Arlene Foster 'ignoring male victims of domestic violence' says men's rights group
A men's rights group has accused Arlene Foster of unintentionally snubbing men affected by domestic violence.
The First Minister last week endorsed the White Ribbon campaign, signing a personal pledge "never to commit, condone, or remain silent about men's violence against women in all its forms".
But Gary Quinn, of Men's Aid Northern Ireland, criticised the pledge for "promoting the myth that men are always the perpetrators and never the victims of domestic violence".
He said it ignored the fact that women could also be the aggressors and that there had been a huge increase in the number of reported incidents of violence against men in the home.
"I don't believe Arlene set out to cause offence, but by signing that pledge she is ignoring male victims of domestic violence," he said.
"The White Ribbon campaign is based on the outdated stereotype that men are always the violent ones in the home and women are always the ones on the receiving end of abuse.
"All the statistics and research in recent years challenge that perception. Domestic violence against men has increased 40% in the past decade."
Mr Quinn said PSNI statistics showed that males accounted for around 30% of the victims of domestic violence last year, with 3,107 crimes reported by adult males. "I believe the real figure is actually much higher as a lot of men don't report violence against them in the home because they are embarrassed or ashamed," he added.
"In a society where males are expected to 'man up', there is a stigma surrounding men coming forward and revealing that they have been assaulted or threatened by women."
Mr Quinn claimed Mrs Foster had unwittingly "written male victims out of the narrative on domestic abuse".
"Men's Aid stands fully behind female victims of violence in the home and wants the greatest possible assistance offered to them," he added.
"But we want male victims recognised and supported too. Campaigns on the issue should be inclusive of all victims.
"We believe the White Ribbon pledge is misleading and should be replaced with a gender-neutral wording which opposes domestic violence against everyone."
Mr Quinn said men must be encouraged to report abuse in the home, and that services for male victims urgently need improvement.
"Of all the State-funded refuge places for victims of domestic violence, less than 1% accept men," he explained.
"Society has a duty to ensure that men requiring help don't get pushed aside and their problems brushed under the carpet."