Tuesday, 9 December 2014

It's Good to Talk

When I first began writing about Men’s Issues I adopted a non de plume, Si Victim.   This pseudonym was short for Silent Victim which reflected the way I had felt about enduring over 17 years of Domestic Abuse.

As a battered husband, I had nowhere to turn nor was there anyone I could speak to because wives just weren’t capable of attacking their partners.  It was unheard of!  I knew of no other man in my position.  Remaining silent effected every area of my life and everyday I remain on this earth, so to will the consequences of those years.

Having finally left the situation, I began rebuilding my life.  I discover that what had happened to me wasn’t as rare as I’d thought.  In fact, it was far more common than society would have you believe.  According to the latest figures from the British Crime Survey, out of every five Domestic Violence victims, two will be men.  Even more startling is the revelation that this is not a new development; Academic research over the last 40 years has consistently produced similar figures.

And yet, government funding for Domestic Abuse programmes has ignored the data choosing instead to bankroll the Feminist myth that all domestic violence assaults are due to male privilege. 

At least now, there is an acceptance among most Domestic Abuse service providers that men are affected by DV and they may now offer a ‘token’ service to Male Victims. Take, for example, this recent experience of mine.  I telephoned a local, well-advertised Domestic Abuse helpline.  On their publicity, there was no statement identifying that it was a gender-specific service.  Admittedly the cartoon of a cowering woman that accompanied the phone number would infer that it was. 

The first time I called, I went to voicemail and was asked to leave my name and number and an advisor would call me back.  I found this quite insensitive as most callers would be fearful about their personal safety and wouldn’t want to leave such details when their abuser could potentially intercept the call.  Minutes later, I tried again.  This time my call was answered.  I gave a brief summary of my story to be greeted with, “ We don’t deal with men, we only talk with women that are being abused by men.  I will have to refer you elsewhere.”

After holding on the line, I was given two telephone numbers: The Mankind Initiative 01823 334244 and the Men’s Advice Line  0808 802 4040.

No doubt about it had I been female, all manner of support would have been offered to me.

In November 2010, the Home Office published the strategy paper, ‘Call to end violence against women and girls’, setting out its approach for tackling domestic violence over the Parliament. This included £28 million funding for domestic violence support services.

That’s right £ 28,000,000 funding and all men really have are telephone helplines.

I have been speaking to many people (Councillors, Police & Crime Commissioners, Police Officers, Domestic Violence Prevention Officers etc) challenging this.  I keep hearing the same things:

“We know that men are victims too but…”

“Very few men engage with us.”

“You’re one of the few male victims prepared to talk about your experience.”

Having spoken at length on the lack of provision for services to men, I have come to the conclusion service aren’t provided for men because men don’t  speak out about their issues or seek the support/help they require/need.  This applies not just to Domestic Violence, but right across the spectrum of all men’s issues (such as health, education). 

On the whole, men don’t talk about their problems.  However, by remaining silent and not identifying our suffering, those areas which require service provision go unchallenged and are not addressed properly.

How can we change things?  A starting point is changing perception as to what it means to be a man.  When I look back at my childhood, we heard things like “Boys don’t cry” “Be a big, brave boy for mummy,” “Be a Man”  Such statements ‘encouraged’ us that we had to be tough, we couldn’t show any emotion because that was a sign of weakness, that we dealt with our own problems. 

We take these lessons into adulthood.  Men get mocked for suffering from Man Flu and yet, are very reluctant to visit their Doctors.  A visit to the GP’s surgery for a man is probably out of necessity.  Often, when asked by the GP why they have asked for an appointment, a man will reply, “It’s probably nothing but…” or “ I don’t mean to waste your time but my wife said I should get this checked out.” and then they discover that had they sought an earlier diagnosis, they would have been able for a better chance of recovery.

It’s good to talk and the sooner men learn to talk about the issues that affect us, the better services to men will become. Our inability to address our anxieties results in funding and services going elsewhere.