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01-20-11, 07:43 PM #1
My wife hugged me to say sorry for beating me up... then knifed me in the back
One resident will forever carry the scars from near-fatal stab wounds, while another sits silently in the corner with a face etched with fear.
Both have fled to this safe house to escape violent partners. Both have done so in fear of their lives and — shockingly — both are men: members of a growing band of British male domestic abuse victims.
Jay is a soft-spoken, gentle, 22-year-old labourer from Cardiff who was repeatedly punched by his 32-year-old girlfriend. He tells me he’d be on the streets if it wasn’t for the help he’s getting here now.
‘People don’t think men get hit, but we do. People don’t think men suffer, but we do,’ he tells me.
‘At first I didn’t speak about the violence because of the stigma, but in the end I did and it was social services who helped me come here. I had nowhere else to go.’
The ‘here’ is an unremarkable looking terrace house in a valley in Powys, midWales.
Founded in 2006, it houses Britain’s first refuge exclusively for men and their children fleeing violent partners.
There are 4,000 refuge places for women in Britain, and only 20 for men, most of them at this centre run by the Montgomery Family Crisis Centre.
On the day of my visit, Jane Stephens, the operations manager, is preparing for the possible arrival of a man from Cornwall with his children aged nine, seven and two.
Jane is a down-to-earth and kindly grandmother, who is planning to place the family in one of three bedrooms named Faith, Hope and Charity. She shows me Faith, packed with pine bunk beds on which are piles of clean towels and bedding. The house’s toys are ready in boxes in the hall.
The father contacted the 24-hour emergency helpline over Christmas and the refuge staff are liaising with social services in his area before his possible arrival.
As Jay fries sausages for his lunch in the small back kitchen, Jane tells me how the refuge has been a temporary home to 60 men and 28 children since it opened. Partially funded by a grant from the National Lottery, it takes in men who are desperate for help, and often badly injured.
‘We’ve had a man who was deliberately run over by his partner,’ Jane says sadly.
‘Other men who had been stabbed, men with severe head injuries, burns and slashes . . . to name but a few.’
More than 400 men have asked for refuge here. Often it is police who tell them about the refuge while they’re recovering in hospital. Residents have come from as far afield as London, Devon, Lancashire and Nottingham and have included a judge, several policemen, and Army veterans.
‘Domestic abuse knows no class barriers,’ says the managing director, Shirley Powell, who also runs a safe house for women close by.
But the refuge faced a great deal of opposition when it opened, and still attracts criticism because it doesn’t run police checks on residents to see if they were, actually, the perpetrators of the violence.
The team who run it say this is because people are ignorant about male domestic abuse and because their approach challenges the gender stereotype that all men are violent, all women victims.
Role reversal: Men are suffering more from domestic violence as women become dominant in the home
‘We are without judgment here,’ Shirley says, adding her team is willing to believe the men when many in the criminal justice system, government agencies and police may be suspicious.
‘Everything is stacked against men,’ Shirley says, pointing out that if men report abuse they can be arrested themselves on suspicion of being the perpetrator.
‘If men leave their family homes, they may lose access to their children in the courts,’ she says. ‘They should have the same rights as women in the same situations: gender equality is all we want.’
The safe house, which featured in a BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Last Refuge, this week, clearly offers peace and safety, and, say those who run it, more and more men are approaching them for help.
They believe this is because women are becoming much more aggressive, and because couples are communicating less and less well.
Sometimes they deal with couples who ‘text rather than talk,’ and women who have been brought up to quickly resort to violence when misunderstandings arise.
‘Women are much more dominant now than they have ever been,’ Shirley says. ‘And many women are abusing this dominance. In the home, the gender roles are going through a period of great change, which can lead to rows and disagreements and for some, violence,’ she says.
Figures from the national helpline for male victims of domestic abuse show that in 2009 it spoke to 2,300 callers and answered 850 emails. Last year, it had more than 3,000 callers and replied to 1,200 emails — a 35 per cent increase.
Sixty per cent of those men reported some form of physical abuse, including being hit, beaten, or stabbed. They also reported frequent incidents of scratching, slashing, biting and burning.
Matthew Bailey runs the Dyn Project, in South Wales, which offers counselling, support and housing to men and women suffering domestic abuse.
He says all types of male domestic abuse are becoming more prevalent. Not just physical abuse, but emotional, psychological and financial. Much of it centres on control, and the problems often start long before a relationship descends into physical harm.
While it’s not widespread — yet — he believes the number of women abusing men is increasing even more dramatically than figures suggest. ‘I think what we are seeing is the tip of the tip of the iceberg,’ he says.
Albert, a well-spoken Yorkshireman in his fifties, suffered years of mental and psychological abuse before his relationship turned violent.
It began when his partner started to text him up to 40 times a day to check on his whereabouts. Soon she was texting him as many as 400 times a day, banning him from seeing any friends, and texting colleagues and friends if she lost track of him and he failed to respond.
‘I used to drive to a cliff and think shall I just end it all here?’ he says. ‘But then I’d think of the children and think no, I’m not doing that.’
It was only when his partner hit him round the head twice with the chopping board, so hard that each time he had to make a trip to the hospital, that he plucked up the courage to seek help. This was four years after the abuse started.
‘It’s very difficult for men when they are being controlled and abused, because of the disparity between what they believe they should be doing and what is happening to them,’ says Matthew Bailey.
Ex-serviceman Steve, who is 6ft tall and stocky, is an unlikely victim. The 49-year-old, who ran a pub with his abusive partner after leaving the Armed Forces, fled to the refuge after his partner tried to kill him. She stabbed him in the back with a carving knife while embracing him to apologise for an earlier violent incident.
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01-20-11, 07:53 PM #2
There are a lot of women who are vicious, evil creatures. If they see a weakness, they'll exploit it.\\` ` ` ` < ` )___/\
`` ` ` ` (3--(____)
"...but to forget your duck, of course, means you're really screwed." - Gary Larson
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