Belfast Telegraph

Calls for emergency refuge as more men suffer domestic abuse

By Anna Maguire

Calls are growing for a refuge to be established in Northern Ireland to help the growing number of men at risk of domestic abuse.

The demand comes as police reveal a sharp rise in men reporting crimes in the home.

The number of new male victims of domestic abuse was almost double that of women over the past year, according to PSNI figures revealed this week.

Domestic abuse crimes rose by more than 800 across Northern Ireland in the past year. Of these, there were an extra 433 male victims and an extra 256 female.

While the bulk of the attacks were perpetrated against women, the severity of domestic abuse directed at men is on the rise.

Between January and July of this year, 58 men were reported as being at a high risk of domestic abuse to the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) — which comprises the PSNI, statutory and voluntary bodies — with more victims coming forward from urban areas.

The figure is already higher than referrals during 2011 and 2010 — when 57 men were referred each year.

The issue of domestic abuse against men was recently highlighted in a Coronation Street plot.

Hapless Tyrone Dobbs, played by Alan Halsall, found himself in a violent relationship with his fiancee Kirsty Soames. Viewers were shocked to see Tyrone beaten by his pregnant partner.

Organisations which deal with victims of domestic abuse say the problem is not new.

Just under 400 men called a 24-hour helpline run by Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation (WAF) in 2010/11. Men now represent 1% of calls, according to Annie Campbell, WAF’s director.

She also pointed to the number of crimes recorded with a domestic abuse motivation. They involved 2,216 male victims during 2010/11 — which rose to 2,665 men the following year (2011/12).

At Men’s Advisory Project (MAP) — which caters solely for men experiencing domestic abuse — the number of males referred has varied from 300 to 350 in recent years. There is also a waiting list seeking counselling services.

But while recognition of the problem is growing, services for men are vastly under-resourced.

There is no refuge for males at high risk of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland. Men who cannot stay with family and friends invariably end up in a hostel — a common occurrence, according to police and the Men’s Advisory Project (MAP).

James Knox, MAP’s chairman, said: “There are difficulties around bringing your children with you to stay in a hostel. So there’s a real need for a refuge.”

Inspector Pauline Mooney from the PSNI’s Public Protection Unit, which deals with domestic abuse, said: “It (the need for a hostel) is something we are aware of.”

She said the brunt of domestic abuse experienced by men is psychological, implemented by a current or former partner or wife.

Agencies also deal with domestic abuse within the family. Of 10 men referred to MARAC in June, five experienced domestic abuse from a father, son or brother.

All agencies agree that the rise in reporting is positive — brought about by a change in attitudes rather than a spike in violence.

If you ’ve been affected by domestic abuse, or would like to speak to someone about domestic abuse, call the Women’s Aid Federation’s 24-hour helpline on 0800 9171414, or the Men’s Advisory Project can be contactedon (028) 90241929 or email info@mapni.co.uk

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