Domestic Abuse: Gender Prejudice
Posted by: vstanistreetJun03
A and B have been in a long-standing relationship. They co-habit and have two young children together. A is the sole breadwinner and B does not work, having ceased given up their job when the children were born. Consequently A controls the family finances and B has no independent income.
As B does not work, A expects B to care for the children and run the household on a day-to-day basis, cooking, cleaning and caring for the children. A has particular expectations as to how B should undertake these tasks.
A also controls many other aspects of B’s life. A has alienated B from family and friends. A will regularly check B’s phone and social media accounts. B is unable to enjoy any independent social life.
A has eroded B’s self-worth, humiliating them to the point that B is suffering from depression and anxiety. A is also frequently violent towards B.
B feels powerless to leave the relationship, not least because A threatens to keep the children in the event of separation.
Many people will be familiar with the above scenario and I am frequently approached by clients who are suffering like B.
However, the majority of people will assume that B is female and A is male. This is a stereotype which society and the legal profession do not appear to be able to throw off. But I am finding that more and more men are seeking help having experienced years of abuse at the hands of their female partner.
Men often find it hard to admit they are the victims of domestic abuse. They often fear that they will not be believed, particularly where they have suffered physical abuse. But in any case, emotional abuse can be devastating.
Furthermore, the current legal mind-set is open to abuse. Male victims of domestic abuse often find themselves being portrayed as the perpetrator and the Courts seem unable to grapple with the idea that men can suffer significant abuse at the hands of their female partner.
Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 recently made coercive or controlling behaviour in an intimate relationship a criminal offence. This should give an added layer of protection to those suffering abuse which falls short of actual violence. But again, until society and the Courts adjust their thinking and overcome outdated prejudices, male victims of domestic abuse will remain reluctant to seek the Court’s protection.
Robin Shane – Barrister