Archive for January, 2012

She’d punch and bite, it was getting worse and worse – I was terrified that eventually I was going to have to retaliate to defend myself…

When we think of domestic abuse most of us picture a menacing male villain being physically violent towards a helpless female victim. This idea of domestic violence is naive, because physical abuse is only part of the problem and women are not the only victims. Since 2007 the Crown Prosecution Service has extended its definition of domestic violence to include:

any incident or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological,
physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between those who are or have
been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender* or sexuality.
Family members include mother, father, son, daughter, sister, and
grandparents, whether directly related, in laws or step family.

In Cardiff Safer Wales have created the Dyn Project, which seeks to help men who are victims of domestic abuse. Count Me In Cymru spoke to Simon Borja, Dyn Project Co-ordinator, about the extent of the problem and the services available.

How common is domestic abuse towards men in Wales?

“This is a question we get asked a lot and we do not know the true number of men experiencing domestic abuse in Wales. The referrals we receive for our advocacy service, visits to our website and helpline have increased dramatically over the last couple of years which tells us that men are coming forward.”

The Dyn Project helps men who are victims of domestic abuse

What kind of abuse are men subjected to?

“There are a range of different types of abuse that men suffer which include financial, emotional, psychological, physical and sexual.  We do meet a number of men who have been involved in violent attacks from their partner both heterosexual and gay men. ”

Do we know whether domestic abuse towards men is more common in heterosexual or homosexual relationships?

“The Safer Wales Dyn project work with all men who experience domestic abuse.  Many people assume that most men who are abused are in a gay relationship i.e a male victim, and a male perpetrator.  Through our advocacy service approximately 70% of men we deal with are in heterosexual relationships, which shows a different picture in Cardiff.”

Why is so little known about domestic violence towards men in Wales?

” I would say things are getting better and we work with a number of organizations who are working with, or developing their services to work with men.  We still have a lot of work to do and the more the issue of  is raised in the public domain, the better. We find that societal pressures can make it difficult for men to come forward.  We hear many terms like; soft men, man up etc.  Men are seen to be strong and able to cope. At times it is difficult for a man to talk to friends and family for fear of ridicule, or often the abuse is disguised with humour.  Statistics show that domestic abuse happens to more women than men and at times people only think of men as the perpetrators of abuse and not the victims.”

Where can men in Wales go for help if they are a victim of domestic violence?

“Any man living in Wales can call the Dyn Wales helpline 0808 801 0321 and we can offer support and signposting to agencies across Wales.  We maintain an online resource www.dynwales.org which can offer advice and information for men.  We provide advocacy support for men living in Cardiff.”

Men from around Wales have shared their experiences with Count Me In Cymru about how domestic abuse affected them.

Feroze**:

“I bought enough pills to do it. She’d told me I was worthless so often that I believed her. It was only when I was sitting in the car on the cliff-top, staring at the sea, that I finally thought: No – she can’t make me do this. My kids need me.”

Howard:

“I’m six-four, fifteen stone. My ex-partner was five-foot-nothing. I didn’t tell anyone how violent she was, I was too embarrassed. Until she attacked me with a golf club and I had to call 999, I was bleeding so much. The police arrived; the one officer looked at her, turned to me and asked: why didn’t you just hit her back?”

Ian:

“Where did I end up? Sleeping in my car. Wearing the same clothes for a fortnight. I couldn’t work. I drank so much that I was ill. I got massively in debt. I lost my friends, I lost my sex drive, I lost my self-esteem. I lost everything.”

James

“Now, I know. I wouldn’t want anyone – male or female – to suffer a second of what I went through. What would I say to the me back then, if I could? I’d say: walk away, now. This is not love. Look after yourself. You deserve better.”

The Dyn Project offers help and advice to all men suffering domestic abuse. The helpline is 0808 801 0321 but in an emergency always call 999.

*emphasis added
**names have been changed to protect anonymity

Here are some interesting articles and blog posts found over the past seven days relating to social issues in Wales and the UK.

