‘WHAT about the men?” is one of those phrases that tends to raise feminist hackles, and often with good reason. Too often it is deployed in an attempt to derail discussions about inequality of the sexes and how to address it, or in a bid to portray those advocating for women as irrational man-haters.

But when the question “what about male victims of domestic abuse?” is asked, it’s not fair to assume the person asking it has an anti-woman agenda, or is trying to undermine (or snatch funding away from) efforts to help female victims.

Women’s groups are, it should go without saying, perfectly entitled to focus their efforts on women. Asking women’s aid groups to widen the scope of their work, or to become “gender-neutral” service-providers, is clearly incompatible with an ethos that views domestic abuse as a cause and consequence of gender inequality (although it should be noted that in 2016 Falkirk District Women’s Aid rebranded as Committed to Ending Abuse, and now provides services for all).

But this is not what those asking “what about the men?” this week are seeking. The charity Abused Men in Scotland (Amis) exists to help male victims of domestic abuse, but it won’t for much longer unless lifeline funding can be found. While the organisation has previously received £100,000 a year from The Big Lottery Fund, supplemented by a range of smaller grants, it appears funding sources have now dried up and its services – a Monday-to-Friday helpline, peer group sessions and one-to-one support – are at risk of closure.

Lothian MSP Jeremy Balfour has now called for the Scottish Government to step in and keep the charity afloat. In doing so, he has pointed to statistics suggesting 20% of abuse victims identify as male, saying “it is time for parity of esteem”. The chairman of Amis, Tony Wood, notes that this statistic is based on Police Scotland figures but that crime reports likely represent the tip of the iceberg.

This is where things get tricky, and where a simplistic interpretation of statistics fails to capture the broad picture. We know that domestic abuse in all of its forms is under-reported, and that male victims are often treated with scepticism or even derision. But we also know that a woman is far more likely to die at the hands of her male partner than the other way around, more likely to experience multiple forms of abuse, and more likely to experience sexual abuse. Due to inequalities in our society women are less likely to have financial independence and more likely to be responsible for looking after children or elderly relatives – all factors that affect her ability to leave an abusive relationship.

Further complicating the statistical picture are “dual reports” of domestic abuse, where both members of a heterosexual couple are reported to the police as perpetrators following a domestic incident. These account for 5% of all domestic abuse reports in Scotland and represent a significant challenge for the police, who may not be equipped to assess the complex dynamics of a domestic situation, especially if alcohol and drugs are involved.

In 2015 researchers from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research carried out a pilot study into such dual reports, found these may have contributed to the rise in the number of incidents where women are recorded as the perpetrators and men the victims (from 9% in 2002-03 to 17% in 2012-13).

When charities apply for funding they must provide evidence of a need for their services, and there is no doubt that Amis is assisting hundreds of men each year. Those using their services report physical, emotional and psychological abuse, in some cases lasting many years and having devastating effects on their children. Clearly there are men out there who are in desperate need of help – including those in same-sex relationships. But pointing to crude crime statistics and implying funding levels should reflect them is likely to raise more hackles than money.

The English charity Women’s Aid this week took the unusual step of commenting on the behaviour of a contestant in the reality TV show Love Island, accusing Adam Collard, pictured, of “gas-lighting and emotional abuse” in his treatment of fellow islander Rosie Williams, who was coldly ditched in favour of a new arrival on the show before being made to feel as though the situation was her own fault. And while viewers seem near-unanimous in their disapproval of Collard’s behaviour, plenty of women went a step further. “I’ve never wanted to kick someone in the balls so much”, tweeted one. “He’s disrespectful and could do with a punch in the face”, wrote another. “He is a manipulative little cockroach who needs a good slap!!!!” ranted a third, whose tweet notched up nearly 500 likes.

Love Island is a carefully edited game show, and the entire premise is one of participants “coupling” and “recoupling” throughout the summer. The suggestion that a callous dumping in such a context is on a par with coercion and brainwashing in an ongoing intimate relationship is not a particularly helpful one. Both men and women are capable of behaving badly towards each other, and of using violence when emotions are running high. No-one is denying that the majority of perpetrators of domestic abuse in all its forms are men. But men can be victims too, and they deserve support.