By Aalia Khan
The misconception that only a woman can be subjected to domestic abuse and domestic violence is still held in society today. Often a woman will be seen as the victim and the man as the perpetrator. The idea that the man could be the potential victim will sometimes be shunned as nonsense.
However the truth remains that there are many men across the UK who have been suffering in silence for too long, even now many men are too scared or afraid to speak up about the injustice they are incurring. Men Standing Up, a domestic abuse service in Bradford has acknowledged the need for a provision to help these men and show them that support is available.
The service, which began in September 2014, has only been running for a few months but they have already received close to 40 referrals of men seeking their help, Humayun Islam, the service manager says this number indicates “That there’s a massive need for this service.” The service has been funded for three years by the National Lottery Grant and Rubina Bukhari; Chief Executive of the service worked on securing the grant.
Ann Kendal, Manager, Equity Partnership said “We are very pleased to see this service up and running and to see it’s visible successes in such a short space of time; Bradford has waited for this service for far too long!”
Domestic abuse takes on many forms such as emotional, physical, financial, verbal, and sexual. The MSU service has focused on all these factors and worked with many organisations to ensure that when a man seeks their help he is given the full support and help he requires. Ean Monk, head of the service says “The reason that we looked for funding for this project was because we were getting more men coming through our other services such as the homeless one, where the main reason that they were homeless was because they were fleeing from domestic abuse situations. In a 12 month period we had 18 men staying in our other services that admitted to fleeing domestic abuse.”
Statistics have shown that one in six men will be victims of domestic abuse. And 40% of gay and bisexual men have experienced abuse from a family member or partner. Islam explains that statistically women are more likely to suffer from domestic abuse but the statistics for men is just what has been reported “It is in fact a lot higher.”He reiterates that before this service began “Where would these men have gone?” thus showing that this service has been extremely useful for suffering men.
When a woman faces domestic abuse it is mainly her partner who is the cause of it, however when it comes to a man he could be facing the abuse from various people within the family. Islam says “With men it’s not just the partner; within the Asian community it can be abuse from the whole family e.g. when a man gets married and comes from the Indian subcontinent to the UK, he is on his own and there may be financial abuse as he’s being forced to go to work and give his earnings to the partner and their family. There may also be emotional abuse, or situations where the brothers of the wife could get involved and physically abuse him.”
Just as women are often seen returning to their abusive partner, the same situation occurs with men. Islam says “It can be really hard for a man to walk away from the situation as he’s got that attachment to the partner and family.” Debt issues and children could force a man to stay in the situation he’s in or return to the abusive family even after he has obtained help.
MSU have had an equal mix of men seeking their service; these have included Asian, white, gay and males from different age groups. The youngest man to use their service has been a 21 year old and the eldest has been over 80. Monk says “As the service gets well known we’ll be getting more referrals coming in” and Islam says “It is important for people to understand that there is a service to help them.”
The service opened their helpline in December and this has made accessibility for users a lot easier. They provide housing and support to all men who are victims of domestic abuse by signposting them to the specialist services that they require.
The emotional support received from the service includes; someone to talk to in confidence who understands the issues, support to increase their confidence and make changes to their life, help to make them realise that they are not to blame for the situation and confidential face to face session at the offices.
They will also offer guidance and support on how to access housing and help, how to report incidents to the police, who to approach for legal help, local services and support groups, how to stay safe and other specialist services they can access.
Monk says that they are asking other services if as part of their assessment they are questioning whether a man is suffering domestic abuse as this question is not asked from men. Islam says “We are that voice for a man to not suffer in silence. We are dealing with things sensitively as we will take the referral, do an assessment, identify the support needs and then do a risk assessment.
D/Insp Pam Mills at West Yorkshire Police said “A service specifically aimed at men within the Bradford District has been gratefully received by Officers from the Domestic Abuse Unit who have already started to refer in cases.”
The community are beginning to understand that this is a serious issue which needs to be addressed and MSU have received a lot of positive response about the organsation. Islam says “At the mosque men have gone to the imam and shared their suffering of emotional and financial abuse and asked what they can do and the imam has struggled to help, so there is definitely a need for it.” He says the community need to speak about the issue, promote it wherever possible and hand out their leaflets in the community.
Islam stressed that “Men standing up is not just the solution, it is about working in partnership with different organisations such as; the mosques, hidden homeless services for confidence building, counselling services, family action for benefits issues, the police and probation, solicitors drug and alcohol services and housing services.
The helpline for the service is 0300 303 0167 and it is active Monday to Friday 10am-1 and 2-5pm. If men aren’t comfortable picking up phone they can email the service on firstname.lastname@example.org. Islam and Monk say that men usually call in the latter stages of the abuse but they want them to call at the earlier stages.
Going forward MSU are looking for volunteers to help staff the helpline, and they also want to develop crash-pad accommodation and emergency on the day accommodation.