to know about 35 per cent of incidents of partner abuse that women experienced in the preceding 12 months but about only 8 per cent of incidents in which the man was on the receiving end. Forty per cent of men told no one about incidents, compared with 21 per cent of women who told no one.

As other members have said, it is a fact that 14 per cent of incidents that the police record are against men and that 85 per cent are against women. However, since 2001, the previous Executive and the Government have spent £100 million on services for women and their children and £28,000 on male victims.

The evidence that male victims gave to the Public Petitions Committee was highly emotive and compelling. The petition from Alison Waugh and Jackie Walls is not unreasonable. They call only for fairness, justice and equality, to ensure that the needs of male victims and their children are met. In Scotland, they should expect no less.

The abuse need not end when the man leaves the house. Abused fathers and their children are far more likely to experience attempts to end meaningful contact between them after a family break-up. That might not be considered abuse, but denying any parent the right to see their child is the height of abuse.

I welcome the helpline, but questions still need to be asked. Why was no tender for the helpline issued? Instead, the Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is for female victims, and the men's advice line in London were asked to submit proposals. The latter was awarded the contract.

The children of male victims are still waiting to be acknowledged, let alone helped. Since the publication of "Boys allowed", the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has counselled 58,311 boys. That figure has more than doubled in five years. That happened because the NSPCC overhauled its training for call handlers and advertised to win boys' confidence.

As the minister acknowledged, more still has to be done to publicise the male helpline. A lack of publicity might result in few calls, which could be used as a reason to halt funding. I hope that today's long-awaited debate will ensure that all victims and all children who suffer through domestic violence are given the support and care that they need and deserve in a modern and compassionate Scotland.

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Scottish National Party 3:48 pm, 10th June 2010

I welcome the Scottish Government's debate on male victims of violence. The issue of violence against men has been sidelined for far too long. No matter what men's domestic situation is, it is vital that male victims of violence are given a voice to highlight the lack of availability of support services. Until recently, no specialist services to tackle domestic violence against men were established in Scotland.

For some time, I have worked with colleagues around the chamber, such as Mary Scanlon MSP, to raise awareness of male victims of domestic violence and to ensure that services are provided that meet their needs.

Evidence in recent years has shown an increase in the number of male victims of domestic violence. Figures on partner abuse from the 2008-09 Scottish crime and justice survey demonstrated that in cases in which partner abuse had been experienced since the victim turned 16, 38 per cent of offenders were females. The survey also estimated that only 8 per cent of men who suffered domestic violence reported it. That goes to the heart of the underreporting of domestic violence.

Despite the reported increases, services and campaigns have been targeted at women who experience violence, on the basis of statistical evidence that more cases involve female victims and male perpetrators. That basis is true, but it is wrong to deny that male victims of domestic violence have suffered from a lack of targeted support services in Scotland.

Female victims of domestic violence have women's refuges and can seek support from Scottish Women's Aid, but similar support is not available to men. Violence is violence and clearly is unacceptable in a modern Scotland, no matter whether it comes from a male or female perpetrator.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

I do not think that anyone would disagree with the last point that John Wilson made. However, is he in denial that domestic abuse is predominantly rooted in gender inequality?

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Scottish National Party

I am not in denial that domestic abuse takes place. The problem is that the gender-based analysis leans the debate in one direction against another.

Although the majority of victims of domestic violence are women, to say that they are the overwhelming majority, as Johann Lamont's amendment does, is misguided. The UK Statistics Authority reviewed the evidence in 2008, following a query raised by Parity regarding the use of the phrase

"the overwhelming majority of victims are women" in a consultation document issued by the Crown Prosecution Service on its policy for prosecuting cases of domestic abuse. Following the review, the UK Statistics Authority concluded that the evidence did not justify the use of the phrase and, consequently, the CPS removed it from its document.

The developments in services and increased funding targeted at female victims have been vital, essential and have benefited thousands of women. However, providing similar services to male victims of violence in the home would ensure that all victims of such violence are catered for with the vital services that they desperately require.

The Scottish Government has recently taken a small but significant step to provide a service to male victims. On 17 April this year, the men's advice line was extended to cover Scotland, as well as operating in England and Wales, as was the Respect helpline, which aims to assist perpetrators of domestic abuse in changing their behaviour. However, much more needs to be done to ensure that male victims are provided locally with services that meet their needs and, importantly, that mainstream services that regularly come into contact with victims of domestic violence—such as the police, social work, housing, health and victim support—are trained to recognise the needs of male victims as well. The role of local authorities and how people normally present through social work services are important factors that need to be acted upon at ground level.

The issue was brought before the Public Petitions Committee by two petitioners—Alison Waugh and Jackie Walls—who seek to ensure that all publicly funded action, including campaigns, projects and training programmes, are adapted to acknowledge fully the needs of male victims of violence and their children. Once again, the Public Petitions Committee has allowed an important issue to be raised at committee level.

At present, too many agencies that were established to assist victims and vulnerable people in domestic violence situations fail to recognise men as victims of such violence. Training and services tend to adopt a gendered approach, reflecting higher reporting by female victims. That approach has a negative knock-on effect, in that it reinforces the proposition that only women can be victims of domestic violence while assuming that generalised services will meet the needs of male victims. For example, I was concerned by the written response that the Public Petitions Committee received from the social work services at the City of Edinburgh Council. It seemed to suggest that women who acknowledged using violence did so for reasons of

"self defence ... pent up feelings of anger and frustration" or a desire

"to precipitate a violent assault against themselves".

A number of issues have been raised during the debate and we must recognise the problem. Strathclyde Police made a step in the right direction in its recent domestic abuse campaign "Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Scared to go home?", which featured men and women on the posters.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I am afraid that I have to stop the member. His time is up.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 3:54 pm, 10th June 2010

In supporting the amendment in the name of Johann Lamont, I agree that violence against anyone is deeply wrong and that the emotional and physical pain and trauma caused by domestic abuse blight the lives of men, women and children throughout Scotland and the United Kingdom. Services and support should be available to all victims of domestic abuse and, of course, the male victims may be in gay, as well as heterosexual, relationships. However, we need to recognise that the experiences and needs of men and women may be different.

That is why a gendered analysis of domestic abuse that seeks to understand the context, meaning and impact of violence and how it affects men and women differently is vital in ensuring that the right support is available to all who need it.

That is consistent with the gender equality duty, which requires that we recognise the different needs and experiences of men and women in all aspects of life. Therefore, a gender-neutral approach to domestic abuse would be to the detriment of all victims.

Crucially, as our amendment states, that means recognising that domestic abuse

"is rooted in gender inequality".

It is reflective of the unequal power relations that continue to exist between men and women, the unequal pay structures and working conditions that exist and the value, or lack of value, that we place on women's roles in every way in everyday life. Male violence against women is a profound societal and cultural problem that is rooted in social relations, rather than just the psychopathology of individual men. It is not possible to give a similar analysis of female violence against men.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I do not disagree with a word that the member has said, but does he concede that we are undergoing a cultural change, in that more women are more violent and there are now statistics to show that?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

That is certainly a problem—I do not deny that.

What depresses me about many of the speeches is that, although we all support the helpline, some members, although not all, emphasise female violence against men as a way of rejecting the analysis that I have outlined. That analysis has been central to my politics for the past 20 years, starting with the zero tolerance campaign, which began in Edinburgh. That campaign taught many men and reminded many women—and perhaps taught some women who had not realised it—that the inequalities and power relations between men and women are the underlying reasons that drive male violence against women.

As our amendment says, we must recognise that pattern of violence. There is a depressing pattern of male violence against women, which is reflected in, and in some cases encouraged by, many cultural portrayals. I note for example the recent spate of films about violence against women, including the appalling "The Killer Inside Me", which I certainly will not go and see. It represents profound societal forces that explain male violence against women and do not in any way cover the different issue of female violence against men.

Because of all that, the level and severity of violence against women is disproportionate to that experienced by men. Despite a small increase in the number of cases of reported female perpetrators, the vast majority of recorded cases—a figure of 85 per cent was agreed by John Lamont—still involve a male perpetrator and a female victim. According to Scottish Women's Aid, at least one in five women in Scotland will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Not only that but, as Professor Marianne Hester of the University of Bristol recently showed in her important study that I hope all members will read entitled "Who Does What to Whom: Gender and Domestic Violence Perpetrators", the intensity and severity of violent and abusive behaviour that is perpetrated by men is "much more extreme". She found that men are

"significantly more likely than women to use physical violence, threats, and harassment" and that that is frequently used to create an atmosphere of fear and of control over their victim.

Professor Hester also refers to other studies. That is relevant to what Mike Rumbles said, so I will briefly quote two bits. She states:

"In addition, a systematic review of the literature"— so this is not based only on Professor Hester's study—

"has found that men may be over-reporting instances of being victims of domestic violence while at the same time being perpetrators of domestic violence."

Neither Professor Hester nor I say that that explains all the figures by any means, but it explains some of them.

The report also states:

"Within this context it has been found that women, in particular, may use 'violent resistance' against violent male partners. Echoing this, women's use of violence has been found in a number of studies to be defensive or retaliatory rather than initiating."

That is not to deny the cases in which that is not the case, but we must see the issue in context. Several members have taken the issue out of context and are getting it out of proportion.

Research from Canada that can be found on the White Ribbon Scotland website compared violence that is committed by women and men and showed that victims of male violence are five times more likely to require medical attention. Members will find many more examples if they go to that website. Women are also far more likely than men are to be subject to multiple incidents of abuse and to be victims of sexual violence. According to research that was commissioned by the Home Office, 32 per cent of women who had ever experienced domestic violence did so at least four or five times, compared with 11 per cent of men. Moreover, 54 per cent of rapes in the UK are committed by a woman's current or former partner.

That is not to trivialise the horrific experience that some men go through at the hands of a partner, but it exemplifies why a gendered approach to domestic abuse continues to be important. As Scottish Women's Aid has pointed out, such an approach is necessary to meet our obligations under international agreements, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

I support the amendment in Johann Lamont's name.

Photo of Jim Tolson Jim Tolson Liberal Democrat 4:00 pm, 10th June 2010

Domestic abuse is totally unacceptable whether the perpetrator or the victim is male or female. The number of incidents of domestic abuse in Scotland is frankly appalling. There were more than 50,000 in 2008-09, each one of which represents a human life in turmoil. As the minister quite rightly said earlier, 8,000 men reporting domestic abuse in Scotland—14 per cent of the total—is not an insignificant number.

In many cases, domestic abuse will not be reported to the police. In fact, the number of cases will be way higher than the number reported. We can only imagine what is going on "behind closed doors." Make no mistake: domestic abuse is a crime, whether it is physical or psychological. We need to help victims have the confidence to seek help. They need to know that help is there and that they will be believed. People should not accept this crime as part of life—they should not have to live with domestic abuse under any circumstances.

According to the 2008-09 Scottish crime and justice survey module on partner abuse, men are less likely than women to view abuse as a crime or to see themselves as a victim of domestic abuse. That might have influenced their decision not to inform police. Unfortunately, they are more likely to consider physical or psychological abuse as just something that happens to them. That is not acceptable. They should not be living in fear of the next incident—that destroys lives across the country, and not just victims' lives but their families' lives.

