I do apologise for being the constant provider of bad news. I hope that readers regularly restore their sanity with reminders that there’s more to life than gender politics. It helps if all sources of electronic communication are turned off. I prescribe long walks and plenty of Bach.
However…raising one’s head from the sand…the miasma of authoritarian control, disguised as caring and protection, continues to descend.
In March 2018 the Government set out its intentions for their new Domestic Abuse Bill and invited responses in a Consultation exercise. Over 3,200 responses were submitted. Responses from male-friendly charities included Families Need Fathers Both Parents Matter Cymru, response here, and Mankind Initiative, response here, plus a response from academic and expert on domestic violence, Dr Liz Bates, here. In January 2019 the Government reported on the Consultation exercise. This link includes the draft Bill which then went forward to the Parliamentary Committee stage.
All Bills pass through a Committee stage on their path towards Royal Assent. Committee membership is confined to the Houses of Parliament, in this case six from the Commons and six from the Lords (eight women and four men, see here). On 11th June 2019 the Committee published their report. The Committee invited evidence from the public, as is common for such Committees, obtaining responses from 86 organisations or individuals. These were overwhelmingly of feminist sympathies (with notable exceptions, such as Equi-Law, Dr Liz Bates, Mankind Initiative, and Brian Malone of FNF). Mankind Initiative also submitted a hard-hitting refutation of some common woozles which had been repeated by others in their evidence.
The Committee has recommended even more draconian changes. Mankind Initiative have responded to the Committee’s report with some dismay, noting that male victims of domestic abuse are to be treated as second class. There is a great deal more beyond that to be concerned about. Here I attempt to pull out some key issues, distinguishing between, (a) the draft Bill and the Government’s responses to the Consultation exercise, and, (b) the changes recommended by the Committee. How much of the latter is ultimately adopted in the final Act remains to be seen, but Parliament tends to oblige with anything that can be presented as protecting women and girls.
The report on the consultation exercise, plus draft Bill, is some 196 pages, whilst the Committee’s report is a further 103 pages. Mindful of my recidivism as regards over-long posts, I will address the most important issues first and will make no attempt to address everything in this enormous mound of nascent legislation and Government promises. Readers should simply duck out when they get bored.
Domestic Abuse Commissioner
The draft Bill proposes the creation of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, funded by, and reporting to, the Secretary of State (which means the Home Secretary). The Commissioner would be advised by an Advisory Board consisting of between six and ten people representing, (a) victims, (b) charities working with victims, (c) health care services, (d) social care services, (e) police or criminal justice, and, (f) academic experts in domestic abuse. Obviously, the nature of the influence which this new Commissioner will have upon domestic abuse will depend upon the person chosen for the role, and the people chosen to sit on the Advisory Board. Whether there will be any male-friendly voices in the Commissioner’s Office remains to be seen, though more than one is beyond credibility and my expectation is for none.
In the draft Bill, the powers of the Commissioner are expressed in equivocal language, noting that it requires the Commissioner’s Plan and any Reports from the Commissioner’s Office to be approved by the Secretary of State. Key influences would be,
“The Commissioner may request public authorities to co-operate with the Commissioner in execution of the Commissioner’s functions (laid down in the Bill), and public authorities must, so far as reasonably practicable, comply. Welsh local authorities, and other functions within the jurisdiction of the devolved Welsh Government, are excepted, but Welsh police forces are included. “
It is in the context of this new Commissioner that the Parliamentary Committee has proposed the most important changes.
The Committee was not happy that the role was that of ‘Domestic Abuse’ Commissioner rather than being explicitly a ‘Violence against Women and Girls’ Commissioner. The thrust of the Committee’s report was a desire to focus explicitly on women and girls. (So much for any pretence about “equality”). In a truly remarkable bid for power by the VAWG lobby, the Committee recommended,
- The Commissioner should be responsible directly to the Cabinet Office, not the Home Office;
- Direct accountability to Parliament, as an assurance of the Commissioner’s independence of Government;
- The Commissioner should have the power to enforce recommendations on those providing public services;
- Government departments should be included among the bodies which would have a duty to co-operate with the Commissioner. (In effect that the Commissioner would have power over Ministers within the Commissioners remit, i.e., the entirety of VAWG if they get their way).
In short, if the Committee has their way, the new Commissioner would have super-legal and super-Governmental powers to enforce VAWG policies.
I believe that interviews for the post of Commissioner have already been held.
Feminist, at all?
