Here is my latest column for the Ham & High
Men who are sexually abused as youngsters may not speak for twenty or more years of what happened. Sometimes their stories are never told.
In my role as Minister responsible for tackling violence against women and girls, I have seen the evidence that the overwhelming volume of domestic and sexual violence is perpetrated against women and girls. One in four women experience domestic violence during their lifetime. It has more repeat victims than any other crime (repeat victimisation accounts for 76% of all incidents of domestic violence) and in 2009/10, 21 men and 94 women were killed by a partner, ex-partner or lover.
These are shocking statistics.
The prevalence of domestic and sexual violence against women means, quite rightly, that the majority of services and funding is directed to eradicating this appalling crime. But men are also victims. Having talked to a survivor of male abuse recently, it is clear to me that because of male reticence over speaking out about their experiences – we may not know the numbers of men and boys who are victims of rape and sexual abuse.
He spoke of the possible link between male suicide in the fifty year age group and abuse during childhood. He spoke also about the connection between drugs and those referred to male help organisations. He spoke about the pain, buried for years, finding coping mechanisms – like blotting out the past through drugs or alcohol – which ultimately never truly ease that pain. He spoke of the difficulty of most of the advisers in this field being women and the difficulty men have, therefore, in bringing their situation into the light. He pointed out that the vast majority of health service workers being women. The inference was that men would not and could not talk to a woman. And that the fear of a woman’s potential view that any male who had suffered such abuse was somehow less of a man. And in our society expectations and stereotypes run very, very deep.
Most of male sexual abuse and violence is, according to my witness, perpetrated by men on boys. But he also referred to the percentage that raise what he called ‘the last taboo’ – women (yes mothers) who abuse their sons. How impossible it must be to bring that into the light.
He also pointed to the common view that this is a ‘gay’ issue. No it is not. Any boy who is sexually abused is the victim of a crime. Sexual orientation is no part of this and no excuse whatsoever.
The Home Office has ringfenced £28million of stable funding to provide local services such as Independent Sexual Violence Adviser posts, Independent Domestic Violence Advisers and MARAC coordinator posts. We have provided £900,000 to sustain national helplines. One of these helplines is the Mens Advice line which provides advice and support to male victims of domestic violence. Over £10million is being provided by the Ministry of Justice for Rape Support Centres throughout the UK over the next three years. Some of these services provide help for men too.
I feel that the gendered pattern of violence against women and girls also needs to be better understood and acknowledged. We recognise that men and boys can be victims of violence and that it can affect whole families, including children. Men also have a key role in challenging violence and helping to change the attitudes and actions of their peers. We want to work with them to achieve this and I will raise these issues at the next Inter-Ministerial Group on Violence Against Women and Girls.
There are a number of places where male survivors of sexual abuse can get help – amongst which these three (amongst others) are in receipt of funding from the Government: First Step (Leicester area), helpline 0116 254 8535; Survivors UK on 0845 122 1201 and Mankind 01823 334244. Male victims of domestic violence can get advice and support from the Mens Advice Line 0808 801 0327.