Racism

Following on from the last post about racism in Wales,  I want to flag up an interesting article which appeared in the Independent last Sunday.  The article, Race in Britain 2012, highlights the huge disparities that still exist between the ways white people and ethnic minorities are treated in the UK. In particular it was found that white people  compared to black people were: half as likely to grow up in poverty, three times as likely to go to a leading university, one fifth as likely to go to jail and likely to be paid 20% more for equal work. At the same time, black people compared to white people were: twice as likely to die by the age of one, three times as likely to be excluded from school, four times as likely to be murdered and three times as likely to be poor in old age. To read the article in full, click here.

Squatting and the homeless

A post last month by Imogen Barrer for the blog Wales Now discusses changes to  the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which would criminalise squatting in a residential property in England and Wales. The post highlights the potential for such a law to have adverse effects on homeless people in Wales, as squatting and homelessness are intrinsically linked. To read Imogen’s post, click here.

Child poverty

Figures were released yesterday about the current levels of child poverty in the UK. An article by campaigner Anne Longfield looks into what these figures mean and calls for the redoubling of efforts to combat child poverty. To read Anne’s article in full, click here and look out for a post on Count Me In Cymru coming soon about the extent of child poverty in Wales.

 

 

Racism is something that injures us all. Whether you’re a victim of racism, you witness its evil, or whether you’re the villain remaining in a state of ignorance; racism hurts us all in some way.

Undoubtedly things are better for this generation; words like diversity and multiculturalism are everywhere. The convictions yesterday of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence showed a step towards a more just world, albeit a very belated step.

But the problem of racism remains, and some say it has evolved, as was highlighted by Paul McKenzie yesterday. In his article McKenzie claims that racism has become less overt and more subtle, stating: “Times have changed; the racism faced by my parents and their generation has gone, in its place is a ‘fog of racism’”.

In many ways this is true. Coming from a small town in Wales, this fog of racism is the kind I am most familiar with. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard, “I’m not racist, but…”. Prejudices seem to stem from ignorance of other cultures, attitudes of parents, or mindsets of blame – the classic one being that “immigrants are taking our jobs”.

In Wales, the main organisation dealing with racism is Show Racism the Red Card Wales (SRTRC), which uses sport as a means of combating the issue. Count Me In Cymru spoke to Jason Webber, a campaign worker for SRTRC about the issue of racism in Wales.

Wales overall is less multicultural than England, is racism less of a problem in Wales?
No certainly not. We see racism in primary and secondary schools across Wales, racism on the pitch, and even from parents watching games. It’s always been the case, it just doesn’t always get highlighted or sometimes just doesn’t get reported. There’s a lot of stuff that happens that people don’t realise is racism.

In Wales ‘jokey’ racism towards the English is common. Is this something we need to tackle if we are to put a stop to racism in Wales?
Yes certainly. We explain to young people that racism covers four areas: skin colour, nationality, religion or culture. What we need to be careful of is where it’s started off as a bit of banter, but ends up in someone being hurt or killed. I think unfortunately it’ll take a serious incident occurring from that sort of banter before people start really taking note of it. We teach that it is racism but unfortunately it is widely accepted.

Are there any changes you’d like to see in future on how we deal with racism in Wales?
I think working with young people is key. More needs to be done in terms of embedding racism education within the national curriculum. We did some research last year where we found that 80% of teachers actually had no training on anti-racism, so we delivered 14 anti-racism conferences to teachers and trainee teachers across Wales.

Sadly, the murder of Anuj Bidve on Boxing Day suggests overt racism still exists, though perhaps occurring in more isolated incidents. The fact that racism has generally become less acceptable, and people seek to hide their prejudice can only be a good thing. But the inherent difficulty of this cultural shift is that racism has become harder to pinpoint and uproot. Racism is no longer an ugly scar on the face of society, but an invisible cancer, spreading harm below the surface.