Violence Against Men

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:00 pm on 10th June 2010.

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

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.