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"Battered husbands trapped by shame"
November 11, 2004
"Battered husbands trapped by shame"
By Helen Nugent
AN OVERWHELMING number of battered husbands have swamped Britain's only refuge for abused men. Now a former victim is opening the second centre today with more to follow across the country.
Workers at a secret safehouse for abused men in Somerset say that there is a constant waiting list of men who have been scratched, kicked, bitten or attacked with bottles and knives.
Stephen Fitzgerald, national organiser for the ManKind Initiative, which refers men to the refuge, said that some fathers had moved into the safe house with their children.
“A lot of these men have suffered both physical and mental abuse for, on average, about six years,” he said. “We have spoken to men who have been laid out with iron bars, had glass put in their food and been set upon with a knife. Others have been stabbed, punched in the face and threatened with an axe.”
Domestic violence towards men has long been regarded as a social taboo with victims offered little support, charities say. While the number of women sufferers has fallen over the past few years, the estimated number of attacks against men has risen by nearly a third, up to 150,000. Home Office statistics show that one third of victims of domestic violence are men.
A study by Dewar Research, a firm that specialises in domestic violence issues, found that men often endured the abuse because they did not want to walk out on their children.
Others were frightened to leave because they had nowhere else to go and some said that they still loved their partner and hoped that her behaviour would change. One of the main problems, however, was a fear of being ridiculed.
Dewar’s research showed that many male victims were critical of the police. Many said that their complaints were not taken seriously and in some cases they were treated as the aggressors. A spokeswoman for the Home Office told The Times that the Government’s measures to help abuse-sufferers are “non-gender specific” and “will protect both male and female victims”.
However, ManKind insists that the Government is unwilling to fund help for men who suffer at the hands of brutal partners.
“Apartheid is still with us in the form of gender apartheid which is being practised by David Blunkett,” said Mr Fitzgerald, who has been happily married for 37 years.
In a letter to ManKind this year, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, Minister of State at the Home Office, told the charity that she would not meet it to discuss support because “funding is very limited”. She added: “It is predominantly women who tend to be the victims of domestic violence and who are more likely to suffer lasting damage to their physical and mental health.”
A new support group, It Does Happen, was set up by a man who was in an abusive relationship for more than two years, during which he was stabbed and beaten. Mike Kenny, 33, a businessman, raised funds to set up www.itdoeshappen.org in September to help male and female sufferers.
Within a fortnight, more than 20,000 men had contacted the website. He plans to open three safe havens for men, each costing £2.4 million. The first will open in Newcastle today, with centres in Yorkshire and the Midlands to open in January.
‘I thought abuse came from bowels of hell’
THIRTEEN years after his divorce, Steve still takes a cocktail of anti-depressants and sleeping tablets.
The nightmares subsided after a decade, but Steve, 61, says that he will never recover from the years of abuse inflicted by his former wife.
“For the last 15 years of my marriage I was physically attacked all the time,” he said. “I was punched, my hair was pulled, my ears were pulled, all quite routinely. I was threatened with being stabbed.”
With two young children in the house, Steve says that he was unable to walk out, believing that they would suffer. Instead, he spent his life in fear, cut off from friends and family. “The children were aware of the shouting and the unhappiness, but they weren’t aware of the severity of what I was going through.”
He left after he suffered “a kind of blackout”. He still has no memory of an incident in which he had lunged at his wife, knocking down his son, who had tried to intervene.
Steve has since spent years in and out of hospital, battling depression. Forced to give up his job, he is still out of work. “It just wrecked my whole life,” he said.
“I used to think (the abuse) came from the bowels of hell. It was the most appalling verbal abuse, horrible language and awful screaming.”
He urges abused men to seek help. “I always thought it would be hopeless trying to tell someone because I was so unusual and no one would believe me. There was nowhere to go.”
LIVING IN FEAR
# An estimated 446,000 people were victims of domestic violence in the UK in 2003
# Men accounted for 34 per cent of victims last year, compared with 27 per cent the year before
# About 48 men have died from domestic violence incidents this year
# Domestic violence claims the lives of two women each week
# Although incidents of domestic violence are chronically undereported, Home Office research suggests that it accounts for a quarter of all violent crime
Copyright 2004 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Ed Ward, MD,
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