Cuan, the new DSGBV agency, faces challenges

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On Feb 23 Minister Helen McEntee opened the new statutory agency Cuan which will coordinate all work in Domestic Sexual and Gender-based Violence, DSGBV, which was previously fragmented.

In an article in the Independent the same day, the Minister expanded on the new agency. An opening quote is significant: Worldwide, it is estimated that one in three women and one in four men will be the victim of some form of DSGBV during their lives.

This means that 3  out of 7 victims worldwide or 42.8% of victims are male. This is a quiet admission by the Minister, in recognising the scale of  male victimhood. It represents a break with the past since it acknowledges that the  figures for male and female victims are comparable.

It is curious that she gives worldwide figures when she could have given figures for closer to home like UK or Europe.

But the number of male and female victims that called support services here in 2022 are not comparable; there were more than three times as many calls from female victims as from male.

In 2022 Women’s Aid supported 31,229 victims of domestic abuse and Men’s Aid supported 9,524 male victims, in other words only 23% of victims were male, which reveals the huge deficiency in support services for men.

Another contentious point is that the number of refuges is to be doubled to 280 but none are for men. Men’s Aid called two years ago for refuges for men as a matter of urgency.

In 2022, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre supported 18,400 people who had suffered sexual violence.  The same year DRCC reported about 16% of callers were men.

Problems facing Cuan

There are a number of problems facing Cuan. The governing strategy, the Third National Strategy for DSGBV, was based entirely on the Istanbul Convention which is coming  increasingly under question as dependent solely on ideology rather than evidence. Even the figures given above by the Minister conflict with it.

The Third Strategy was effectively drawn up by a 3-person Executive group which consisted of one person each  from NWCI, Safe Ireland and the Department of Justice. There was no outside expert let alone a member of Men’s Aid on the group. How such a group could be impartial beggars belief and can only mean the Minister wanted a particular outcome.

The Executive group we are told consulted with certain experts and “stakeholders” in the course of its deliberations. We haven’t been able to find out who the experts, the  stakeholders were despite putting in a request to the Department.

We do not even know if Men’s Aid or any group representative of men was consulted.

Incidentally “stakeholder” is a term which comes up today whenever consultations are held. It  is a key term which invariably militates against the interests of men who have very few representative groups while there are forty or more which act on behalf of women in this area.

But we do know that the Executive Group did meet with the consultant group KW Research and Associates at least fortnightly from April 2021 to June 2022. Conveniently, one of this group, Grainne Healy was recipient of the NWCI Outstanding Feminist Leadership Award in June 2017.

Given this array the outcome was inevitable.

Further problematic factors

There are several other problematic issues facing Cuan.

The notion of gender-based violence is all-pervasive in official documents but what does it mean? Is some/any  violence against men gender-based? Is lesbian violence gender-based?

If not all violence is gender-based how do you distinguish an act which is from one which is not? There are no answers. The notion is radical feminist in origin and appears on virtually every page of the Istanbul Convention.

Another  key insight into the nature of Domestic Violence is entirely missing from the Strategy. This is the fact that more than 50% of it is bidirectional, both parties are engaged in it. It has been verified by different surveys.

This has profound implications for how  Domestic Violence is perceived, how Gardai approach an incident and report on it, how it is treated and how it is judged. Judges, court officials, probation officers need to be aware that it is not a simple matter of a black and white issue,  of a victim and perpetrator, it is more complex than this.

A further complicating factor is that NWCI, Women’s Aid and others  do not recognise Parental Alienation, PA, as a form of abuse, they dismiss it as a “much discredited concept”. But others including many academics and parent groups, hold that it is a major form of Domestic Violence, a pernicious form of abuse of the children and the adults concerned and is recognised more and more as such. The evidence is substantial and growing and feminist groups are desperate to try to discredit it.

The Department in its exhaustive review  of the concept has taken a cautious approach but does not dismiss it out of hand while a great deal of evidence supports it. What attitude will Cuan take to PA?

Finally one other development in the ever-changing, ever-evolving  attitude to Domestic Violence must be considered. This is the case of Denmark which in April 2023  took the unprecedented  decision to give equal financial resources to support services for  women and men. Effectively this decision means that for the Danes Domestic Violence is not gender-based, while quietly pushing the Istanbul Convention to the sidelines. In the light of these rapid developments, the Third Strategy looks increasingly out of date. The implications for Cuan are obvious.


Dear Reader,

Do you value the work that Men’s Voices Ireland does to highlight issues of concern to men and boys which are never covered by other media? The legacy media routinely and systematically exclude these issues and this has been going on for decades. We have been trying to draw attention to this neglect for more than eight years now.

We need funding to continue this work. Even a website costs money to maintain and we also lobby politicians to improve services such as support services for male victims of domestic violence and men who need help and advice with the Family Court system. We are also part of the international alliance DAVIA which is doing similar work globally.

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