Many men choose not to report this crime for whatever reason, whether the stigma attached to it or the fear of the authorities not believing them. The female attacker often makes counter claims to the police that they are the victim. The assumption is often made that the man is the perpetrator and the woman is the victim. The true scale of the problem for male victims of women's violence is hidden, which makes it very hard to deal with.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

That is quite a significant shift from the Liberal Democrats' position in the past. What does Jim Tolson estimate is the actual proportion of men and women victims? How hidden does he think the problem of male victims is? Does he think that absolutely equal numbers of men and women are victims of domestic abuse?

Photo of Jim Tolson Jim Tolson Liberal Democrat

If we want to see any shift in position here today, we should all be looking at Johann Lamont.

I have incidents of male domestic abuse brought to me by constituents. Such incidents have seen couples separate, divorce, get together again and then split when the violence re-emerges.

Scotland has developed an international reputation for its work on violence against women and domestic abuse in particular. It is vital that that work continues to be driven forward. Ministers must also tackle the underlying contributory factors in domestic abuse, such as drug and alcohol misuse. Cultural change is needed to stamp out the issue.

In January, petitioners, including one of my constituents, Jackie Walls, called on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to urge an overhaul of publicly funded action on domestic abuse to acknowledge fully the extent to which men are at the receiving end and to address the needs of male victims and their children. Miss Walls first came to me nearly three years ago to seek help in setting up a self-help group for male victims of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, at that time, the Government washed its hands of the matter. As my colleague Mike Rumbles has said, the current minister seems to take a very different view and I, too, commend him for that.

The enormous increase in the number of incidents of domestic abuse over the years reflects the higher level of reporting of the crime from both sexes. An increasing number of male victims are now speaking out.

The figures from 2000-01 to 2008-09 confirm that there has been an increase of 143 per cent in the number of reported incidents that involve male victims. The fact that men are now reporting incidents is a welcome cultural shift, but the stigma is still there. That must change through education and increased support for male victims of abuse. We need ways in which to tackle violence against men. We need to ensure that the victims have confidence in the system. They need to believe that reporting the crime will help them and their families and that real, practical help is readily available. I strongly urge the minister and the Government to take the matter seriously; referring male victims of domestic abuse to groups such as Scottish Women's Aid is simply not suitable.

I am not suggesting that help for male victims of domestic abuse has to be on the scale of that for female victims. That said, men face different issues—issues that need recognition. There is a need for specific help for male victims and their children who have to flee the mental and physical torture of a relationship. As many members including my colleague Mike Rumbles said, the issue has not been debated over 11 years of the Parliament. It needs to be sorted out and dealt with sooner rather than later. There is a serious and totally unacceptable problem of domestic violence in Scotland and Scottish society. All victims of this crime need support.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 4:06 pm, 10th June 2010

I commend Mike Rumbles for his dogged commitment to the issue over 11 years. I also commend my second favourite committee, the Public Petitions Committee—which I consider a second home—for its thoughtful discussion with witnesses when considering the petition on male victims of domestic violence. I have read the Official Report of the committee's considerations and view the contributions with interest and regard. Indeed, as Bill Butler said at that session and repeated today:

"Domestic abuse is domestic abuse is domestic abuse."—[Official Report, Public Petitions Committee, 26 January 2010; c 2337]

That said, like other members, I make it unequivocally clear that nothing that I say in the debate reduces my regard for those who challenge violence against women in all its forms and those who, over the 11 years of the Parliament, have campaigned to reduce abuse against women, particular in the domestic setting. I saw direct evidence of that in my former profession as a court lawyer who specialised in family matters. I have spoken about that in other debates in the chamber.

I want to move on from the prevailing and, in my view, unhelpful gender divide to an agenda of policies, publicity and practical assistance that recognises that all victims of domestic violence require equivalent—though perhaps not the same—support, and to the implementation of that agenda.

I do not want to play the numbers game. As John Forsyth said in his evidence to the Public Petitions Committee,

"There should not be a competition between victims."—[Official Report, Public Petitions Committee, 26 January 2010; c 2332.]

I will endeavour to say little on the subject, save to comment on the evidence in the 2008-09 Scottish crime and justice survey module on partner abuse. I distinguish the evidence in that document from that which we have from reported cases. Based on a random survey of 16,000 adults aged over 16, conducted through face-to-face interviews in their homes, it is clear that

"In the majority of cases, where partner abuse was experienced since the age of 16, the gender of any abusive partner was male (60%) compared with 38% ... female."

I hope that that addresses, in part, the point that Johann Lamont raised in her intervention on Mr Tolson.

Of course, the figures do not chime with public perception. Therefore, the situation of male victims is not reflected in our treatment or recognition of abused men. We need to recognise that there are abused men, and that their number is growing. The same research exposed the situation of those who did not report abuse. It found that 21 per cent of women did not tell anyone and that the figure rose to 40 per cent for men. We need not guess why; we need only quote Mr B's evidence to the Public Petitions Committee. He said:

"I never had anybody to speak to. The subject was embarrassing and I did not want to speak to my friends or family about it. Domestic abuse just did not happen to men."—[Official Report, Public Petitions Committee, 26 January 2010; c 2336.]

How does the perceived reality and not the reality itself translate into our interventions, policies and how agencies deal day to day with domestic violence? I will reprise some of Mike Rumbles's concerns. When police are called to a domestic and they are in doubt about the perpetrator, who do they identify as the victim and who as the perpetrator? Who is presumed guilty until proven innocent? In our television ads, who is always depicted as the victim? Have we ever seen even one advert that recognises that, just occasionally, the victim might be a man? When our children are taught to respect one another, do our teachers recognise that domestic abuse can be a two-way street? The consequences of a wrongful, prejudged intervention can be substantial, because the presumption that the man is always the perpetrator can and often does lead to a chain of events that are almost impossible to reverse: loss of contact with children, loss of employment and loss of home. The TV and poster ads that children see reinforce the view that only women are victims, so the public perception is reinforced in our policies.

