Violence Against Men

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:51 pm on 10th June 2010.

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Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party 4:51 pm, 10th June 2010

The debate has been entirely justified, and we have heard a number of thoughtful and interesting speeches from across the chamber, as Bill Aitken said. I will try to answer as many of the specific questions that were put to me as possible in the time that I have.

I have taken two lessons from the debate. First, the complexity of domestic violence and domestic abuse is even greater than I originally expected.

Secondly, we still lack enough knowledge of and intelligence about the nature and scale of the problem. I will give two examples. Much of the debate has been about the statistics. It is interesting that 85 per cent of all reported domestic violence incidents in Scotland are incidents against women, and 14 to 15 per cent—the balance—are against men. However, as Christine Grahame said, there are different figures in the Scottish crime and justice survey. The incidents are still predominantly of violence against women as opposed to men, but the ratio is 60:40 instead of 85:15. We need to do much more to get behind those figures and get a far better understanding of what is happening. I think that we all agree that all policies should be based on the available evidence, and we need much more evidence to inform future policy.

It is not just about the statistics; it is also about the qualitative analysis of the evidence. Some of the questions that have been posed are fair, and they apply on both sides. What is the cause of many incidents of domestic abuse and violence? We do not yet have the understanding and evidence that we need to decide future policy. However, one statistic is clear. Whether the victim of domestic abuse or violence is a woman or a man, they are 100 per cent the victim of it, and that can never be acceptable. I think that all members without exception agree that no one should experience abuse of any sort, particularly by someone close to them. That is a breach of trust, and it can have a devastating impact on aspects of their life.

I will say a word or two about victims. It is not just the man or woman who is the victim; children are victims as well. Another bit of research from the Scottish crime and justice survey that I have picked up on is that one third of victims had dependent children living with them at the time of the most recent incident of domestic abuse. In two thirds of the cases, the children were present when the incident took place. In 77 per cent of those cases, the children actually saw or heard what happened, and 20 per cent of them became involved in the incident. How horrific for any child to witness domestic abuse of any kind, and how horrific for a child, no matter what their age, to become involved in and a witness to domestic abuse.