Press Releases

Parliamentarians focus on women and girls in Draft Domestic Abuse Bill on same day as ASA bans harmful gender stereotypes!

Press Release - 14th June 2019

A third of domestic abuse is towards men. The Joint Committee's report states that men, boys and others must not be excluded, however, instead of seeking resources and support for all, it continues to support a gendered strategy of ending ‘violence against women and girls'.

Report published on the very same day as new advertising rules ban the use of harmful gender stereotypes.


Whilst the report rightly identifies minority groups that may be marginalised in current proposals,

it fails to identify men/fathers which are the biggest group marginalised in the Bill by far.


The Joint Committee’s report fails to address a growing problem of false allegations, particularly in the context of family separation.


Safeguards are needed to protect the welfare of children where the system is abused.

Criminal sanctions should only be imposed if guilt is established in a criminal court.

The House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Committee on the draft Domestic Abuse Bill is published today, 14th June 2019.

It is to state the obvious that victims of domestic abuse must be properly protected and there is considerable merit in much of what the bill seeks to address and in the findings of the Joint Committee. It is welcomed by us that the report strongly supports the view that dealing with violence against women and girls must be achieved 'without excluding men, boys, trans and non-binary people from the protection of domestic abuse legislation and services for survivors'. FNF support this. However, we feel that there are major deficiencies in the Report and Draft Bill. We highlight the main ones below.

 

Unnecessarily Gendered

With 695,000 victims of domestic violence being men (approximately a third), the continued focus and naming of the strategy in gendered terms is unhelpful i.e. ‘Strategy to end violence against women and girls’. The  sub-heading of the strategy paper re-inforces this - 'Actions the government will be taking towards its strategy of ending violence against women and girls'. Such a gendered approach is likely to cause further harm to abused male victims who feel excluded and even more put off from reporting domestic abuse. The resources available to support male victims are currently disproportionately tiny compared to support for women and in many cases non-existent. Ironically, the Joint Committee's report is published on the same day as new Advertising Standards Authority rules come into force banning the use of harmful gender stereotypes in advertising!

 

Insufficient Safeguards in Relation to a Growing Problem of False Allegations

The report and legislation fail to address false allegations and action to protect people from abuse of the system. In our experience it is common in family separation for allegations of abuse to be made that are much exaggerated or completely fabricated, particularly when it involves infidelity by either side or people forming new relationships. Such allegations create substantial and highly damaging delays that can and do cause severance of healthy parental and grandparental relationships. They are also abusive and stressful to deal with. There is growing evidence that false allegations are being used as a route to obtaining Legal Aid in private, civil family proceedings. When this happens, the accused is in fact the victim who must then demonstrate their innocence, usually having to face allegations by a lawyer and without access to one for themselves. It is right that alleged victims should not be cross-examined by alleged perpetrators. However, there is also a need to protect vulnearable witnesses from the consequences of false allegations. There needs to be an ‘equality of arms’ and Legal Aid obtained under false pretences must have to be repaid. Currently it is usually a licence for it to continue even when contact with children has been determined to be safe and in their best interests.

 

Post-Separation Abuse

The Report and draft Bill fails to properly address the fact that domestic abuse and coercive control exist between parties when they no longer live together. Scotland has now amended its legislation to reflect this. Unjustified denial of child contact and parental alienation of a child from the other parent should be explicitly recognised as forms of criminal domestic abuse.

 

Civil Courts Should Not Impose Criminal Sanctions

Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) enable civil courts to apply criminal sanctions and thus apply a lower burden of proof i.e. the 'balance of probability' rather than 'beyond reasonable doubt', or as it is now known 'to be 'sure'. Criminal sanctions, curtainling liberty and resulting in a criminal record, should only be imposed unless they have been through a criminal process and satisfy a court to the higher threshold of proof.

 

Chair and Managing Trustee of Families Need Fathers, Jerry Karlin, says “It is outrageous in this day and age of equality, that a Bill should be proposed that is gendered. Their Bill needs to apply and be seen to apply equally to all genders who are exposed to domestic abuse. It must also identify safeguards against the abuse of the system, particularly when children are involved and where the complainant may in fact be an abuser - not least to protect child welfare.”.

 

ENDS

Notes for editors:

Families Need Fathers - because both parents matter
FNF is a registered UK charity providing information and support on shared parenting issues arising from family breakdown, and support to divorced and separated parents, irrespective of gender or marital status. FNF is NOT a fathers' rights group - we support the best interests of children - namely mature and collaborative parenting by both parents - an objective which is inadequately promoted in the family court system and associated services.

Our primary concern is the maintenance of the child’s meaningful relationship with both parents. Founded in 1974, FNF helps thousands of parents every year.

Further information may be contacted on 0300 0300 110 or by email at media@fnf.org.uk.