The consequences of and fallout from domestic abuse for all victims are severe: fear, anxiety and psychological as well as physical injury, with loss of self-worth and self-respect. It breaks the body and the spirit, and inflicts damage that can last decades and poison relationships with children and subsequent partners. It does not matter whether the victim is a man or a woman.

How do I know that? I quote a male victim, who said:

"I find it painful that the Scottish Government has funded a series of TV ads for Christmases highlighting the awfulness of domestic violence in which every example is of male violence against women.

It hurts to see messages on buses that men are violent and women are victims. Not a hint that it can ever be the other way. I have no sympathy for men who assault a wife or partner. But I object to my own experience being disregarded.

It's not just the violence that hurts. It's the confidence that was destroyed and has never come back. It's the knowledge that the policy makers don't want to know. You are on your own."

I recognise that there has been some movement, including from Labour members, but we still have an awfully long way to go. If we insist that this is a gender issue, we do a grave disservice to all victims of domestic violence.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour 4:12 pm, 10th June 2010

I welcome the opportunity to take part in this afternoon's debate. I rise to support the amendment in Johann Lamont's name. It is important to recognise the issue of violence against men and that 14 per cent of domestic assaults are against men.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I would like to make some progress. Labour condemns all assaults against men, women and children. They are unacceptable and should not occur in a civilised society. However, we must look at the total picture. Although 14 per cent of domestic assaults are against men, the vast majority—84 per cent—are against women.

Margo MacDonald, Christine Grahame and others mentioned the importance of getting the reported statistics right and the failure of people to come forward. Christine Grahame stated that 40 per cent of men and 21 per cent of women do not report incidents. Even using those figures, 6,000 additional women and 3,000 additional men would be added to the pool, if we start from a base of 46,000 assaults against women and 8,000 assaults against men. That leads us to the logical conclusion that the vast majority of assaults are against women, which influences the debate. I acknowledge absolutely that there are assaults against men and that the issue must be addressed. That is being done through the helpline. However, the logical position is that the greater number of domestic assaults are against women.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

Will the member address the issue that I raised in relation to the majority of abusers? I said that men were the abusers in 60 per cent of cases and women in 38 per cent of cases—I think that that is what I said; I am trying to find the figures. The figures come from the Scottish crime and justice survey and do not reflect reported cases. Does the member accept the statistics?

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I accept that there is a general issue about crime statistics, given the number of violent incidents that are recorded in comparison with the 38 per cent figure in the Scottish crime and justice survey. There is an issue to do with getting the statistics right.

We need to consider and understand the causes of domestic violence. It is worrying and disappointing for all parties that in the devolution years, during which we have spent more money on services in health, education and justice, reported incidents of domestic abuse have gone up from just more than 49,000 to nearly 54,000. Analysis of the causes of domestic violence is a complex process, but the media have a job to do in relation to the role models that are promoted. As Johann Lamont said, there is a cultural issue. The world cup is coming up, and footballers are often promoted as role models in the media. I am a football supporter, but I have to say that all too often footballers behave inappropriately. Sometimes a footballer has ended up in the courts after an incident. It is little wonder that young men behave inappropriately. The issue to do with the media must be tackled.

We must also ensure that we can have confidence in the criminal justice system. Rape prosecutions are at their lowest level for 25 years, so it is clear that there is an issue that must be tackled. I welcome Rhoda Grant's work on her proposal for a member's bill on civil protection orders and access to justice, which would tackle issues to do with domestic abuse by men and women.

The introduction of a presumption against short-term sentences, which is proposed in the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill, would not help us to tackle domestic abuse. Some 93 per cent of sentences in domestic abuse cases are for less than six months, but if the bill were passed the perpetrators in such cases would not go to prison but be released into the community. The proposal is flawed and the SNP should think again.

Many key issues have been raised in the debate, which we must understand. I acknowledge the issue to do with violence against men, but, as Gil Paterson said in his thoughtful speech, we must acknowledge that domestic abuse affects more women than men. We must make progress on the issue so that we can bring safety and stability to the lives of men, women and children throughout Scotland.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 4:18 pm, 10th June 2010

I am slightly disappointed by the confrontational nature of the debate, given that there is so much on which we all ought to agree. Alex Neil talked about the unacceptability of all domestic abuse and domestic violence, as did pretty much every member who has spoken. Domestic abuse and domestic violence are always wrong, in all circumstances. Members of all parties can agree on that.

I used to work as a youth worker, supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people, so I can testify to the wide range of experiences of domestic abuse and violence that young people, as well as adults, experience in domestic relationships of all kinds. I think that members of all parties acknowledge that, too.

We can also all agree that there have been big and welcome improvements over the years in the legislation and in services such as policing, social work, family support and victim support. The new helpline represents not day 1 of a new agenda but the next appropriate and reasonable step in the gradual improvement of the way in which we deal with all the issues. We can and have all welcomed that.

However, we should also all recognise that there is a good reason why we have traditionally brought debates to the chamber that focus on violence against women. It is centrally important to recognise that there is long-standing and deep-seated inequality in our society, particularly gender inequality, which underpins a huge amount of domestic violence and abuse, and that the problem of such abuse has to be understood in gender terms, no matter who the victim is, if it is to be fully understood both in scale and in nature. It is also important to stress that those who have advocated for many years the gendered analysis have never sought to undermine or ignore male victims of situations that are not posed in terms of male violence against women. The briefings that all members have received from the organisations that have advocated that gendered position make that clear.

