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RTC Reviews UK government statement on male survivors - part one

[Disclaimer - we haven’t included every figure from the report here, just the ones we found most interesting.]

In 2019, the UK government released a statement in acknowledgement and support of male victims of physical and sexual violence. The report highlights the validity of their experiences, whilst explaining that their VAWG strategy predominantly focuses on the experiences of women and girls. Examples of violence given in the report include domestic violence, “honour-based killings,” sexual violence and stalking.

Whilst data offers an indication of the prevalence of male victims, it can also reflect the nuance of complex interpersonal dynamics within relationships. For instance, men and boys should not be regarded as a homogenous group, with the report highlighting how members of the LBGT community are more disproportionately affected by violence. Finally, the report also states that we should not assume that women are always the perpetrators where men are the victims. It is a reminder that violence and the people it affects is never quite so clear cut. Hence, the government commits to ending all forms of gender-based and sexual violence, regardless of who the victim is and the context under which it occurs.

Who is affected?

The paper is to be used as a compliment to current guidance and VAWG Strategy. It aims to strengthen and clarify the response to a growing number of male victims and survivors, through an exploration of the barriers to reporting and support that male victims may access. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, around 4.2% of men experienced domestic violence in the year ending March 2018. That’s 695,000 people. Moreover, the survey recorded 107 male domestic homicides, half of which were committed by a partner or ex-partner. as for sexual assault, 0.9% of men in England and Wales (140,000 individuals) aged 16-59 experienced sexual assault within the same timeframe. This figure has increased from the year before, demonstrating how serious this issue is. Publishing these figures is vital. It shows survivors that they aren’t alone in an extremely isolating and destructive situation. Central recording of figures allows the government to understand the scale of the problem and identify areas (e.g regions or demographics) where further support is needed. The report also recognises that victims of childhood sexual abuse are more likely to experience sexual and domestic violence as adults. This means that they may need to access long term support, whilst remaining vulnerable to other harms.

Another subject touched on in the report is that of “honour-based violence” against men. This issue is normally examined with regards to women, so we were pleased to see that the government also acknowledged male victims. Data collected from the joint Home Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Institute (what a name) illustrated that 21% of cases pertained to male victims and survivors in 2017. For men, this violence can be forced marriage, as families seek to mask the man’s sexuality or obtain a visa. We had no idea that the issue affects so many men and we’re pleased that the report highlighted this. Again, visibility is crucial, both for survivors and for raising public awareness.

A further aspect for consideration is how violence affects gay, bisexual and trans men. These groups are more likely to be victims of violence than heterosexual men. Research by Stonewall (2013) showed 49% of all gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one incident of abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16. For trans individuals, the National LGBT Survey found that they were far more likely to have experienced violence committed by a member of their household than gay and bisexual men. Is has become increasingly apparent that members of the most marginalised communities continue to bear the brunt of these violent crimes.

Finally, the report focuses on children. It is estimated that between ¼ and 1/3 of young people in the UK have had some exposure to domestic abuse. They may be too young or lack the opportunity to speak up about abuse and this may have life-long consequences. This increases the risk of exposure to violence as an impact by a third. They could perpetuate patterns of abusive behaviour themselves, or stay trapped in abusive relationships because of their previous exposure. This further highlights the salience of supporting children who live in abusive households.

Keep your eyes peeled for our next post on reporting and the effectiveness of the government’s recommendations.

Where to seek support:

LGBT community - Galop

Male Survivors Partnership

The ManKind initiative

Ben’s Place (North Yorkshire, for victims of childhood abuse)

Safeline (also for children)

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