Domestic Violence (Support for Victims)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th November 2021.

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Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

2. To ask the Scottish Government, in light of reported Crown Office findings that there has been a 9 per cent increase in reported charges with a “domestic abuse identifier” during the Covid-19 pandemic, what action it is taking to support victims of domestic violence. (S6O-00338)

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

We all recognise that during the coronavirus pandemic, for some people, home has not been a place of safety. Sadly, that has been reflected in a 9 per cent increase in the number of domestic abuse charges reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in the past year. That is why, in its first 100 days, the Government directed £5 million of new funding to domestic abuse services and rape crisis centres, to help to cut waiting lists for specialist support services. That was in addition to the £5.75 million that was allocated last year to support front-line organisations’ Covid response and recovery, so that they could respond to an increase in demand from victims of abuse.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

What steps is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that more people are aware of the support that the cabinet secretary outlined in his answer, and what support will be given to local organisations to help them to deliver their services?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

I am sure that the member and other members will be aware of the many advertisements on television and in other media about this issue. For our part, the Government remains committed to raising awareness of domestic abuse, and we support Scotland’s domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline, which is available 24/7 to support anyone with experience of domestic abuse. Later this month, we will launch a campaign to reach those who are most at risk and to ensure that survivors are aware of the support that continues to be available.

We continue to invest significant levels of funding in specialist front-line services. Our new delivering equally safe fund recently confirmed allocations to 121 projects from 112 organisations that are working to provide key services and prevent gender-based violence.

Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

Four in five victims of domestic abuse are women. We all agree that that is a truly shocking statistic, but it remains true that more than 10,000 incidents of domestic abuse involved male victims. Will any of the funds that the cabinet secretary mentioned be allocated to charities such as Abused Men in Scotland and other organisations that support male victims of abuse, so that they get a fair and proportionate share of Government support, too?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

The member raises an important point. We are absolutely clear that there is no excuse for domestic abuse, regardless of the gender of the victim or of the perpetrator. Although the victims in more than 80 per cent of cases are female, we recognise that men can be victims of domestic abuse, too, whether that abuse is perpetrated by women or in same-sex relationships.

We are funding a range of services to support male victims. That includes the provision of nearly £190,000 between 2017 and 2023 to run the Respect helpline, which signposts male survivors of domestic abuse to support services. Over the same period, we are providing £5.6 million to the advocacy, support, safety, information and services together, or ASSIST, project, which, as part of its work, provides advocacy support to male survivors of domestic abuse in the west of Scotland and the Lothians.

As I mentioned, we also fund the Scottish domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline, to support male and female victims and survivors.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

Does the domestic abuse identifier include any evidence of increasing abuse of pets—usually dogs—which are used by perpetrators to coerce and control their partners?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

I cannot say that it does, and if it does, I have not seen such evidence. I am happy to look into the matter and, if we have more information that I can provide, to write to the member with that information.