I welcome and endorse much of Johann Lamont's emphasis on seeing this debate in complementary terms and not setting one group of victims against another. Her explanation of the relevance of the gendered analysis to issues for young men—for example, the ways in which they experience, engage in and relate to violence—was absolutely spot on. However, I sometimes disagree with Labour's specific proposals on issues such as minimum sentencing, which I think risk doing more harm than good. It does not help, from a gendered point of view, if we take a frightened wee boy and turn him out of prison a few months later with him convinced that he is a hard wee man.

I want to make a point about domestic violence and abuse in same-sex relationships and say why the gendered analysis is relevant to those situations. Such circumstances are often cited by those who argue against a specific gendered analysis of the issue, which in the view of some people mistakenly sees or recognises only male violence against women. I have been working in the Parliament for about seven years, so it is a while since I have professionally supported or counselled people in same-sex relationships who experience violence or abuse. However, I have to say that I do not remember a single case where the experience of working with those people did not bring up issues around internalised homophobia: the ugly but all too common phenomenon of people turning society's homophobia and prejudice inward and against themselves or their partners. Where does that homophobia come from? Where does it originate? Very clearly, I would argue, it originates in the social and cultural enforcement and policing of gender roles, and in global terms a relatively modern and western binary model of gender that ultimately is delusional. The gendered analysis is therefore absolutely crucial, no matter who the victim is, and is always relevant to women and to men in mixed-sex relationships or any relationships.

Scottish Women's Aid, which is one of the organisations that have advocated that position, states:

"A gender based analysis of domestic abuse is not just about defining 'who does what to whom' and it does not assume that abusers are always men and victims always women. It seeks to understand the context, meaning and impact of the abuse and how the abuse of individual men and women impacts differently on women, as a group, and men, as a group."

I think that all members in the chamber should be able to support that and agree with it.

It would be wrong for the Parliament to agree a motion that implied or stated that some victims were unimportant or should not be offered support, but it would be equally wrong to agree a motion that had nothing to say about the gendered aspects of domestic abuse and domestic violence. I will therefore be very happy to support Johann Lamont's amendment. Mike Rumbles earlier passionately argued—I know that he is sincere about this—that this is not simply a gender issue. Well, of course it is not—gender is not simple and the gender inequalities in our society are not simple. This is complexly a gender issue. We must agree on the vital need for support and justice no matter who the victim is. However, we must also recognise that the gendered aspects of the issue are central, no matter who the victim is, and we should reflect that in the motion by agreeing the Labour amendment.

Photo of Nigel Don Nigel Don Scottish National Party 4:24 pm, 10th June 2010

Rising at number 14 in the batting lists—that would be a strange game of cricket—I am conscious that much has already been well said and probably repeated. Therefore, I will pick up just a few issues rather than try to give a comprehensive review of all the issues involved.

Returning first to the point about statistics—I apologise for doing this, but we need to nail it—I want to pick up where John Wilson left off. In correspondence between the UK Statistics Authority's Professor Jowell and Keir Starmer QC, the Statistics Authority acknowledges that, from the statistics that are available in the UK, we should not say that the "overwhelming majority" of victims are women. It is quite clear, even to the UK Statistics Authority, that there are a significant number of male victims, which is why the UK Statistics Authority has removed that phrase. I ask other people to do so, too, because I think that such language skews the argument just a little too far in one direction.

Photo of Nigel Don Nigel Don Scottish National Party

Forgive me, but there are a few things that I want to cover.

Of course, that does not alter the fact that the experience of female victims is very different from the experience of male victims. Walking down the street, one sees an awful lot of black eyes on ladies' faces and, by and large, victims who are men do not suffer from broken bones. Clearly, violence against women is an issue. However, in terms of pure numbers, we need to be careful not to imagine that quite as much domestic violence is in the direction of women as one might have thought.

In addition, I want to refer to some statistical information from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has attempted to do some research on domestic abuse. The CDC's findings state:

"Each year, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner related physical assaults and rapes. Men are the victims of about 2.9 million intimate partner related physical assaults."

That is over a third of those that could be established. I suggest that that might turn out to be somewhere nearer the right kind of proportion, although I acknowledge that the outcome for male and female victims will be very different.

I have to agree with Patrick Harvie that domestic abuse is a complex gender issue, but that does not alter the fact that it is a gender issue.

Therefore, I can only try to draw together what Mike Rumbles said and what Patrick Harvie and Johann Lamont said by saying, "Look, guys, I think that you are actually talking about the same thing." Gender issues are involved, because women's experience and men's experience of domestic violence are different. Clearly, we recognise—I hope that we recognise—that men have a position in our society that is generally one of power and women, generally speaking, suffer as a consequence. Surely, however, there is also a power analysis. Given that the matter depends entirely on the power within the relationship, it does not follow that the woman is the unpowerful one. I think that we can all see that, so we should not fall out over it, but there have been some slightly intemperate comments one way or another that worry me and that we could perhaps just see off.

As one of the final speakers in the debate I want to highlight something that has not previously been mentioned, which is how public authorities say that they deal with the issue. In a letter to me, the Lord Advocate stressed that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service takes all allegations of domestic abuse very seriously, whether the victim is male or female. In the view of procurators fiscal, there will be no presumptions in their analysis of any case. Clearly, they need to take the information that they are provided with, but it is clear that the Lord Advocate believes that there is no gender analysis at her end of proceedings.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I am glad that Nigel Don has made a distinction between the Crown Office and the police. I have every sympathy for the police who deal with situations in which there is doubt, but the problem is that a presumption is exercised in situations in which there is doubt.

Photo of Nigel Don Nigel Don Scottish National Party

Christine Grahame is a fraction ahead of me there. I also spoke to Grampian Police, which is quite clear that its view would now be the same in recognising that there is such a thing as a male victim of domestic abuse. The police now try to be even-handed—those are my words, not theirs—but whether that was the position historically is an issue that I will leave members to contemplate. However, that is now where at least Grampian Police is.

