THE BLOG
23/09/2013 09:51 BST | Updated 20/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Do Male Domestic Abuse Victims Get Arrested?

I was a Metropolitan Police Officer through the 1980s, 90s and up to 2006. Like most ex or serving Police Officers I have seen the reality of domestic violence in its many forms - from harassment to minor assault to rape and murder.

In the 80's the Police were very bad at dealing with domestic violence but as the years went by I think we became slightly better at it - we got a bit better at supporting women victims - we got little bit better at arresting the male suspects even where we thought the victim may not want to go ahead with a prosecution - and this was right thing for Police to do. By being positive about taking action the victims often felt more able to see the matter through.

We followed the direction of the training we received and started to get better with dealing with the women as victims and men as perpetrators.

However in one important way we failed almost entirely - that is in recognising and dealing with domestic violence against men.

Having been out of the Police service for a number of years and having become more aware of the issue of violence against men I started to look back at the incidents I had dealt with and at first didn't remember a single case of it.

Then I remembered one serious incident where a man was fatally stabbed by his girlfriend - and it occurred to me that I had not recognised this as a domestic crime with a man as victim. We had dealt with it for the serious offence it was of course - she was arrested and prosecuted.

Then I started to think about what happened in many of the other cases of domestic violence and remembered how some men had complained that they had been attacked and said they had merely defended themselves but which had led to a wife or girlfriend being injured.

Sometimes we would have believed the men - other times we would have arrested them because the strong emphasise then - as now - was on women as victims and men as perpetrators and it was often his word against hers. But we rarely - if ever - thought in terms as men as victims in the domestic setting.

I hate to think how we probably arrested some men who were actually the victim because we didn't believe them and in fact failed to deal with the real perpetrators in these particular cases. I should be clear about this - I definitely don't recall any man saying that they were constant victims of abuse - but I bet some of them were.

Too many women suffer dreadfully from domestic violence and we must do more - it is clear that women are more often the victims and suffer worse levels of violence overall and I would want any man who does violence to a women to be arrested - unless it was lawful self defence.

But it is also clear to me that we have not said and done nearly enough to address the needs of men as victims of domestic violence and we still don't.

According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales around 800,000 men and 1.2 million women were victims of domestic violence last year.

Violence against men is a topic usually addressed only in passing before we get back to discussing domestic violence almost exclusively in terms of women as victims and the figures suggest this view does not reflect the reality of domestic violence.

In debate and in reports and articles violence against men is often mentioned but usually only in passing before going back to talking about the matter almost solely in terms of women as victims. Of course words do matter because they later become the actions of the Police and others in the criminal justice system. We need to do more than merely recognise this as an issue we need to change perceptions and mere passing references to the issue of violence against men will not achieve that.

To seek to strike a fairer balance on this should not detract from the work that needs doing to protect women.But to continue failing to recognise males as potential victims in anything but the very clearest terms is a problem.

I am not sure how the Police approach these matters these days - but judging by the imbalance in the public debate I worry that this problem is still not recognised and men who may have been the victims of violence are not only not being supported but might well be arrested when they have defended themselves.

The Labour Party have proposed a 'women's champion' to tackle domestic violence against women - and this could be useful in providing much needed extra support for women - but no mention of the 800,000 male victims!

We must do more to protect and support both men and women as victims but we are still not taking violence against men as seriously as we should and this needs to change.