My Lords, male victims are included in and benefit from the support of measures in the tackling violence against women and girls strategy and the tackling domestic abuse plan. The Government recognise the specific challenges that male victims of these crimes may face. We have published Supporting Male Victims, outlining commitments to address these issues. The Home Office also funds the Men’s Advice Line and is uplifting funding for this year.
I thank the Minister for that Answer. Dame Vera Baird, the Government’s Victims’ Commissioner, wrote:
“It is estimated that one in six men will experience sexual violence or abuse at some point in their lives … The Home Office’s refreshed ‘Supporting Male Victims’ document—notably not a ‘strategy’—will do shamefully little to advance the interests of these victims … It’s hard to escape the impression that male survivors are an afterthought.”
Does the Minister agree with that statement?
In all honesty, I have to say that I do not. In the year ending March 2020, the ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales found that 13.8% of men and 27.6% of women aged 16 to 74 had experienced domestic abuse. That is equivalent to an estimated 2.9 million men and 5.9 million women. So the VAWG strategy reflects the disproportionate impact on women, but that is absolutely not to say that we take no notice of the impact on male victims. In fact, we recognise some of the difficulties that men can find in, first, coming forward to report the abuse and, secondly, taking it through the criminal justice system.
My Lords, following on from that question, one-third of domestic abuse victims are men and, per the new Domestic Abuse Act, boys who witness domestic abuse are also victims, yet many male victims of violence are categorised as victims of “violence against women and girls”, while others have no specific policy. Does the Minister agree that this categorisation is semantic nonsense, and that ignoring men’s specific needs makes a mockery of equality? Moreover, will the Government publish a parallel violence against men and boys strategy to cover all forms of intimate violence against men and boys?
My noble friend’s figures are absolutely right. Had we done it in the way that he suggests, there may have been a lot of complaints from women and domestic abuse organisations that we had not reflected the fact that it is predominantly women who suffer from domestic abuse. However, we published the Supporting Male Victims document in March to help to raise awareness of this issue and highlight the specialist support that may be required to assist them. They are included in both the tackling VAWG strategy and the tackling domestic abuse plan. As I said yesterday, anyone who comes forward as a victim of domestic violence will be treated first and foremost as a victim, whether they are male or female.
Is the position paper in itself not inadequate, in that, while it outlines many of the barriers that men face, it does very little to address them? ManKind and other charities are calling for a full-blown strategy called the “intimate violence and abuse against men and boys strategy”. Does not the suffering of men deserve to be treated as equally valid to that of women?
My Lords, in this important issue of violence against men and boys as well as against women and girls, addressing the drivers of violence is as important as responding to it downstream. Can the Minister give an assurance that work is being done to focus on a holistic preventive framework for all domestic and sexual violence, as in Victoria, Australia?
I could not agree more with the right reverend Prelate on the point that preventing it in the first place is far better than having it happen and there being subsequent victims of it. We did a lot of work with the Troubled Families programme in tackling the problems upstream and identifying people who were victims or might become victims—and I think that is the basis for a good government policy.
I do not think there should be any favour. The whole concept and application of domestic abuse means that the system should ensure remedies and solutions for victims—as opposed to “favour”, if that is the right word—and I think the criminal justice system, fair as it is, will see to that.
We engaged widely with the sector before the Domestic Abuse Act and before the Supporting Male Victims document was produced. The whole premise of our actions is based on the advice and support from, and engagement with, the sector.