By Ian McNicholl – domestic abuse survivor and Hon Patron of the ManKind Initiative
It transpires that Clare’s Law has most recently been rolled out across England and Wales (BBC coverage). Consequently, we can all relax safe in the knowledge that potential victims of domestic abuse can be offered an escape route before they are groomed into “victim” status. “Hoorah, Hoorah!”
You may feel that as a consequence of the above the following question is extremely relevant: “Does Clare’s Law afford the same choices to all potential victims of Domestic Abuse?” I politely suggest that Clare’s Law will not provide equality of access.
There is no doubt in my mind that Clare’s Law will enhance the range of services to potential female victims and this is indeed most welcome. However, this Law is yet another example of services for both potential and actual male victims of domestic abuse, (yes, they do actually exist!) not been considered within the arena of awareness therefore services afforded to male victims can only stagnate and consequently fall behind those services afforded to female victims. In today’s modern society, this is simply unacceptable.
“Well, it’s only a name” I hear you cry. Should this be the case then I propose a name change to “Ian’s Law” with immediate effect secure in the knowledge that this will make no difference whatsoever to the number of potential female victims seeking to take advantage of the law. Changing the name of the law to a male influenced prefix would be the equivalent of lighting the blue touch paper on Bonfire Night prior to reading the safety Instructions. The sensible solution would be to change the name of Law to a prefix used by both females and males alike, “in memory of Clare Wood.”
The key message here is one of “signposting” and Clare’s Law will do very little at best, and at worst absolutely nothing to encourage potential male victims to ask the relevant questions, to seek reassurance and therefore make the same informed choices afforded to potential female victims. The clue is in the title! A further point for your consideration is to ask yourself if you would be equally comfortable if there was a “Law” that enhances awareness, and therefore prioritises support based on “Ethnic Origin,” “Sexual Orientation” or “Age.”
Whilst I am in no position to empathise with a parent who has had to lay their child to rest, as a male survivor of domestic abuse, and not domestic violence, I am in a position to understand the need for enhanced levels of awareness as this will almost certainly, positively influence “Risk.” However, awareness and risk remain gender neutral whilst the mind of a perpetrator is not gender specific.
I have met and spoken directly with many survivors of domestic abuse and there is not one survivor who would wish to see support prioritised and therefore consequently denied based on “Gender.” Services must be all engaging and fully inclusive with “Risk” and “Need” the overriding criteria. Furthermore, there is an obligation on Service Providers to provide support on a proportionate basis.
It will be interesting to see what proportion of approaches to individual police authorities are made on behalf of or directly from potential male victims? However, my message is a simple one and one that can apply to any potential victim of domestic abuse:
“Should your instinct tell you to make an approach to the Police with regard to your current partner, then you should take action to ensure your own safety today rather than tomorrow. Tomorrow may be one day too late”
It will be most interesting to see how Clare’s Law unfolds. However, I remain deeply concerned that this recent development only reinforces the division that exists within the arena of domestic abuse service provision when all should be ready to respond to a cry for help. Ignore the first cry and it may be the last cry.
Ian McNicholl – doemstic abuse survivor