By contrast, the response that I received from Aberdeen City Council—I do not want to pick out a particular local authority, although other members have done so—quoted research that suggests that, in 93 per cent of cases, domestic abuse is committed by a male perpetrator. The statistics that it was prepared to quote were the court statistics, which shows that public authorities are not looking over a terribly wide area and they see the easy statistics that come from the court rather than what is behind them. From that, I draw the conclusion that, although we might be beginning to gain some understanding, and although some parts of public authority, such as the police and the Lord Advocate, have got there, I am not convinced that every other public authority understands that there might be two sides to the coin, and that they need to be careful about what they are doing.

Photo of Hugh O'Donnell Hugh O'Donnell Liberal Democrat 4:30 pm, 10th June 2010

It has been an interesting afternoon in the chamber. I got the impression that we were having two debates. The one that was generated by the Labour Party ranks was, quite rightly, about the extent of violence against women, while the rest of us seemed to be debating services for male victims. That was reflected in some of the rather heated exchanges that took place and the figures that were bandied about.

As Mike Rumbles said, this is the first time in 11 years that the subject has been debated in the chamber, and that is very disappointing. Johann Lamont made many interesting and important points and, in his usual considered way, Nigel Don widened our understanding of those points.

We are talking about the why of domestic violence. However we want to phrase it, there is no doubt that men and women are wired differently and that they react to different situations in different ways, for good or for ill. We need to analyse what goes on, and our analysis needs to go beyond the simple numerical calculation that there are more women victims of domestic violence. The numerical argument becomes about whether more women are using the service because it is there, and men now have a service so more of them are beginning to use it. Does the presence of the service increase the need for it, or does the need for a service create its presence? The debate has become a bit like that, and it is difficult to get behind the issues.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Does the member agree that it would be possible and constructive to move beyond the numerical debate about imbalances in the numbers of victims if everyone here was willing to admit and accept the numerical reality, which does not seem to be what is happening?

Photo of Hugh O'Donnell Hugh O'Donnell Liberal Democrat

There needs to be a wider analysis of what is happening. Nigel Don expanded on that during his contribution. We need to get beyond the numerical stuff.

In her contribution to the debate, Elaine Smith made a telling point about tit-for-tat reporting. I have anecdotal evidence from members of the police forces of cases in which, when they are called to a domestic incident, they see people trying to get their defence in first by saying, "They hit me first" or, "They shouted at me first," whichever gender the person happens to be. That can skew the production of the figures. We are not particularly good at dealing with such circumstances. In the past, the police tended to say that the male was responsible. Perhaps they do so in the present.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

I point out that I asked my question during an intervention, rather than a contribution. I have spoken on the issue on many occasions over the years, so I thought that I would let my male colleagues speak this afternoon. However, we need more research into counter-allegations. Perhaps the police could provide that information.

Photo of Hugh O'Donnell Hugh O'Donnell Liberal Democrat

What happens now is that the word of the initiator of the call is taken. We must find a way of getting round that tit-for-tat allegation to get some balance and a wider understanding of what is going on, as Patrick Harvie said.

Alex Neil rightly mentioned the responsibility of all the agencies to support all victims of domestic abuse. It is fair to say that the role models that we provide to show our males what our society wants them to be might hinder their ability to put their hand up and say, "Hang on a minute—I am being abused." Notwithstanding the valuable, important and useful work that is being done by Women's Aid and by Victim Support, the stigma—or even the perception of stigma—might make that difficult for them. The helpline, albeit a small step, is a step forward in delivering some sort of parity in access to services.

We must go beyond the exchange of statistics. Notwithstanding the way in which they are used, they do not tell the full story. That is where the debate should move forward. Patrick Harvie was the only member who spoke in a broader sense about the issues around same-sex relationships, although Malcolm Chisholm mentioned the matter in passing. That is something else that needs to be completely investigated.

It was rather disappointing to hear members bandy figures about in what appeared to me to be two separate debates. We must move on from that and, as Johann Lamont says, improve our understanding of why domestic violence happens in our society.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 4:37 pm, 10th June 2010

On one view, this debate can be encapsulated by the opening comments that many members made. Bill Butler, the minister and Jim Tolson all said that violence is unacceptable, no matter who is the perpetrator or who is the victim. I think that we can all agree on that.

It is a pity that the debate has become a trifle polarised, because it is not a gender issue. When we seek to condemn violence and try to draw attention to the plight of victims of any particular group, that does not mean that our condemnation of those who commit violence against other groups is any less, nor does it mean that our sympathy with any other group of victims is any less.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Let me finish this point.

When members in this chamber properly lodge motions condemning, for example, the attack on the mercy ship bound for Gaza and expressing considerable sympathy for the people of Gaza, that does not mean that they are any less condemnatory of the attacks by the Hutus on the Tutsi in Rwanda and the terrible atrocities that the victims there suffered. There can be no hierarchy of victims.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

When we talk about the gender element in all of this, I think that we are talking about the unequal power relationship, and I think that that is changing culturally. I would like to see an investigation of that and its impact on violence in the domestic setting.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

There may well be merit in that proposal but I think that that is an argument for another day.

I frankly concede that the majority of offenders are men and that the majority of victims are women. James Kelly gave certain statistics in that respect, which I am sure will be pretty accurate, as his figures usually are. However, an analysis of the available figures demonstrates that the majority is not quite as overwhelming as many—including me—may have thought.

Nigel Don was correct to refer, briefly, to correspondence from the UK Statistics Authority to the director of public prosecutions down south. I will also refer to it, because I think that it is particularly important. On the basis of a complaint, the UK Statistics Authority carried out an investigation, which is summed up by one paragraph in the letter from Professor Sir Roger Jowell, who is the authority's deputy chair, to the DPP. He states that a document that had been issued was incorrect and required clarification, in that

"It would appear that whilst the Home Office evidence does point to a majority of victims being women, the phrase 'overwhelming majority' is not justified in this context."

