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Male Abusive Behaviour

Volume 779: debated on Wednesday 8 March 2017


Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to help men who seek support in addressing their abusive behaviour.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Verma and at her request, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in her name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, the Government’s Ending Violence Against Women and Girls strategy sets out our ambition both to support victims and to improve early intervention measures to prevent reoffending and to stop these crimes happening in the first place. The Government are funding a number of new approaches to manage perpetrators of domestic abuse, including the Drive project, which helps perpetrators change their behaviour. We also fund the national Respect helpline, which offers perpetrators advice and support.

My Lords, I know all noble Lords will welcome the additional funding for the prevention of domestic violence announced in today’s Budget. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that to address what are often intergenerational cycles of violence by men towards their wives and partners, it is important to work with those perpetrators, as she mentioned, by offering training programmes such as the Domestic Violence Intervention Project?

My noble friend is absolutely right. Intergenerational domestic violence is not only meted out on generations of women but those behaviours are passed on to the children. It is breaking those cycles through education and working with perpetrators in those programmes that we hope will break the mould.

My Lords, since it costs about £50,000 per annum to keep a child in care, and roughly the same amount to keep a person in jail, can the Minister tell the House what efforts are made to ensure that police, local authorities and schools work together to identify perpetrators and get them into prevention programmes?

The noble Baroness raises a very important issue about those agencies that she talks about working together. When I was at DCLG the troubled families programme unearthed an awful lot of instances of domestic violence. Health professionals have a role to play in identifying, for example, a bruise as a result of violence. There are so many things that our professionals can do in identifying and reporting those issues. The police are now better trained not only to take domestic violence seriously but to issue domestic violence protection orders to give the woman—usually—in the relationship some time away from the perpetrator of violence.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that much of the work that is being done now in relation to domestic abuse is being done by my former honourable friend Dame Vera Baird, who is the lead for police and crime commissioners. No doubt she will accept that 92% of victims of domestic violence are women and many seek help in women’s refuges. Is she aware that Women’s Aid has said that the current funding model proposed by the Government will lead to the destruction of the women’s refuge programme? What are the Government going to do about it?

I pay tribute to Vera Baird because I know she does an awful lot of work in this area. The first thing I looked at when I was at DCLG was the whole area of domestic violence—the refuges and the prevention models. The noble Baroness is absolutely right: it is important to keep these refuges open so that no woman is turned away. In fact, there was a significant announcement in the Budget today about underpinning our VAWG strategy, but those interventions to stop domestic violence happening in the first place are also very important.

The noble and learned Baroness makes a very good point. It is what children see—their experiences of what is normal—that will shape the behaviour of young boys and young girls. Young girls may lose the value in themselves and young boys may not value girls as they grow up. The noble and learned Baroness is absolutely right, and work has been done in this sphere over the course of this Government and the previous Government.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that there are certain problems in the wording of this Question? Most men who engage in abusive behaviour do not recognise it as abusive and do not seek support, so there has to be a very important balance between preventive and restorative measures.

The right reverend Prelate hits on a sad point: not only do some men not recognise what they are doing as violence or coercive control but, unfortunately, some women do not realise that they are the victims of violence and coercive control. That is a very sad thing in today’s society, so I thank him for raising it.

My Lords, I was very surprised to learn that as many as one in three victims of domestic violence are male. I have no doubt that male victims feel ashamed and embarrassed, and that they just will not be believed. Do male victims of abuse receive the same help, support and refuge facilities as women and if not, why not?

My noble friend is right to point out that there are male victims of domestic violence but I do not think the number is as high as one in three. I think something like 7% or 8% of victims are men. He raises a very important point, however: for men, shame is a terrible thing, which often prevents their coming forward and seeking help. Advice lines for men are available—for example, the Men’s Advice Line. I am not undermining the suffering that men go through.

My Lords, I declare my interests in Changing Lives and the Lloyds Bank Foundation. We are doing a lot of work with perpetrators, but also in making sure that commissioners know and understand what is needed in this area. May I remind the Minister that it is becoming increasingly clear that virtually 100% of those women who end up on the wrong side of the criminal justice system or homeless have suffered abuse as children and then again as adults? This is a real crisis in our society and we have to take hold of it. When I first got involved in one of the first refuges in the country 40-odd years ago, we simply had no idea of the extent of the problem. Women are not here to be abused. We must have equality; that is the basic thing that needs to be taken through schools and every other way.

If I have time to answer the noble Baroness, I completely concur with her point: not only are these women victims of homelessness, sometimes, but of drug abuse or depression, which may have arisen from it or be a result of it. The problems arising from domestic violence are massive and the cost to society is too.