By Melanie Phillips. First published in the Daily Mail, June 19 2003.
The government’s war against men is now plumbing ever more astonishing depths. On Radio Four’s Today programme yesterday, the Home Secretary David Blunkett could scarcely wait to boast of new proposals to deal with domestic violence.
Such crimes are indeed a serious matter. But the Home Office not only continues to distort them as overwhelmingly caused by male aggression against innocent women and children, against all the evidence that this is not the case. It is now taking a giant step towards fundamental injustice.
Anyone truly concerned with civil liberties could not fail to have been appalled by Mr Blunkett’s comments. The problem was, he enthusiastically explained, that at present ‘you have to get someone through court’ before a domestic violence suspect can be restrained.
So his solution is to restrain them before they even get to court. In other words, he wants action taken against a man on the basis of an unproven allegation by a woman– made under the protection of anonymity, to boot. So much for this Home Secretary’s understanding of the presumption of innocence, the meaning of justice and the necessity for a trial of the facts.
Even worse, despite the fact that he has just given the women’s refuge movement extra millions in public funds, he thinks women should not have to move out when they claim they are being attacked. The men they are accusing should move out instead, pronto. So men will now be evicted from their homes simply on the basis of an accusation.
The way will thus be clear for a woman who has tired of her man to get the police to evict him, without the tedious irrelevance of having to ‘get someone through a court’.
These are proposals which are simply inimical to the rule of law. They also spectacularly miss the point.
True, some 150 people – the majority of whom are women -- are killed at home every year. But if we want to stop the appalling toll of domestic violence, we have to address the unstable relationships which are fuelling the phenomenon.
For unmarried partners present vastly more risks of physical abuse to both adults and children at home than do married couples. Transient relationships lead to more jealousy, insecurity and, in extreme cases, violence. Furthermore, unmarried individuals are far more likely to abuse a child in their care with whom they have no biological connection.
The Home Office itself has previously acknowledged that the dislocation arising from marital breakdown is a ‘key risk factor’ in domestic violence. Yet the government has encouraged the false belief that all relationships are equal in value.
While thus giving its blessing to domestic arrangements which give rise to violence between intimates, the government is choosing to pile the blame on men. For although it claims in passing that one in six men suffers from domestic violence, it says women are mainly their victims.
This is a wicked distortion of the facts. There is overwhelming evidence from dozens of international studies that women are as violent towards men as men are towards women. Women are indeed more likely to initiate violence. Even the Home Office – which persistently ignores this research -- reported some years back that equal numbers of men and women were initiating violence towards each other.
True, women get hurt more badly in such fights because men tend to be stronger. That is presumably why more women than men are killed in these disputes. But there is also much anecdotal evidence that many men are too ashamed to report their injuries.
The Home Office report reheats yet again a number of misleading old chestnuts. It says, for example, that one in four women suffers domestic violence. This is rot. It is a figure extrapolated from studies that don’t stand up to serious scrutiny – illustrating the dismal standards which characterise virtually all domestic violence research in this country, but which the Home Office not only slavishly relies upon but also funds.
Not only does the government distort the facts about violence between adults, but it ignores the role played by women in violence towards children. For all the evidence suggests that while men commit most child sexual abuse, women subject children to more neglect, physical injury and even murder.
An NSPCC study a few years ago revealed that mothers were the most frequent perpetrators of children’s physical injury, emotional abuse and neglect. This is hardly surprising since mothers generally have more contact with their children than anyone else.
In America, where trends are likely to be similar to Britain, the Department of Justice said that in 1999, three out of five maltreated children had been abused by their mothers. And in 2001, the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that 32.4% of child fatalities were committed by mothers, compared to 14.2% committed by fathers, 14% by non-parents and 25.1% by mothers and fathers acting together.
So the idea that men are responsible for the vast majority of domestic violence is simply untrue. Yet Mr Blunkett is urging women to make more such claims -- on the basis of which men are to be deprived of their homes, their children and their reputations.
These preposterous proposals are based on the extreme feminist belief -- which has captured the Home Office -- that all men are guilty. That’s why rape trials are now to be rigged, too, by weighting the burden of proof against the defendant. Many men are already victims of this egregious prejudice in the divorce courts, where unproven allegations against them are automatically believed and used to deprive them of contact with their children.
Clearly, some men are indeed guilty of violence against the women they live with or their children. But some men are guilty of other crimes, too. Yet this has not caused the government to tear up the elementary rules of justice in those cases. So why is domestic violence so different?
The answer is that men are being demonised as intrinsic rapists, wife beaters and child abusers as part of a broader agenda. It is nothing less than an aim to destroy the married family, cripple ‘male power’ by emasculating men’s role and undermine masculinity itself.
So men are given the impression they can no longer be breadwinners (unless they are separated from their children’s mother, in which case they will be pursued for money the length and breadth of the land).
Meanwhile, women are lured back into the workplace by a government fanatical in its feminist agenda. Only recently there was a report from the Women and Equality Unit which implied that it was wrong for women to stay at home with their children when they could be economically active.
At the same time, men are patronised as emotionally illiterate, and regarded as no more than walking wallets, sperm donors and mothers’ au pairs.
In fact, the biggest protection against domestic violence is marriage, the very institution the government is busy destroying. Domestic violence is far rarer within the stable and loving context that marriage affords than among cohabiting couples who are more prone to insecurity and jealousy.
Since the government’s approach is exposing hundreds of thousands of children to hugely increased risks of violence and abuse, Mr Blunkett’s pious assertion that he was ‘putting children first’ was enough to make one choke on the cornflakes.
By encouraging mass fatherlessness, this government is putting children last. These domestic violence proposals go even further: removing men not just from family life but from the protection of the law itself.
They are being turned into un-persons, excluded from the ambit of human rights (so much for the wretched Human Rights Act). And once again it is a male politician, in the emasculated Home Office, which is putting the boot into men.