This week, in the House of Commons, an interesting maiden speech was given by Nicola Blackwood. Having researched the matter, she suggested that domestic abuse accounts for 16 per cent of violent crimes and affects one in four women and one in six men. She has clearly done her homework, and I think that those figures should concern us all.

Basically, however, we should be applying our minds and our not inconsiderable intellects—which I have seen demonstrated during this debate, which has featured many thoughtful and positive speeches—to the question of what we can do to make things better. I agree with James Kelly that the presumption against short prison sentences will not help. However, I think that certain things that the minister has brought forward most certainly will.

It is important that there should be a change of language. An acknowledgement of that is reflected in the Government's motion and in the fact that we are having this debate.

Another serious issue, which was highlighted by Mike Rumbles and Christine Grahame, concerns the police and their reaction to domestic violence. However, the issue is not quite as simple as was claimed by those speakers. I suggest that we put ourselves in the position of a Glasgow police officer who has come to a house on the basis of a 999 call from neighbours who have heard a disturbance and sounds of violence. Before us are a man and a woman, both showing signs of having been in a struggle, with red marks on their faces and arms. Both have been drinking, and there are two or three young children in the house. The police face a real danger in that situation. The police can warn them, which might not be appropriate, or they can take someone away. In those circumstances, what would we do? Would we leave the children in the house without the woman present, or would we arrest the man? It is so much easier to let the fiscal sort it out, once the matter has been reported, and to let the court sort it out, if the prosecution runs.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I have no time—I am sorry.

The police are between a rock and a hard place in the situation that I describe. If they take the woman away, there is the problem of the children. If they leave the man in the house and something terrible happens, and there is a history of violence, the police will be in trouble. However, the fact is that, in an exaggerated situation in which the woman is totally responsible, taking the man away sends a terrible message to the children that their mother can assault their father, phone the police, and their father can get the jail. That is a very difficult situation.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 4:43 pm, 10th June 2010

I intended my contribution to be a serious one, and I hope that that is how it came over. I wanted to say things that some people might not agree with, but I genuinely wanted to engage with what I think is a serious debate. Although Hugh O'Donnell suggested that the debate was polarised, I was trying to put in context the experience of individual victims of domestic abuse, in relation to policy.

I am a bit concerned about some of the comments that were made about my attitude and the attitude of my party. Mary Scanlon talked about the impact on children and seemed to suggest that my position is that we should discriminate against the children of male, rather than female, victims. That is simply not true. Pioneering work was done by the previous Executive and continues to be done to support those who want to work with children—boys and girls—who have lived with domestic abuse. Children are not screened out because it was a man who complained that he was a victim of female abuse.

Mary Scanlon also conflated a separate issue, which is our capacity to reach out to boys who witness domestic abuse. It is simply not true that I do not want those boys' voices to be heard. Indeed, I have been vocal over many years in attacking the lazy analysis that there is a circle of violence whereby boys who witness violence will go on to be violent men. I have been vocal in condemning that approach because I have worked with young boys and I know adult males who have lived in households where there was domestic abuse. They tell us that it is to their abiding shame that they could not protect their mothers, and they do not know what to do because of that.

The idea that Labour members would support a policy that did not give voice to those boys or that we would not recognise that, whatever the situation, there is a critical role in addressing children's needs is frankly offensive. Members should reflect on that. Regardless of the other issues, we should all welcome the progress that we made in addressing children's needs and recognising that dimension.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I ask the member to let me make this point first.

John Wilson said that violence is violence. That might be true, but on one level it is also meaningless. We have to reflect on the fact that there are serious arguments on, for example, provocation. In cases of murder, men have been able to go to court and argue that they had been nagged incessantly and, in a heated moment, had killed their wife. We know that there are examples of men in those circumstances who secured a reduced sentence.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I ask the member to let me finish the point.

Meanwhile, women who murdered their husbands and planned it because they were living in fear went to jail. I do not necessarily say that, in the individual circumstances, all those women should have gone free, but we have to accept that there is a serious argument around provocation.

Somebody mentioned that contact is sometimes abused by women, who use it against fathers. I absolutely accept that point. In my constituency, I have worked with fathers and fought for them to have access to their children. However, we also have to understand that there are men who abuse the contact system, according to women's organisations, to continue the abuse of the women. It is not a simple issue of men and women.

In none of the debate have I denied that violence is perpetrated in homes by men and by women, but when we are talking about domestic abuse, in order to move from the particular to the general, as Malcolm Chisholm said, we have to understand the context in which we live and the context of power. Individual power relationships will be different, but the pattern of power relationships is one of men having power over women. That is recognised in the United Nations declaration on the elimination of violence against women, which acknowledges and confirms the basic tenet

"that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men".

To believe that is not to gainsay the experience of individual men.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Does the member agree that that traditional power balance might be upset if women become more violent in their behaviour? We might be at that stage of development just now.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

One thing on which we can all agree is that we need more research in the area. I accept that the role of women in society has changed. I celebrate that. I contend that it has not brought more violence, because men, whose roles have changed and who are now more likely than ever to be a proper father to their children and take responsibility for them, are less likely to be in violent relationships. We should recognise and celebrate that.

I commend Gil Paterson for his speech. He said something that is quite difficult to say—that, while we recognise that male victims exist, we have a responsibility to address the bigger picture. That is not about ignoring the individual but about, in policy terms, understanding the broader message that we need to take out to our children in schools. It is frustrating that simply to identify the pattern is to be accused of diminishing people's experience. That is not what is intended.

