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Research in this area is constantly stymied by the conflicting views of special interest groups, with even the question of what "counts" as domestic violence – and therefore how big a problem it actually is - up for grabs.

The current Home Office definition of domestic violence is "any violence between current and former partners in an intimate relationship, wherever the violence occurs. The violence may include physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse."

This represents a rowing back from earlier definitions, which included terms such as "belittlement", which increased the headline victim count, but also produced the unexpected finding that men and women were almost equally victims of domestic violence.

Current Home Office policy appears to be based on estimates taken from the British Crime Survey, which suggests that between one in five and one in three victims of domestic violence are male.

The research was headed up by a team from Wiltshire police, under Chief Constable, Brian Moore. It was supported by a steering group weighted towards women (75%) and representatives from Women’s support projects, such as Refuge and Women’s Aid.

In justifying the need for a gender-specific report on violence against women, the Home Office claim that this is necessary because the impact of violence is greater on women and a source of gender inequality. A spokesman for the Home Office told us: "We must look at this from a gendered perspective, because the violence is being fuelled primarily by gender inequality".

Campaigners for men’s rights contest this, arguing before the House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs that the issues faced by male victims of domestic violence are different from the issues that women have to deal with, and that they require different solutions.

They also maintain that the Home Office approach is part of a wider discrimination, that insists on viewing domestic violence as an almost exclusively female issue – despite their own figures that showed significant numbers of men also suffer from it.

George Macaulay, a spokesman for the UK Men’s Movement, condemned the report as being hugely discriminatory, since it utterly failed to look at how men were impacted by domestic violence.

Whether all these initiatives will survive the arrival of a conservative government committed to cutting back on “unnecessary” collection of data by the state is a question that we may soon find out.®

Bootnote

Yesterday (November 19) was International Men’s Day.

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