Domestic violence against men at its highest level in Northern Ireland since police began recording statistics
Domestic violence against men in Northern Ireland has increased by more than 40% in nine years – and that's just reported incidents.
PSNI figures reveal that the figure reached a record of 2,525 male victims in 2012/13, up 259 cases on the year before.
Police started recording the statistics nine years ago.
They also show that in one year alone (2011/12) the level of reported incidents jumped 25% (from 1,833 to 2,266).
But this may be only a fraction of the true figure due to the reluctance of many men to come forward because of embarrassment and shame – a scenario the police and support groups hope will change.
Northern Ireland's first crisis centre for male abuse victims, Men's Aid NI, was opened earlier this year.
Earlier this month the Belfast Telegraph revealed that domestic violence – Northern Ireland's so-called hidden crime – has reached epidemic proportions with 27,190 recorded incidents last year alone, the highest level ever.
Police deal with 60 domestic-related call-outs each day.
Since records began in 2004/5, there has been a 41% increase in domestic violence offences against men aged 18 and over.
To put that figure in context, a 9% increase in incidents of abuse of women was recorded over the same period, according to the PSNI's annual bulletin on domestic abuse.
Now male victims of what largely remains a taboo subject are urged to report abuse.
Men's Aid NI chairman Peter Morris (right) said it was time to dispel the perception that in cases of domestic violence that men are the aggressors and women the victims.
"Domestic violence against men can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse," he said. "It can happen in heterosexual and same-sex relationships and, as with domestic abuse against females, can go largely unreported.
"We know there are many men in Northern Ireland who are living in fear of their partners and we want them to know there is help out there."
Of the 10,204 domestic abuse crimes concerning someone with a known age and gender last year, police said 25% (2,525) were men over 18 – up 259 cases in just 12 months.
Some 77% of the cases related to victims of violence against the person, with more than half violence with injury.
Mr Morris said that it wasn't uncommon for male recipients of violence in the home to fly under the radar in today's society.
He said: "Shame is a major factor for male victims. It's why a lot of them don't come forward and don't want to talk about it.
"Men are also reluctant to seek help because they think to do so may imply they are weak and not masculine. On top of all that, there's a lack of support agencies for men and difficult for these organisations to get funding."
Statistics from the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland revealed that the 27,190 incidents of domestic violence across the province last year dwarfed those of a sectarian (2,261) and racist (1,220) nature. Deaths from domestic crime in Northern Ireland are now averaging five per year.
A police spokesman said: "The PSNI understands that victims of domestic violence, both male and female, may have suffered abuse many times before calling the police. While more victims are making the brave decision to tell police what has happened to them, there are still many who are suffering in silence. We'd encourage anyone facing domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence to report it to us. For more, visit the PSNI website Domestic Abuse section at www.psni.police.uk."
'She clawed her nails across my face and tore it apart ...I've still got the scars'
Brian* (38), from Belfast, was a victim of physical domestic violence for almost a decade.The former security worker left his job four years ago to take care of his children. He never brought any charges against his abuser, who is now his ex-wife. (*Not his real name)
"I left our family home four years ago in January. I couldn't take any more. I found myself walking towards a river, fully intending to throw myself into it.
"That night, the only thing that stopped me doing it was my children. The next day I called my doctor and I was referred for counselling, which helped me turn a corner.
"It wasn't always like that. When we moved in together things were great at first, but then I began to notice something wasn't quite right.
"Her whole behaviour and attitude started to change and she developed a temper. Then she started going out and not coming home for days on end.
"She had two children from a previous relationship and we had four kids together, but her behaviour just got worse.
"When we were sitting at home on a Saturday evening she'd become very violent after a few drinks.
She'd turn the music up full blast. I'd go to bed because I'd have work the following day and she'd start shouting up the stairs, calling me names. She told me I was skinny, dire looking and ugly.
"If I went downstairs to tell her to turn down the music she would react violently.
"She used to dive for my face with her nails. And then she would usually call the police to have me put out of the family home.
"Often I walked the streets, and I spent many nights sleeping in a pile of bags behind shops.
"One night she came down the stairs and smashed a glass all over the floor.
"Then she flew for my face; that was what she always went for.
"She clawed her nails down my face and tore it apart – and I had to go to work in that state. But no-one questioned me.
No one paid any interest to me. I've still got the scars. You can see them in the summer when my face is slightly tanned, because they always stay white.
"My clean, ironed shirt was hanging on the door another night I was due to go to work, but she said I wasn't going anywhere and she stamped all over it.
"That was a regular thing.
"People have told me I should have left her but it's hard when there are kids involved.
"A relationship like that affects all your relationships because you don't know who you can trust."
'She called me all sorts of names to bring me down'
William* (42), from Belfast, suffered horrific sexual abuse as a child when he was at boarding school. Now single, he claims he was psychologically abused by his former wife for five years. He didn't bring any charges against her (*not his real name)
"It's hard to explain the scenario I was going through because there wasn't any violence as such. It was more psychological and emotional.
"We didn't argue regularly, but when we did it was a fully-blown bust-up. It was never physical; just name calling. She would call me a f****** b****** or f****** sh*** and the likes. She said things to bring me down; things that were meant to really hurt. She used to tell me I was useless and that I needed help. And sometimes that was in front of the kids.
"She saw all our problems as being my fault. After the sexual abuse during my childhood, I became a very inward-looking person. Then, throughout our marriage, I battled with low self-esteem, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. My personal problems got worse after our first child was born because I was very protective towards him. It began to drive a wedge through the relationship.
"When intimacy broke down, I felt my wife's reluctance to be together was a punishment. It was as if she was controlling me by making it clear that she didn't want to be intimate with me.
"There were also money issues. I used to do the weekly shopping because my wife said I didn't give her enough money to buy groceries. But then she used to go out and buy things that were unnecessary because she said the money she earned was her own.
"For a long time I blamed myself and I didn't realise what was happening. Had I known better, I would have left long before her."