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Male Victims: You aren’t alone.

Abuse of men and male victims of domestic abuse are much more common than people think. Here are some stories of men who have been in similar situations to you.

The beginning of the relationship

During the start of the relationship with Jenny, she portrayed herself as a loving mother and girlfriend. She had made huge statements about abuse from the father of her children and I formed a strong bond with them very quickly.

Jenny starts to manipulate James

Jenny was very public about how amazing I was with her kids and made a huge deal about me being a great stepfather. What I didn’t realise at the time was she was completely love-bombing me; she had also already started chipping away and undermining me. However, due to my naivety and trying to see the good in someone, I went along with it.

When she was pregnant with my son there were several isolated incidents of abuse. I naively put this down to the pregnancy and to the horrific experiences from her past relationship she had told me about. In hindsight, Jenny undermined me, put me down, used gaslighting and emotionally and financially abused me. She used these small isolated incidents with love-bombing, so at first the abuse was bearable, as I was naive to this type of behaviour.

Gaslighting

Jenny started changing the way I was thinking. When her behaviour was wrong, she would convince me that it was me who needed to change. She used one of her friends to help this process too. I started to question myself about decisions that used to be clear cut. Again, this process included cycles of love-bombing, so the highs were high, but the lows were very low.

Her behaviour was subtle to start with. In the abuse cycle, however, she would give me the silent treatment at home, but would then harass me at work, to disrupt my day.

Before Thomas was born, I bought a house in my own name (she told me that she had bad credit, so couldn’t go on the mortgage). The abuse dramatically increased in the weeks after Thomas was born. Jenny tried to isolate me from my friends and family, and the gaslighting hit a new level. She made accusations about me and spent hardly any time with her own children.

The abuse was affecting the kids now, as she was swearing and shouting at me in front of them. I never reacted but I used to talk to her and explain that this was not right.

James gets help

As time went on, I spoke to my friends and family about the abuse. By this point Jenny was harassing me when I was at work and the emotional and financial abuse was at an all-time high.

I decided to go to a counsellor to discuss the relationship; Jenny chose not to go. I tried to downplay it to the counsellor, stating that it could just be post-natal depression. The counsellor said that this was far from the case, and that Jenny was an abusive woman. She said that I had to set a date and give Jenny an ultimatum; if things didn’t change by then, I had to end the relationship, as the kids were going to be affected by witnessing the abuse.

I also got in touch with the Men’s Advice Line, they advised me that I must end the relationship too. Once Jenny realised I had been speaking to a friend or my family, she tried to isolate me from them, making them out to be the ones in the wrong.

Ending the relationship

Things didn’t change by the date I set, so I finished the relationship. I tried to sort the childcare and house arrangements with Jenny, but nothing was agreed. I found out that due to county court debts, she could not gain a mortgage and she refused to accept any payouts to move out of my house.

She also offered me minimal contact with Thomas, but I could not accept this as she was not good with the kids at all. With all this in mind, I contacted my solicitor to get the ball rolling with the childcare and house situation.

Abuse escalating

Jenny and I lived together but separately for a few weeks. She made my life hell; I would not know when I would see Thomas, as sometimes they were not there when I came home from work. She tried to manipulate friends and family again.

After a few weeks she got the father of her older children to threaten me; clearly the story she told me at the start of the relationship was not all true. When I tried to get hold of the police on a non-emergency number, she rang the police herself and told them that my parents were about to abduct Thomas. It was clear for the Police that this allegation was unsubstantiated, so nothing happened to my parents. However, it became clear to me that it was unsafe being in the same house, as Jenny was a dangerous woman.

The aftermath of abuse

I spent the next six months living in hotels, and it took ten months in total to get my own house back. Within weeks, a new guy was regularly staying in my house and introduced to Thomas. Different men have come and gone since, and there have been further incidents with the police and social services involving them and her.

Jenny continued controlling when I could see Thomas and subjecting me to regular abuse. When she found out that I was taking her to court for a child arrangements order, she got signed off from work for six months and claimed several mental health conditions. In court, she made up allegations about me, but before all the evidence coming out and the final hearing, she accepted joint custody.

