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.”
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.
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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