Domestic Violence: What is Sauce for the Goose?

By Jeremy Sirrell

Today (as I write this) we hear of the fatal stabbing of Mr David Edwards by his wife Sharon. This was a case where Mr Edwards was stabbed to death by his wife who had submitted him to a litany of assaults resulting in him arriving at work covered in cuts and bruises. The Judge told Sharon Edwards “this deadly attack was the culmination of long-term bullying by you on this respected member of the community”.

Whilst this was a very sad story it is by no means unusual. That is to say that the facts of a man being subject to bullying and domestic violence is far from rare although its reporting certainly is. The story was reported widely, if unenthusiastically, in the media. The Times buried it away in a small article on page 16 as if embarrassed to be forced to admit that men could be victims of domestic violence at all.

Research, such as it is, shows that men are just as likely to be victims of bullying behaviour, controlling behaviour or domestic violence as women but cases where men are treated as the victims rather than the perpetrators are exceptionally rare. In the case involving poor Mr Edwards we are told that he was embarrassed to report the fact that he was being abused by his partner. Certainly it is the case that men are taught from their earliest time in childhood that they must be strong and not show signs of weakness.

However, the dreadful fact of the matter is that many men do not report abuse by their partners for the very simple reason that they fear that if they do they will be the ones arrested by the Police and not their partners. Many male victims of domestic violence report calling the Police for help only to be arrested themselves. The criminal justice system at present has locked itself into a vicious cycle where the overwhelming majority of people that are arrested for domestic violence are men and because the overwhelming majority of people that are arrested for domestic violence are men they are the overwhelming majority who are prosecuted and subsequently convicted. The official statistics therefore reflect the ‘fact’ that it appears to be only men that commit domestic violence.

We therefore have a position where although men are subject to a significant proportion of domestic violence they may be just as likely to be treated as the perpetrator than they are to be treated as the victim if they seek to report the incident. It is hardly therefore surprising that so few men do.

What is needed is not just a change in men’s attitudes to reporting domestic violence but a root and branch reform of the attitude of the state (not just the Police) towards all those who report incidents of domestic violence.