A former MP and leading voice in Malta’s medical sector sparked outrage at a forum on Monday when he suggested beaten women often goaded their aggressors into violence.

It’s alarming to hear people in positions of power make such derogatory statements

Josie Muscat, the former leader of the defunct right-wing Azzjoni Nazzjonali party, argued that men who beat women generally did so “as a reaction to provocation”, shocking delegates at a gender violence forum.

The suggestion so upset one delegate that she subsequently contacted The Times to report what had happened.

“Seminar participants were visibly shocked at Dr Muscat’s presentation, which blamed women as the initiators of the violence they received,” said Madi Sharma.

“Domestic violence is a serious issue that has many root causes.

“It’s alarming to hear people in positions of power make such derogatory statements... this is not a woman’s issue, it’s a societal responsibility with social and economic implications.”

“It was most embarrassing to discover Maltese with such an approach – I can honestly say I was shocked,” said Mrs Darmanin.

“I never in a million years expected to hear someone argue that way, especially at a gender violence forum.

“But as one of the speakers said, Dr Muscat’s words were a reality check. Clearly much more work needs to be done to eradicate domestic violence.”

When contacted, Dr Muscat, who also chairs the Saint James Hospital Group, elaborated on his perspective.

“I condemn domestic violence and it cannot be excused,” he began, “but one has to see why it happens.

“Being insulted or mocked... a man might lose his temper and sock it to her. But one has to see how long she had been needling him,” Dr Muscat said.

“Alcohol aside – because that’s another issue, where the man is to blame – no man just enters his home and beats his wife for the fun of it. Just as female violence is a reaction to something, male violence is too,” he continued.

Victims of sexual violence also had to look long and hard in the mirror, Dr Muscat said. “Lots of women first provoke and then run off pretending to cry.”

Research has indicated that approximately one in every four Maltese women ends up being the victim of domestic violence at some point in her life. Cases of male-victim domestic violence are far less common, although Dr Muscat argued that male pride and a sense of shame often held them back from reporting violence when they were the victims.

“Women do well to speak up about the issue, but I don’t think we’re seeing the real picture. Medical literature identifies 48 forms of domestic violence, from sexual to verbal or emotional. Men are victims of domestic violence too.”

The lack of male participants at debates concerning domestic violence did not help, he added.

“It would be much fairer if such debates involved an equal number of men and women, to hear both sides.”

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