I thought that, in the debate, we would hear that there is a flaw and a failure in the system because we do not recognise the exceptional. Many people who talk about the hidden problem of male victims of domestic abuse say that such abuse is exceptional but that we should nevertheless address it. However, things have shifted for some people, and the debate is, as I have said, a proxy for something else: the contention that there is no pattern of abuse or that males abusing their power over women through domestic abuse is not an overwhelming or serious problem. However, that problem is recognised internationally and by all our agencies.

Christine Grahame, for example, said that she would always commend those who have championed the rights of women. She should listen to women's organisations. They are anxious that we are shifting from one position, which is that there may be male victims, to a different position, which is that there is no gendered approach. That is important. She said that if we insist that the issue is a gender issue, we do harm to all victims. Labour contends that if we do not understand that there is a gender issue—for women and for men—we will not eradicate it. It is a fact that men feel stigmatised because they are not prepared to be macho and violent. There has to be an impact on them as well, because of that.

One might have thought that the state invented and created women's organisations and refuges, but they came out of needs. I promise members—and this is absolutely true—that Labour members will change our minds on any issue if needs emerge. It is not about our having a closed mind and being in denial. If we accept that there is a scourge and a challenge, we must consider the pattern and the context. Doing so is in the interests of our boys and our girls.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party 4:51 pm, 10th June 2010

The debate has been entirely justified, and we have heard a number of thoughtful and interesting speeches from across the chamber, as Bill Aitken said. I will try to answer as many of the specific questions that were put to me as possible in the time that I have.

I have taken two lessons from the debate. First, the complexity of domestic violence and domestic abuse is even greater than I originally expected.

Secondly, we still lack enough knowledge of and intelligence about the nature and scale of the problem. I will give two examples. Much of the debate has been about the statistics. It is interesting that 85 per cent of all reported domestic violence incidents in Scotland are incidents against women, and 14 to 15 per cent—the balance—are against men. However, as Christine Grahame said, there are different figures in the Scottish crime and justice survey. The incidents are still predominantly of violence against women as opposed to men, but the ratio is 60:40 instead of 85:15. We need to do much more to get behind those figures and get a far better understanding of what is happening. I think that we all agree that all policies should be based on the available evidence, and we need much more evidence to inform future policy.

It is not just about the statistics; it is also about the qualitative analysis of the evidence. Some of the questions that have been posed are fair, and they apply on both sides. What is the cause of many incidents of domestic abuse and violence? We do not yet have the understanding and evidence that we need to decide future policy. However, one statistic is clear. Whether the victim of domestic abuse or violence is a woman or a man, they are 100 per cent the victim of it, and that can never be acceptable. I think that all members without exception agree that no one should experience abuse of any sort, particularly by someone close to them. That is a breach of trust, and it can have a devastating impact on aspects of their life.

I will say a word or two about victims. It is not just the man or woman who is the victim; children are victims as well. Another bit of research from the Scottish crime and justice survey that I have picked up on is that one third of victims had dependent children living with them at the time of the most recent incident of domestic abuse. In two thirds of the cases, the children were present when the incident took place. In 77 per cent of those cases, the children actually saw or heard what happened, and 20 per cent of them became involved in the incident. How horrific for any child to witness domestic abuse of any kind, and how horrific for a child, no matter what their age, to become involved in and a witness to domestic abuse.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

Does the minister therefore accept—considering the thesis that I put forward about presumption and the fact that there may be doubt—that if the woman is the perpetrator but the father or man is removed, that compounds the tragedy and distress for the children?

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

That highlights the point that I made earlier: we need a much greater understanding of the evidence and what is actually happening. One action that I am taking forward from the debate is to commission more research to find out much more about what is behind the figures so that we can ensure that services are designed and tailored to meet the nature as well as the scale of the problem.

When we talk about children as victims, it is also important to remember that the long-term impact on them can be devastating. I am glad to say that we now have a group of young experts—voice against violence—who help us to develop and implement our policy. Those young people provide invaluable insights and their own perspectives to make things better for other young people who are experiencing domestic abuse.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

On the issue of changing perspectives, both Christine Grahame and I asked the minister this question: can we have even just one advert or poster that reflects the reality of domestic abuse against men?

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

I will cover that point later in my speech.

We do not know much about the experiences of young people when their father is being abused by their mother, by a female partner or by a male partner. I fully acknowledge that gap in our knowledge, and it is something that I intend to address alongside the consideration of services for male victims. We need to know much more than we do at present about violence against men and about all those involved—victims, perpetrators and children.

Some of the responses involve the referral of men, whether they are victims or perpetrators, to support services in relation to, for example, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, legal advice or housing. They can also receive general counselling support.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

I am sorry; I am going to run out of time.

I am particularly grateful to the male victims who have spoken out about their own experiences and raised our awareness of the issue, which has remained largely hidden until recently. Their courage has helped to ensure that others in the same situation will have the help that did not previously exist.

We know that we are at an early stage in our consideration of the issues for male victims, and I recognise that, although the helpline is a step forward, it is only the first step forward. I do not rule out, for example, future adverts that deal specifically with the problem of domestic abuse against men. As we know, one key objective of the helpline is to help us gather the intelligence to inform policy. There is no point in our commissioning new services and adverts if they are not aimed at the right people, at the right time, in the right area and in the right circumstances. We have to have an informed approach for the future. The helpline, with other sources, will allow us to gather the intelligence that we need to ensure that the scale and nature of future service provision is designed along the right lines.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

You must draw to a close, please.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

A question was asked about funding, which I will cover very quickly. I give three commitments on funding. First, we will spend the £44 million to tackle violence against women over the three-year period up until next year. Secondly, the money that has been made available for the helpline has not come out of that budget. Thirdly, once we know our budget for next year, we will ensure that proper consideration is given to the allocation of resources to deal with all forms of domestic abuse in Scotland.