The Consultation response states early on,
“We will work to tackle harmful gender norms, in recognition that all forms of violence against women and girls are both a cause and a consequence of wider gender inequality. Through the refreshed Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, we are embarking on an ambitious programme to tackle restrictive and harmful gender norms, with a focus on working with the advertising industry, on body image, and through working with men and boys to challenge harmful attitudes.”
So, there you are. As usual, men and boys feature only as a source of service to women and girls. It’s the same old, same old. It would be hilarious, were it not so destructive, how doggedly feminists stick to the ancient gender script of male utility and female entitlement whilst honestly believing that their ideology was ever something new.
Gendered versus Gender-Neutral Definitions of Domestic Abuse
The draft Bill adopts, correctly, a gender-neutral definition. The Committee’s report, however, backs the feminist gendered definition. The issue has been presented, and lamented, by Mankind Initiative. This is the same issue that has been promulgated by the feminist refuge industry and others for decades. It is the “equality does not mean treating everyone the same” argument. The Committee write,
“A gender-neutral approach that fails to take account of the differences between men and women and assumes one size fits all can fail to meet the needs of any person suffering from domestic abuse because domestic abuse is experienced differently depending on many factors, including gender. To say that domestic abuse is gender-based is simply to recognise that the socially attributed norms, roles and expectations of masculinity and femininity which affect intimate relationships and family structures are integral to the use and experience of violence and abuse, whether perpetrated or suffered by men or by women.”
The Committee’s summarising of the evidence submitted to them, from overwhelmingly feminist sources, repeated the theme that “gender is key to understanding why and how an individual experiences abuse”. They made no reference to Dr Liz Bates’s submission which referred to her extensive researches, and those of others, which demonstrate empirically that this is untrue. Domestic abuse affects men in much the same way as it affects women: if you cut us do we not bleed?
I can’t bear to repeat for the millionth time what lies behind this. Suffice it to say it’s the feminist theory of patriarchal power & control of women by men. The theory is false, but the psychological basis of the belief in it rests upon (ironically) feminists’ tenacious clinging to ancient perceptions of gender in which female vulnerability becomes female victimhood and male agency becomes male villainy. Do note the phrase “use and experience of violence”. The implication is that men use violence, and women experience it. Men’s experience of violence and abuse according to this mindset is a far lesser thing. It callously denies empathy to males (male disposability). It is firmly rooted in ancient evolved perceptions of the sexes. There is nothing progressive about feminism, quite the opposite.
Do not imagine that this issue of “gendered” versus “gender-neutral” is academic and unimportant in practice. The claim that domestic abuse is gendered has been used for decades to legitimise virtually all funding going to the women’s (feminist) groups. This is how it’s argued, these words taken from the Government web site summarising the Committee’s position on this issue,
“The recommended changes to the Bill are to ensure that all those affected by domestic abuse receive protection and a tailored response to their differing needs….In recognition of the fact that survivors of abuse require different support services, the Committee recommended that the Bill should require public authorities to have regard to the gendered nature of abuse and provide suitable services accordingly.”
Got it? Men’s “differing needs” are that they don’t need anything (because domestic abuse doesn’t harm men the way it harms women, don’t you know). And the “tailored response” means that the “suitable services” are almost entirely to women’s groups. This is how a 2:1 victim ratio is used to legitimise a 99:1 funding ratio, via the concept of “gendered”. The Consultation response states,
“The government has always recognised domestic abuse as a gendered crime and included it within its Violence Against Women and Girls work. Evidence supports this stance. For instance, according to the 2016/17 Crime Survey for England and Wales, an estimated 1.2 million women experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2017, compared with an estimated 713,000 men.”
Evidence supports this stance? Shoot me, someone.
Prohibition of Cross-Examination in Person
I have explained the background to this issue in my last post, Family Justice Review Panel. The Bill prohibits the accused from cross-examining his accuser. To be precise, if the accused has not been either convicted or accepted a caution, then the prohibition applies only if he has either been charged or has a protection order against him. In practice, the latter will be the most common situation. The Committee was concerned that in many cases these conditions would not be met. They recommended that the mandatory ban be extended to apply if the legal aid “DV Gateway” evidencing criterion is met. This Gateway is as wide as the Grand Canyon (see here). It remains to be seen how this one ends up.
The Bill sets out what then happens to a Litigant In Person (LIP) who is prohibited from cross-examining his accuser. The court may decide that no cross-examination is necessary. However, if it is deemed necessary, the court will first invite the accused to obtain legal representation by a specified date. If he does not (and as a LIP he probably cannot afford it) and the court still thinks cross-examination by a qualified legal person is required, then the court must provide one. However, this qualified legal representative is not responsible to the accused, as would normally be the case. This is an odd situation in the English system as the legal representative would not be obliged to advocate for the defence of the accused. He would be questioning the accuser from a neutral perspective. Who pays is not clear.