The abuse continued towards me, but I was persistent with the police and they helped me by speaking to her. I logged with the police and social services every concern I had. The entire process changed me as a person and mentally affected me in terms of confidence, anxiety and questioning my own beliefs and morals.

James’s advice to other male victims

There is still a long way to go to achieve what I want, however gaining the court orders and help from police has been huge. Jenny doesn’t always stick to the court order, but if I didn’t have it, my life would be unbearable. I would highly recommend anyone with kids coming out of a relationship to get the arrangements in writing. This could be done for a few hundred pounds by a solicitor.

Keep evidence of the abuse you experience and don’t be afraid to log it with police and social services. The kids are the most important consideration in all of this; don’t stay with someone abusive for the sake of the kids. Don’t let them see you frustrated or upset but fight for them legally, in the right way.

Talk to someone close to you about anything in your relationship that feels wrong. Being open and honest to people you trust can help you recognise the signs of abusive behaviour. Once I was isolated, broke, undermined and threatened, the reality really hit home. If I had known what the early signs of this behaviour were beforehand, it would have helped enormously.

When Darren called the Men’s Advice Line, the Advisor knew straight away that he was very upset. Darren said that his childhood friend had told him that he was experiencing domestic abuse, but he wasn’t sure. He said his girlfriend had never hit him, but that friends were worried that he was becoming increasingly isolated. He said she was his ‘first love’ and that he would do anything to make her happy. He would accept not seeing his friends as much as he used to, particularly the female friends that his girlfriend would go into a jealous rage about. He spoke of taking out credit cards to cover her debts as proof of his love for her.

Darren appreciated that the Advisor listened to him without judgement and believed him. He said that it helped to say out loud some of the things that were happening with his girlfriend, as he had no other relationship to compare with and his parents had divorced when he was young. He acknowledged how insecure he felt when she threatened to go off with other men and how hard he tried to please her. He was pleased to hear that he could call the Men’s Advice Line again.

Mark called the Men’s Advice Line the moment he was released from police custody. His wife, Lisa, had made a false allegation. As there was no evidence, the police told Mark that no further action would be taken. When they first got together, things were great. They would spend a lot of time with each other and they eventually moved in together after 9 months.

Abuse begins
During that time Mark noticed that Lisa would find ways to stop him spending time with his family or friends whom he was close to. Mark thought this was a little strange.

Abuse escalates
Three months after moving in together their son Billy was born. Lisa’s was finding it very difficult to cope while Mark was at work. She demanded that he was only to go to work and come home. Lisa also began checking up on him at work and started to become aggressive when he did not respond to her immediately. She would also criticise Mark for not helping her enough and make him feel bad for this. She started to call him a useless father and that he did not care for her or their son. Mark had always tried to calm the situation, but Lisa would make things worse and blame him for how she behaved.

Mark is conflicted
Mark’s family and friends started to notice that he was withdrawn. When Mark’s brother spoke to him about his concerns, Mark would deny this and say things like “Lisa is really stressed” or “I need to help her out a bit more”. Mark knew deep inside that things were not ok, but he could not bear to be without Billy and would not want him to grow up without a father.

Mark gets arrested
On the night he got arrested Mark had planned to go to a friend’s birthday. Lisa was trying to make Mark feel guilty for going. Mark decided that he would still go out. Lisa then lunged towards Mark and hit him on the back of his head and started to attack him more. Mark was trying to get away from Lisa and he held her by the wrists. Lisa blamed him for her actions and said that if he told anyone she would leave and Mark would never see Billy again. Mark went to his parent’s house. Fearing that Mark may end up reporting Lisa, she contacted the police and informed them that Mark had assaulted her. Mark was arrested at his parent’s home then taken into custody.

The Police see the truth
The Police Officers noticed that Mark had significant bruises and realised that he was the one assaulted in this incident. They asked him if he would like to press charges against Lisa, but he declined as he did not want her to get into any trouble. Mark was released with no further action. The police gave Mark the contact details for the Men’s Advice Line so he could get some support.

Mark gets help
The Advisor didn’t try to put pressure on Mark to leave Lisa against his wishes. Instead, explained to Mark that he had options around child contact and it wasn’t up to Lisa to never see Billy again. The Advisor also gave Mark advice on how to remove himself from a situation such as the recent argument. Mark was also given the details of a local domestic abuse service for further support should he need it.

