‘Every time I stand up in the House of Commons, I try to speak for people who are forgotten’ Jess Phillips #everywoman
There are a couple of passages in her #everywoman book where Jess Phillips goes out of her way to reassure the reader that she most definitely does not hate men and that many members of her immediate family, not to mention several of her closest work colleagues, are in fact men.
Even so, after reading her chapter on her truth about violence, I could kind’ve understand why she might have a problem with men (even though she definitely doesn’t).
Because there is no doubt that some men do some absolutely evil things and Jess Phillips has seen some of the consequences of those evil things relatively up close.
For that reason, her truth about violence is easily the most impactful and moving chapter in her book.
Sadly, and for another reason entirely, that same chapter reveals an extremely ignorant aspect of her personality, in every single sense of the word.
It’s almost as if people feel the need to say that it happens to men too to diminish the fact that violence happens to women because we have a lower position in society. Jess Phillips #Everywoman
In fairness to Phillips, I live my life by the philosophy that (sociopaths aside) people tend to do most things with the very best of intentions, even if the consequences of their actions (or inactions) can be extremely harmful to others.
I also happen to believe that inter partner violence (IPV) is often bi-directional and a learned behavioural problem passed down from generation to generation. But that’s another long and complex story.
Jess, on the other hand, believes that IPV is very much a gendered problem, ‘end of’ and, even if she’s right, looking at a problem through such a certain lens can lead to problems in and of themselves.
Because Jess Phillips MP’s truth about the truth about domestic violence covers from very dodgy territory indeed.
Reality has an anti-feminist bias. Sargon of Akkad
There are a few places elsewhere in her book where I’m not entirely convinced that Jess is telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth (so help us all) but I have to say that I do believe her when she says that during her time working in domestic violence services only a handful of men ever approached asking for her support. That they had almost exclusively been assaulted by other men and that no man ever reached out to her asking for refuge.
After all, as one of the worlds authorities on IPV (apparently) Jess so eloquently puts it, people ‘don’t ring up women’s aid and talk about men, just like you wouldn’t call cats protection and talk about parrots.‘
I invite those who care so much [about male victims] to create a movement, prove the need and demand, get funding, support and I’ll gladly come and cut the ribbon Crack on but don’t ring up Women’s Aid and talk about men.
It’s extremely hard to know how best to respond to such presumably willful ignorance but I thought I should try to say something succinctly so we can all crack on with starting to cut some ribbons.
On creating a movement: Anyone familiar with the sordid origin story of the women’s refuge movement in Britain might consider that statement to be more than a little bit rich coming from a ‘massive feminist’ like Jess. Regardless, and despite her ignorance, there very much already is a movement concerned with men’s human rights.
Who do you think lobbied for parliament to recognise International Men’s Day and succeeded despite one very loud and objectionable objection?
On Proving the need: A good place to start might be the Crown Prosecution Service’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Annual Performance Review, which establishes that 1 in 6 victims of prosecuted crimes classified as violence against women and girls are in fact experienced by men and boys.
It is estimated that less than 15% of reported domestic abuse crimes achieve a ‘brought to justice’ outcome, it is widely accepted that domestic violence crimes still largely go unreported and that men are particularly less likely to approach authorities for a number of reasons, including fear of being treated like the perpetrator.
Even so, Office of National Statistic annual crime surveys repeatedly estimate that 1 in 3 victims are men.
On proving the demand: Following a review on the impact of crimes classified as Violence against Women and Girls, local authorities in Cornwall conceded that there could be a ‘chink in the chain of support for males’. They identified that 1 in 4 victims of reported VAWG crimes in their area were men and over the period of the review 4 out of 5 domestic homicides were men killed by women.
Cornwall is one of the few areas in the UK that actually has a refuge for men, in it’s first year they were able to house eleven men leaving abusive and violent relationships.
To put that in context there are no beds for men in any London refuge where the Metropolitan Police recently reported an 80% rise in reports of domestic violence against men.
Jess Phillips claims that a domestic violence incident is reported in her constituency every 12 seconds. The West Midlands Police don’t appear to record how many of these incidents involve male victims but if it’s anything like the national average then it could be one a minute.
On getting funding: Well it’s certainly an uphill struggle to get funding to support male victims of crimes that the Home Office classifies as violence against women and girls. Particularly from the £80 million ring fenced VAWG pot of tax payers money.
Funding is distributed at local authority level and the Men and Boys Coalition has written to all Police and Crime Commissioners in England to urge them to consider placing bids for work to support male victims.
The Mankind Initiative who support hundreds of thousands of male victims across the UK receive no state funding. Men’s Aid who take hundreds of calls from men in the Midlands is paid for out of private pockets.
The Home Office do fund a Men’s Helpline service run by a charity called Respect who until recently worked exclusively with male perpetrators.
In stark contrast to the 24 hour, 365 days a year National Domestic Abuse Hotline who won’t talk to men, their service is only available 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, calls are restricted to 30 minutes because of demand and callers report very limited or inconsistent referral options depending on where they live.
On getting support: In her book Jess points out that the public donate more to donkey sanctuaries than women’s refuges.
So you can imagine how male victims must feel.
One of the reasons that there are more privately funded refuge places for donkeys than publicly funded places for men is that a significant proportion state funded service providers won’t offer help to men. MPs vote for legislation and conventions that ignore or diminish legal protection for male victims and recently Ms everydaysexism herself called for the one MP to to consider his position.
Jess used to be Birmingham City Council’s victims champion and while she has (apparently) been lauded internationally for her efforts to help women, she has also been heavily criticised more locally for her dismissive attitude towards men.
In 2016 Jess Phillips stood up in Parliament and read out the names 4 out of every 5 people killed by their partner or ex-partner in the preceding 12 months.
On the same day mother of four Sharon Edwards was jailed for a minimum of 20 years for the murder of her husband David. Mrs Edwards who had previous convictions and cautions for domestic abuse stabbed ‘besotted’ David to death, less than two months after he had use make up to cover up a black eye for their wedding photos.
There is not a day in Parliament that people like Jess Phillips speak up for people like David Edwards
For a Member of Parliament with two degrees, Jess Phillips can sometimes be extremely ignorant.
Image credit & Quotations: Jess Phillips / Penguin / Hutchinson Fair Use (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act): Criticism, Education & Parody.