The hidden taboo: Truth of violence against men
Mention domestic violence and chances are you’ll conjure up the image of a raging drunken man towering over a cowering and crying woman, the victim of a vicious violent assault.
Many women do live in such unhappy and turbulent relationships but, sadly, many thousands of men across the UK are also subject to domestic abuse - at the hands of women.
The subject is largely taboo – men are expected to be able to deal with such issues, a problem that is easily swept under the carpet.
But South Yorkshire was the focus for a nationwide conference for male survivors of domestic abuse – a chance to put the topic firmly in the spotlight and give those involved a chance to speak out, tell their harrowing stories and discover they are not alone when it comes to dealing with violent and abusive female partners.
One in five domestic violence victims in this region are men - and it is a figure that is increasing.
Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium played host to the event, staged by the ManKind Initiative, a nationwide charity set up to help male victims of domestic abuse.
And there was a very good reason Yorkshire was chosen as the setting for the conference, attended by more than 130 delegates.
Between 2012 and June 2014, 18,217 men reported to the three Yorkshire police forces stating they were victims of domestic abuse.
The figure rises to 24,025 if Humberside Police is included.
In South Yorkshire alone, between 2012 and August 2015, 19,459 men had reported male domestic abuse to police.
But the charity believes the real figures are likely to be higher due to the high level of under-reporting by men. In the UK, more than 500,000 men suffer from partner abuse every year, the charity estimates.
Ian McNicholl, who chaired the conference, understands the problem better than most.
The 52-year-old, from East Yorkshire, suffered at the hands of a former partner for 18 months, suffering a string of horrific injuries which he says, almost claimed his life.
He said: “Far too many men feel they’re to blame, they’re weak and they’re alone often because they do not think there is support for them. We aim to change that so no man suffers in silence and realise they can escape and rebuild their lives.”
Ian now uses his own experiences to highlight to others the problems living with an abusive woman can bring.
His ex-girlfriend is serving a seven year prison sentence for GBH and assault, the culmination of months of physical and mental abuse.
He said: “By the time I was rescued by police I had a fractured skull and multiple fractures to my cheekbone. I’ve had the septum on my nose replaced, I have a scar from an assault with a steam iron.
“It almost took my life. She told me in her last assault she was going to kill me. I was also on the point of suicide.”
Ian said he did not report the attacks earlier because he feared for his life and was ‘emotionally and physically ground-down’.
Mark Brooks, chairman of Mankind, said men often do not report abuse through ‘a sense of shame’. He added: “Men often do not report abuse because they feel embarrassed. They feel it undermines their identity as a man and a fear they won’t be believed.”
The charity offers help to all male victims of domestic abuse, as well as their children, enabling them to escape from the situation they are in.
Mankind runs a helpline manned by a trained team which provides practical information, signposting and emotional support on all aspects of domestic abuse. The helpline receives 1,600 telephone calls a year from male victims or concerned friends, family – often mothers and sisters – and work colleagues.
Mr Brooks added: “We give a voice to male victims to raise the public profile of their plight and to call for adequate services and recognition at national and local level.
“Domestic abuse against men can range from actual violence or object throwing to mental abuse such as constant bullying or constant insults.”
He said the organisation deals with calls from all ages and professions, from dustmen and doctors to bankers and builders and from men in their 20s to men in their 80s,
Mr Brook added: “One in every six men in Britain will suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetime and one in every three domestic abuse victims is male. There is a growing need to ensure men and their children receive support in their community.”
Case study: Sam’s story of abuse
‘I tried to leave her’
I was with my wife for six years. I used to do everything I could for her. I paid off her debts, paid her bills and paid for her car. But I soon learnt that nothing would ever be enough for her.
The emotional abuse started first. I was very rarely allowed to go anywhere by myself.
When I was, it would only be to work and even then she would phone me constantly throughout the day.
I tried to leave her when this started, but she emotionally blackmailed me to stay by overdosing on tablets; which I later found out she would spit out under the bed. She would also threaten to hurt any future girlfriends I had so badly that I wouldn’t want to be with her.
Optimistically thinking that things could get better between us I proposed to her after two years of being together. This was the biggest mistake of my life- things went dramatically downhill from that moment.
The first time she viciously attacked me was on Good Friday 2008. I don’t know why or what provoked her. She ran into the house, grabbed a knife and as soon as I walked in she was attacking me with it.
She then grabbed my testicles and twisted them as hard as she could and would not let go.
It was excruciatingly painful.
To this day I still do not know what caused her to be so violent. She would just snap from nice to nasty in an instant.
The violence only got worse from there. The second time she attacked me, she followed me around the house punching me in the head, hitting me with a pint glass, knocked me to the floor and proceeded to drop her knee into my head repeatedly. It was ferocious and I genuinely feared for my life.
I also remember on another occasion she was punching me in the eye when I was driving around a roundabout, so hard that she bruised her knuckles.
I was however later in the wrong for causing the bruising. The most shocking attack however, happened on our wedding night. She really beat me, kicking and punching me repeatedly.
I remember her digging her nails into my cheek, it felt like she was going to rip my cheek off. I managed to get away and ran down the road in bare feet and my wedding suit.
I went back because she was threatening to hang herself with my wedding tie. I later got beaten because the cuts on my face ruined our honeymoon pictures.
She was eventually convicted of assault by beating three years ago and given a six month restraining order. She subsequently lost her job as a care assistant.
I have been left with a lot of fear and I am constantly on a state of high alert.
I am however in the process of explaining my experience to my therapist. I am working on dealing with what happened to me and slowly moving on.
It is a long and difficult process but I know there is light at he end of the tunnel, and I will not allow her ruin my future.”
Are YOU a victim:
* Feel scared of your partner
* Feel useless and unable to cope without them
* Suffer from low self esteem and feel like you are being talked down to
* Worry about how to please you partner
* Feel you are being forced into doing things that you don’t want to
* Deliberately hurt you
* Deliberately leave you short of money to buy food etc.
* Constantly check up to see where you are and who you are with
* Humiliate you in front of others
* Prevent you from seeing friends and family leaving you feelings isolated