Violence Against Men

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:43 pm on 10th June 2010.

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

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.