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'Boys are taught they are violent oppressors and that whatever violence they experience doesn't matter'

Men assaulted by their partners are often ignored by police, see their attacker go free and have far fewer refuges to flee to than women, writes David Walsh.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DESERVES to be treated with great care. But the current narrative around the issue is one that only portrays domestic violence as a gendered issue, with men as perpetrators and women as victims.

Not only is this approach exclusionary of male victims of domestic violence, but it is also not an approach which is supported by any of our evidence.

Discriminatory against men and boys

In view of the new domestic violence bill before the Oireachtas and the related Istanbul convention which the Government is intent on ratifying, it is crucial that there be real and thorough debate.

The Istanbul Convention (IC) is a Council of Europe accord which aims to set the narrative for domestic violence policy in Europe. Originating in 2011, it has since been signed by more than 44 countries, including Ireland. We became a signatory in 2015.

The Istanbul Convention has never been subjected to critical scrutiny by the media. Consequently, the vast majority of us are unaware that the country has committed itself to ratifying a convention which is discriminatory against men and boys.

Articles 2.1 and 2.2 of the convention

Art. 2.1

This Convention shall apply to all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence, which affects women disproportionately.


Parties are encouraged to apply this Convention to all victims of domestic violence. Parties shall pay particular attention to women victims of gender‐based violence in implementing the provisions of this Convention.

Taken together, these articles assert firstly that domestic violence is primarily a female problem, rather than a genderless phenomenon, and secondly that the Convention may potentially be ratified without heed to male victims. Parties are merely encouraged to include all victims, and even then, only with the understanding that the primary victims of violence in society are women.

Abuse rates for men and women are roughly equal

shutterstock_552407647 When all abuse is counted the rates for men and women are roughly equal (26% versus 29%). Shutterstock / PhotoMediaGroup Shutterstock / PhotoMediaGroup / PhotoMediaGroup

The NCC report of 2005, the most authoritative study in Ireland, found that about 29% of victims of severe abuse are male. When all abuse is counted the rates for men and women are roughly equal (26% versus 29%).

Those who had experienced severe abuse placed a great deal of emphasis on emotional abuse, which leaves no visible marks, and is therefore not so easily detected. In addition only 5% of male victims report severe abuse to the police, compared to 29% of female ones.

Because women are considered the victim group here, they are to be accorded special treatment as enshrined in the next article. Article 4.4 asserts: “Special measures to protect women from gender-based violence shall not be considered discrimination under the Convention.”

There are almost no NGOs supporting male victims

Parties shall allocate appropriate human and financial resources for adequate implementation of integrated policies, measures and programmes to prevent and combat all forms of violence covered by the scope of this Convention, including those carried out by NGOs and civil society

There are almost no NGOs supporting male victims. Unlike the case for women there are no state-funded organisations which act on behalf of men. This is an issue of fundamental importance.

Parties shall recognise, encourage and support, at all levels, the work of relevant NGOs and of civil society active in combating violence against women, and establish effective cooperation with these organisations

Again the wording excludes NGOs like Amen.

Women are equally physically aggressive

The approach favoured by the Istanbul Convention is largely in accordance with the patriarchal model of domestic violence, which presumes that domestic violence is a manifestation of the desire for men to, in the words of the Convention, force women “into a subordinate position compared with men.”

This does not explain the phenomenon in Ireland, as already shown by the NCC report. A 2014 study by Dr Elizabeth Bates from the University of Cumbria found that women also “demonstrated a desire to control their partners,” and also use physical aggression as a means of obtaining such control. Dr Bates concludes:

Intimate partner violence may not be motivated by patriarchal values and needs to be studied within the context of other forms of aggression, which has potential implications for interventions.

The fact that the Istanbul Convention is so at odds with the complex reality of domestic violence implies that its authors are more motivated by ideology than by empirical evidence. Indeed, the convention requires its signatories to promulgate its ideological underpinnings “at all levels of education” (Article 14.1) and, chillingly, “in sports, cultural and leisure facilities and the media.” (Article 14.2).

This represents nothing less than large-scale propagandising. Among other things, the Istanbul Convention requires that young boys are taught that they will grow up to be violent oppressors of women, and that whatever violence they themselves may suffer doesn’t matter.

David Walsh is the Chairman of Men’s Voices Ireland. He is now retired but previously lectured in mathematics at Maynooth University. To read Men’s Voices Ireland’s Open Letter to the Minister for Justice follow this link.

Men DO open up about their problems – but no-one is listening>

Do we value what men contribute to society and to family?>


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