Parental alienation is both a form of child abuse and also a form of intimate partner violence. However, the Bill makes no mention of parental alienation. The only mentions of parental alienation in the Consultation responses are,
- You particularly highlighted concerns over Cafcass’ guidance documents on domestic abuse and parental alienation.
- Cafcass has also removed alienation from the harmful conflict guide.
The Committee’s report also makes no mention whatsoever of parental alienation. The reason is that the feminist lobby refuses to acknowledge the reality of parental alienation, insisting that PA is a ruse by “men’s rights activists” to continue their patriarchal control over mothers and children. (The reality of PA as a psychological harm to children has now been accepted by the WHO. Many mothers are victims of parental alienation also, but the feminists don’t care).
Mankind Initiative’s evidence submitted to the Committee includes,
“We strongly believe that parental alienation should also be included in the statutory definition of domestic abuse. This is not covered by the legislation on Controlling and Coercive Behaviour (Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015) as this is based on intimate partners who live together (which is in itself non-aligned with the Government’s domestic abuse definition which covers current and ex-partners)”
I’ll have more to say on the issue of child contact and measures of coercive control in a following post.
A Statutory Duty to Fund Refuges?
Despite the high level of national Government funding of domestic abuse charities, refuge services, etc., actually the overwhelming bulk of their funding is from local authorities and charitable foundations (see “UK Domestic Violence Charities’ Finances”). This means the funding is not secure and must be continually re-argued, especially with local authorities. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is carrying out a review of how domestic abuse services are locally commissioned and funded across England. This takes account of the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy commitments. The Consultation states,
“MHCLG continue to work closely with sector partners, drawing on their data, expertise and knowledge, as it undertakes this critical work to develop future, sustainable delivery options for support elements of accommodation-based services for domestic abuse across England. These options may include a statutory duty or guidance on local authorities that could be included in the Domestic Abuse Bill (this provision will not be in the draft Bill).”
The outcomes of the review have not yet been finalised but MHCLG is aiming to launch a public consultation shortly. This would be a major win for the VAWG lobby, and is looking close to a done-deal. The Committee are not content with this, though. They want more. The UK Government web site notes,
“The Committee welcomed the Government’s announcement that it plans to introduce a statutory requirement for accommodation support services in England to be provided for survivors of domestic abuse, but said the Government needs to provide clarity on how other support services (such as advice and counselling) would be provided and funded under the new statutory duty proposed and what arrangements will be made for the national provision of specialist services to groups such as BAME women and those with disabilities.”
Be aware that the DV charities do more than provide refuge services. They provide a range of ancillary services (you might call it “consciousness raising” as much as “advice”). Embedding the gendered definition of DV is key to ensure that the funding which becomes a statutory obligation flows to the correct recipients, i.e., women / feminists.
Protection Notices, Bail & Electronic Monitoring
A raft of measures already exist to protect those alleging abuse from their alleged abusers. Most familiar are the injunction orders: non-molestation orders (NMOs) and occupation orders. However, because these involve applying to a court for the injunction, they do not provide immediate protection. A Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) provides a facility for police to take immediate action when attending a domestic incident. It is effective from time of issue, i.e., immediately, and provides the police with the powers to eject the perceived perpetrator from the home. A DVPN lasts for 48 hours. Within 48 hours of the DVPN being served on the (alleged) perpetrator, an application by police to a magistrates’ court for a Domestic Violence Protection Order (DVPO) must be heard if the protection is not to lapse. A DVPO can prevent the (alleged) perpetrator from returning to a residence and from having contact with the (alleged) victim for up to 28 days. This gives the (alleged) victim time to apply for an injunction order, usually an NMO, which will usually be awarded by the court for a longer duration, typically 6 months. The NMO can be renewed thereafter at the court’s discretion. Hence, the chronological sequence of provisions: DVPN then DVPO then NMO provides the legal means by which an allegation can facilitate the ejection of a partner (or other adult family member) immediately, and enforce his ejection virtually indefinitely. In addition, any of these protection orders provides sufficient evidence to meet the requirements of the DV “Gateway” for the accuser’s application for legal aid.
Breaching the terms of an injunction order is a criminal offence for which the (alleged) perpetrator will be arrested and possibly imprisoned. The police are also empowered to arrest you, without warrant, if you breach the terms of a DVPN or DVPO and hold you in remand. You should come before a magistrate within 24 hours. Breaching the terms of a DVPN or DVPO is, currently, a civil offence.
