Posts Tagged ‘Wales’

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
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Over the past few weeks Count Me In Cymru has been looking into the issue of rape in Wales; speaking to victims, campaigners and third sector workers to see how we can stand together with survivors who become isolated by society.

So here’s the scenario.

A woman in Wales is raped. What questions do we want to ask?

Why did it happen?

A recent survey by Amnesty International showed that over a third of Welsh students interviewed thought a woman was totally or partially responsible for being raped if she was drunk, or had behaved in a flirty way. 42% said she was totally or partially to blame if she didn’t say ‘no’ clearly.

This mindset of blaming the victim is unique to violent crimes against women. If someone is mugged on a night out, no-one leaps to ask if they were drunk at the time; if they were showing off their belongings; or if they fought back. If a man is raped, no-one calls him a slut.

Stephanie Lubbock, 24, from Bridgend was attacked while on holiday but managed to escape. Stephanie shared her thoughts on attitudes towards victims:

The fact that victims often don’t know where to get support in Wales is another issue. This leads us to our next question.

Where can victims go for help?

The answer to this question can be unclear to victims. When it comes to support, there is one Rape Crisis centre in Wales. One. At least that’s how it seems.

 For a victim searching for a Rape Crisis centre, Wales looks like this:

In reality, there is more provision, albeit with considerable gaps in provision to some areas:

In North Wales you will find the one and only victim support centre that is Rape Crisis affiliated. There are other rape support agencies across Wales with other names, which offer counselling and emotional support. Additionally there are sexual advice referral centres, which deal the procedural criminal justice aspects of rape prosecutions. The lack of clarity over which centres provide which services can cause confusion for victims.

Linda Thomas*, from South Wales, who was raped many years ago, said: “Looking for the well-known name Rape Crisis doesn’t help. There is another name, which I forget now, Pathways? Something like that. How the hell does it help not to have a recognisable name of a great service to be able to turn to? Rape Crisis I believe is in North Wales. I’m in South Wales, and this Pathways thingy was miles away too. Forget it. Where could I go?”

Jackie Stamp, Chief Executive of New Pathways rape support agency, explained that the decision not to include the word ‘rape’ in the names of their centres was a conscious one:

Val Lunn, National Development Manager for Rape Crisis (England and Wales), said Rape Crisis is aware of the lack of services in Wales:

With large gaps in facilities for rape survivors in Wales and confusion surrounding the types of services each centre offers, there seems considerable room for improvement.

What happens next?

On November 25 Rape Crisis launched its new National Service Standards, which aim to guarantee the same levels of service to rape survivors, no matter where they live in the UK. This initiative will have little effect in Wales, as only one centre is rape crisis affiliated. But such an approach might help survivors to identify where the services exist and to know what to expect.

When it comes to attitudes towards rape and rape victims, these are ever-changing.  In October an old campaign poster from 2008, which read: “Don’t be a victim. Drink Responsibly” was found displayed in South Wales and caused an outcry. This shows how far attitudes have come in three years that police are no longer attributing instances of rape to the behaviour of the victim. Rape Crisis Scotland has recently flipped this mind-set on its head and created a tongue in cheek campaign entitled ‘Ten Top Tips to end rape’.

This campaign has had mixed responses. Some have applauded its ballsy and sarcastic tone, while others feel that rape is something that should never be joked about. Whatever your opinion, campaigns like this get people talking, and the more we talk about rape, the more we can challenge negative attitudes. Sadly, we can’t make rape go away overnight, so we need to speak up and keep the conversation about rape ongoing.

*Names have been changed for legal reasons