The aim, broadly speaking, is to bring all the disparate pieces of domestic abuse legislation, policies and guidance together. There will be a new legal definition, more emphasis on the effects on children and a more focused justice system.
It’s a sensible, commendable move. The Bill presents an opportunity to support all victims of domestic violence – women, men, and any children they may have in their household.
What was particularly encouraging was to hear the beginning of a shift in the Government’s narrative on domestic abuse, from one that has focused overwhelmingly on female victims in heterosexual relationships, to a more inclusive, equality-based narrative that gives equal importance and concern to victims regardless of their gender.It may not seem much to the naked eye, but the inclusion of the following line in the Government’s briefing document indicates a move from a gender exclusive approach to a gender inclusive approach. It is the first time I have seen this in such a high-profile way from the Government:
“The 2015/16 Crime Survey for England and Wales indicates 7.7% of women and 4.4% of men reported having experienced any type of domestic abuse in the last year. This is the lowest level since the survey began.” (page 37)
In effect, one in every three victims is male. So this sea change is welcome and will continue the grassroots movement in services for male victims, which is starting to establish itself in the UK. Many existing female-only services are now opening their doors to male victims – offering different types of support – an approach we believe is vital. A one size fits all blancmange of services will not work for men or women.
This view is one that recognises domestic abuse primarily as a crime against individuals and the only priority should be supporting those people based on their particular risk, not their gender.
To make sure the Government’s plans in this field are a real success, it is vital they make the right appointment.
We are confident they will do so.
Mark Brooks is the chairman of the ManKind Initiative charity