The new Bill will introduce the new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice (DAPN) and Domestic Abuse Protection Order (DAPO). Quote, “these will combine the strongest elements of the various existing orders”. The main difference from the existing DVPN/DVPO is that breaching them will be a criminal offence subject to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.
Please note my insistence on inserting the word “alleged” everywhere, above. Even in formal guidance (e.g., here) you will most often find that this is not done: the talk is of victims and perpetrators. But the man (and we are talking overwhelmingly of men) is generally never tried for the alleged offence. Thus, by having a DAPN/DAPO served upon him, despite the allegation perhaps being entirely false, if he then breaks its terms he is now a criminal. Thus, the word of an accuser, usually female, can lead to criminal sanction on the man without trial. This is a radical departure from the basic principles of justice which our society has allowed to happen.
Well, you say, he should not have breached the terms of the DAPN/DAPO. Here’s how it can come about. She ‘phones him. He picks up. He is now a criminal. She tells the police. He is arrested. This is not some wild fantasy. This is a common occurrence. This is the world as it is now, in the UK. And people think it is unduly dramatic to refer to our society having become authoritarian. But the only thing between you and finding out the hard way is one malicious allegation.
One of the sanctions that the Bill considers as part of a DAPO “to prevent further abuse and ensure that perpetrators are complying with the conditions of their order” is electronic monitoring (note: guilt assumed). This “may include location monitoring to ensure compliance with an exclusion zone, radio frequency monitoring to ensure compliance with a curfew, or alcohol monitoring to comply with a positive requirement to attend an alcohol course”.
The Bill further introduces the idea to legislate the use of polygraph testing to monitor compliance with licence conditions. Incredible. Polygraphs measure physiological responses to stress. Many of the men who attend FNF-BPM Cymru meetings would overload the machine. (I hadn’t realised that polygraph testing is already used with sexual offenders released on licence).
The Consultation resulted, apparently, in the outcome that “many of you want to see harsher penalties for abusers”. The Bill commits to “undertake research to understand why more perpetrators of domestic abuse are not convicted of causing emotional harm to children”.
All this is not draconian enough for the Committee,
“The Committee called on the Government to urgently bring forward legislation to increase the length of time suspects can be released on pre-charge bail in domestic abuse cases, and to create a presumption that suspects under investigation for domestic abuse, sexual assault or other significant safeguarding issues only be released from police custody on bail, unless it is clearly not necessary for the protection of the victim.”
What a gift feminism is to those who incline to the authoritarian.
Much has been made of the promise to “provide £0.5M of funding to improve support to male victims of domestic abuse”. There are two reasons not to get over-excited. The first is that most, perhaps all, of this money will end up with the women’s refuge charities. They will offer helpline services for male victims to make bids for the funding. Some already do. In some cases there will be a real service behind this, possibly including a few refuge places. But helplines for male victims provided by the women’s charities will certainly deploy the “Respect Toolkit” for addressing male victims, as does the Men’s Advice Line and the Dyn Project in Wales. This requires that male callers are vetted to check that they are not, in fact, abusers masquerading as victims. This is in stark contrast to universal practice with women seeking help, for whom “believe the victim” is the mantra. Men report being made to feel like abusers and liars by this procedure. Worse, these male helplines will sometimes report the man to the police.
The other reason not to get excited is that money earmarked for male victims is tiny in comparison with that identified against other schemes. A total of £100 million of funding has been promised to “tackle violence against women and girls over the period 2016 to 2020“. This is £20M per year, but even this is small compared with the total funding of the women’s DV charities which receive in the order of £300M per year, mostly from local authorities and charitable trusts and foundations (see analysis here). The (roughly) £20M of central Government funding breaks down as follows,
- £8 million to support children affected by domestic abuse. Much of this relates to work in schools, e.g., teaching awareness of domestic abuse through the SRE programmes. It will fund Operation Encompass across England and Wales which will support police and schools to work together to provide emotional and practical help to pupils affected regardless of whether the incident has been recorded as a crime. Quote, “there will also be training and advice for schools to deal with disclosures, and integration with adult services to ensure a family approach to tackling domestic abuse”. Children as informants?
- £2 million to fund the Standing Together Against Domestic Violence Pathfinder Programme to create a model health response to domestic abuse.
