On Wednesday in Taunton, The ManKind Initiative, as part of the burgeoning Men and Boys sector, produced its inaugural national conference on male victims of domestic abuse entitled “Men are victims too.”
The charity put the conference on because it was about time the subject was seriously looked and focussed upon rather than being tagged onto the end of general domestic abuse conferences. Male victims of domestic abuse should be a mainstream subject and not a ‘oh we better put something a session on about male victims’. Domestic abuse is not a gendered issue, it is an issue that affects all genders.
The main reason my fellow trustees and I decided to put the conference on was to help raise awareness of the issue, to help give those on the frontline the tools to help men that come forward and also to ensure that male victims are not forgotten. Being a proper charity, we ensured the costs were kept to a minimum to encourage people to come aboard.
Over 80 delegates attended from the four corners of the UK including Scotland and Northern Ireland and also from the Republic of Ireland. Importantly delegates were mainly those working on the frontline from social workers to probation officers to members of housing teams – the people who really do matter as they provide the support male victims need.
Due to the wide range of areas, the agenda was tight but the highlights included two survivors talking to the audience in detail about their experiences during the abuse they faced but also importantly how they had moved forward. This really brought the conference alive. There were also sessions about what services men need, how to run a male refuge, the impact on children, forced marriage, the current law on domestic abuse with case studies about how men had succeeded in the courts and also how to support LGBT victims – an area that really is overlooked. I gave a presentation on the public sector equality duty and how to communicate to male victims. One key session was given by Dr Nicola Graham-Kevan that held the audience spellbound in the way she gave an insight into female perpetrators from an academic perspective and debunked the view that domestic abuse is a gendered crime.
The best news was that we heard that Cornwall, Somerset and Leicester councils are retendering their domestic abuse services and providers must ensure they support men and women as a core part of their bids. That is real progress.
The lesson overall that I and the charity have gained is firstly there is now a receptiveness to the problems that men and boys face and there is now a recognisable men and boys sector in the UK – something even two years was barely discernable.
The second lesson, and I know by this following this site avidly, is the sheer volume of activity that is really starting to make a real difference. It is vital this momentum continues apace – we cannot moan about the lack of support for men and boys, unless men and women, crack on and do something responsibly about it.
Mark Brooks, Chairman, The ManKind Initiative