Violence Against Men

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:54 pm on 10th June 2010.

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

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.