- £2 million for community provision for female offenders with experience of domestic abuse. No, “female offenders” does not refer to women who perpetrate domestic abuse (though they might have done). This refers to women who have committed any criminal offences, but also claim to have been the victim of domestic abuse. (How is this claim to be verified? Not at all, one suspects). The Consultation response states, “women’s centres are often at the heart of these models, helping to provide the holistic, wrap-around and trauma-informed response that these women need to improve their lives and reduce reoffending”. This puts the £0.5M for male victims of domestic abuse in context: convicted female criminals will receive four times as much.
- £1.5 million for the Women’s Aid ‘Ask Me’ programme to raise awareness among young people.
- £1.1 million per annum for seven helplines.
- £1 million to improve employers’ responses to domestic abuse.
- £1 million from the Tampon Tax fund for “Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors” to provide domestic abuse workers with access to legal resources for women.
- £900,000 to provide trained staff in courts to offer dedicated emotional and practical support to domestic abuse victims before, during and after hearings.
- £500,000 to train domestic abuse agencies/charities on immigration rights.
- £500,000 monitoring/recording LGBT victims in the charitable sector.
- £400,000 advocacy services for bereaved families to ensure they contribute to the Domestic Homicide Reviews.
- £300,000 to support BAME domestic abuse victims.
- £250,000 to support disabled women victims.
- £250,000 to create a national advice service for banks and building societies, increase the capacity of existing telephone casework services for victims of domestic abuse and develop resources to help people identify if they are experiencing economic abuse.
- £250,000 to improve support for deaf users of domestic abuse services (hence women since existing services are almost all for women).
- £220,000 to train social workers on coercive control.
- £250,000 to improve support for deaf users of domestic abuse services (hence women since existing services are almost all for women).
- £220,000 to train social workers on coercive control.
- £200,000 to the National Skills Academy for Financial Services to develop and deliver financial capability training for front-line workers.
- £100,000 to support older victims of domestic abuse.
Are People Submitting Evidence to the Consultation Representative of the Public?
Evidence that the answer is “no” is that the Consultation response notes,
“You said the presumption that contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child is putting victims and their children at risk”
In contrast, the recent YouGov poll of 2000 people indicated that,
“Of those who gave an opinion, 82% agreed that there should be a presumption in law that children should spend roughly equal time with each of their parents following a divorce or separation, excluding cases where there is a proven risk to the child. There were no significant differences in gender, age or marital status in determining how people responded.”
Drug and alcohol abuse feature disproportionately in serious domestic violence incidents. The provisions in the Bill for substance abuse are particularly revealing. There are four areas where gender is not mentioned but which are to address the inter-relationships of substance abuse and domestic abuse. Then there is this…
“Learn from a recent roundtable on women’s substance misuse about the importance of multi-agency women-only provision which is commissioned collaboratively and the need to address women’s specific needs in drug and alcohol policies.”
So the Domestic Abuse provisions are to be used to address women’s substance abuse problems? OK – but only women’s? One presumes it is the perpetrators whose substance abuse could do with addressing. So, OK, this includes women – but why only women when the rest of this Bill is massively skewed to male perpetrators? It is quite remarkable. Here we have a rare instance of funding being made available for perpetrators, and suddenly it is forgotten that the rest of the Bill has thus far aligned perpetrators almost entirely with men. Moreover, twice as many men as women die from drug abuse and twice as many also from alcohol abuse.
The Istanbul Convention (see here)
The UK signed the convention on 8 June 2012 and we (the UK Government) are committed to ratifying it as soon as possible. To satisfy Article 44 of the Istanbul Convention there is a list of offences for which this Bill will authorise extra-territorial jurisdiction.
There’s a lot on perpetrator programmes, and they sing the praises of Respect. There is no mention that Respect accredited programmes have a success rate which is virtually nill. These Duluth-like programmes are not, in truth, therapeutic programmes but a form of punishment. However there are two proposals which may be of interest to male-friendly services,
- Promote the use of interventions that can help motivate and remove barriers for people in prison to engage in a programme.
- Promote approaches to perpetrator programmes that are flexible and trauma-informed.
Does the latter provide an opening for programmes which are not Respect accredited, one wonders?
The Bill strengthens certain obligations on local authorities in relation to preferential treatment of those seeking housing who have been a victim of domestic abuse. This relates to an obligation in certain circumstances to grant a secure tenancy which is not a flexible tenancy to such victims. The Consultation also notes that,
“The government took through the Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Act 201813 (the 2018 Act) to deliver on a manifesto commitment to ensure that where local authorities grant a new tenancy to lifetime tenants who are victims of domestic abuse, it must be a further lifetime tenancy.”
The obvious concern is that allegations of abuse might be made to advantage the accuser in respect of security of housing tenure. That 88% of rough sleepers are men is surely a relevant observation.