Yesterday, The Guardian reported that a number of refuges are facing closure, and the source of their latest dilemma? The expectation that refuges should provide spaces for male victims of domestic violence.
The Guardian further reports of the threats faced by The Haven, Coventry and The Wolverhampton Haven, both of whom have been threatened by the expectation to extend their services to male victims, despite the fact that less than one in seven victims of domestic violence are men.
The Wolverhampton Haven, which runs six properties across the city, recently reported a £300,000 cut to its services, which would affect the services it provides to 63 women and 120 children. Further to this, the charity has been ordered to set aside a portion of its places for men. As of yet, no referrals for male clients have been made.
Furthermore, Coventry Haven were unsuccessful in claiming funding this year, with funding going to Refuge, the national charity that makes so much of the Refuge system work, and a new partnership that provided self-contained units and accommodation for male victims.
Whereas there is arguably a need for domestic violence provisions for male victims, this worrying trend of insisting that services that currently cater to women take on male victims as well is both harmful and potentially deadly. We currently see two women a week killed through domestic violence, but by giving men access to the very refuges where these women stay gives their abusers a chance to manipulate the system and gain access to their victims. It’s not something I’d have put past my abuser, nor the abuser of many women I met in the refuge system.
At no point has anyone said funding should be withheld from male victims who are fleeing domestic violence. But the expectation that the services that cater to female victims should be made to cater to men as well is a bizarre one; At no point is any other charity sector refused funding based on whom it caters to; but when it comes to charities aiming to protect women, it’s open season. Women escaping abuse need the space, support and time to heal, and they need that away from men.