Ippo Panteloudakis, Helplines Manager of Mens Advice Line wrote this informative article exclusively for Wikivorce.
Peter was being abused by his ex-partner Katie for 2 years. He self–harmed and eventually attempted suicide as a result of the abuse and the isolation he felt because of his disability. Peter felt he couldn’t hit back a woman. When Katie and their 2 sons moved out of his house, he was relieved, but she continued to harass him. He wants to move out of the area as they live close by, with Katie’s new boyfriend who Peter thinks is violent. Peter wants to have regular contact with the children and is worried that Katie’s new boyfriend might be scaring them. He has support from family and friends.
Peter was one of the hundreds of men experiencing domestic violence supported by the Men’s Advice Line in 2009. He was fortunate to have friends and family supporting him and to be living on his own after his abusive ex-partner moved out. Other men are not so fortunate and they still have to put up with a range of abusive behaviours by those who should love and care for them in their own homes that, supposedly, should be safe havens.
Domestic violence affects men too
The Men’s Advice Line is a freephone, confidential helpline service for male victims of domestic violence – in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. It’s open Monday-Friday 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm on 0808 801 0327 –free from landlines and mobile phones; www.mensadviceline.org.uk
The Men’s Advice Line spoke to more than 1000 callers in 2008 and 393 men were victims. In 2009, we extended our opening hours to 30 from 18 and we employed more staff to take calls. This resulted in an increase of 115%: we spoke to 2310 callers, 604 of which were identified as male victims. We also spoke to hundreds of friends/family of male victims as well as frontline workers; and we dealt with 847 emails in 2009.
What do male victims of domestic violence need?
In 2009 we signposted hundreds of callers to a wide variety of agencies for further advice and support. Top of the list of these agencies were legal advice, Police and Community Safety Units, housing advice and individual counselling; these were the issues most often brought up by male victims. We believe that anyone working with male victims should be familiar with a range of support services available and update information on an ongoing basis.
Men’s help seeking: some men are reluctant to access help, not knowing where to turn to, what they need or want. Often they lack the emotional vocabulary to express how they feel about their situation and they present complex stories with many different issues. They don’t always prioritise the domestic violence/abuse side of the problem, often minimising it out of embarrassment or being unaware that violence/abuse doesn’t have place in a healthy relationship. Some men need to feel listened to and ‘take it off their chest’ and that is all they need; others need to be referred to legal advice or other specialist advice (housing, mental health, immigration etc).
Some men’s own perception in relation to how others will treat them as victims affects how and if they reach out for help: they don’t want to come across as weak and some believe they will get an unsympathetic or hostile response from the Police, Social Services etc.
Although attitudes are changing, gender stereotypes make it difficult for some to think of men as victims, ie men must always be strong and if they are physically stronger they can’t be victims. However, the Men’s Advice Line is finding, through hundreds of calls from professionals every year that statutory and voluntary agencies have become aware of the need to work with male victims and respond to their needs.
Another issue some callers bring is the use of violence by both partners – working out who the ‘primary perpetrator/aggressor’ is and who was genuinely in self-defence is crucial if we want to manage the risk appropriately and resolve counter-allegations of violence. This has important implications about how a service for male victims is offered and what kind of assessment and screening is carried out.
How we work
Our focus is on minimising risk and increasing safety – we discuss short-term strategies with callers to help them avoid future violent incidents. The focus is on safety whether the caller is a victim, abuser or a client whose relationship is breaking down but not experiencing domestic violence.
We provide emotional and practical support in a non-judgemental and non-collusive way. We give men the space to talk and feel listened to. We promote a self-help ethos, we want men to feel empowered to regain control of their situation, call the Police if they need to, speak to Social Services, access legal advice, medical help etc.
The majority of callers are White-British heterosexual men 25-45 years old living with their partner and children; however, callers of BME background are overrepresented on the Men’s Advice Line (they were 9% of overall number of men whereas in the UK population people of BME background are 4.5% - UK Census of 2001). Gay men report substantially higher levels of violence than heterosexual callers.
The Men’s Advice Line has leaflets and posters promoting the service and we have published a booklet for male victims. for male victims. We have also published a a toolkit for professionals working with male victims: