Violence Against Men

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:07 pm on 10th June 2010.

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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.