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
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.