Mark was grateful that there was support for him. He was pleased that someone took the time to listen to him and believed him.

Joe called the Men’s Advice Line after a friend advised him to. He was nervous about the call and didn’t know what to expect. Joe explained to the Advisor that he and his wife, Valerie, had had a very happy marriage for 50 years; they had raised children and had grandchildren whom they loved dearly. Over the last year, Valerie started drinking a glass of wine before bed. Joe noticed that this rapidly began to increase and within 5 months Valerie was drinking a bottle a day. Joe felt that this was Valerie’s way of dealing with her recent decrease in mobility, which meant that she could not walk for long and needed support from Joe with getting around.

Valerie began spending more and more time in the house. She would shout at Joe, ordering him to help her complete tasks. If she felt he was taking too long, she would often strike him when he came back into the room; sometimes this would be with her hand, other times with any object that was within her reach.

Joe was sad for Valerie and felt that as her husband it was his duty to support her. He was also feeling useless as Valerie would often tell him that he was worthless. Every time he told her how she made him feel, she would tell him that he was weak and should grow a backbone. Joe suggested that they could get some help, as the physical demands were putting a strain on him. Valerie would then cry and tell Joe that he didn’t love her. She also threatened to kill herself if he got outside help. Valerie started to push away other family members and threatened Joe about telling anyone about the abuse or her drinking.

Joe was conflicted about calling the Men’s Advice Line at first, but he gradually began to feel more at ease. Above all, he was relieved that he wasn’t being judged or made to feel guilty. The Advisor gave him contact details for a local domestic abuse service that worked with men. Joe was happy that he wasn’t expected to make a decision on the call and had time to think about what he wanted to do. He eventually found a support service for Valerie and he moved out of the home. He was given support from his local service and from friends and family.

Rob called the Men’s Advice Line three times. The first time was the day after a serious assault where the police were called by a neighbour. Although Rob was bleeding and bruised and his partner had no signs of violence on him, the officers advised Rob and his abusive boyfriend to sort things out and stop fighting. This caused further insecurity in Rob. Rob’s boyfriend had left that morning telling him that there was going to be trouble when he came back from work in the evening. He was so jealous that he would check Rob’s phone and not allow him to work or to talk to anyone or go out, unless he was with him. He would not give Rob access to any money. If he felt that Rob was trying to talk to his friends or relatives or get money through them, he would beat him up and blame him for it. This caused Rob to become isolated and with very low self-esteem.

The constant emotional and physical abuse and the control that his partner had over him had impacted in Rob’s mental health. When they met, his boyfriend was extremely caring and generous, but things quickly deteriorated. They had been together for only 2 years. During that time Rob had become completely dependent of him, almost unable to do anything without his permission apart from being at home reading or watching TV. Rob was unable to see a way out of his situation and feeling that he was to blame for the abuse he was suffering, like he somehow deserved it. Rob had spoken about his concerns to a friend who recommended the Men’s Advice Line.

Through talking to one of the Men’s Advice Line Advisors, Rob realised that he could access some money, gather his belongings, contact a friend who would put him up, and leave his boyfriend before he returned that evening.

Rob called the Men’s Advice Line again after leaving the relationship. He was struggling emotionally and financially but was determined to not go back. Although Rob was highly scared of a possible retaliation, he still refused to report matters to the police. In this call, he was reassured that his fears and insecurity were normal, that he was in the process of recovering from the abuse, and that there was support for him to solve the practical difficulties, until he could stand on his own feet again.

Rob called again a few weeks later. He was feeling stronger and more confident, but he was still struggling with feelings of guilt about what happened to him. Nevertheless, he was more settled in an independent life after having found a regular income. On this last call Rob was able to explore how the feelings of guilt were caused by the abuse. The Advisor explained to him that the perpetrator will typically avoid taking any responsibility for the harm inflicted on the victim, who will be blamed for their own suffering. Rob started making the connection between his own situation and what the Advisor explained to him. He was glad that, for the first time after many years, he started feeling that he wasn’t to blame.

Jason called the Men’s Advice Line when he fled abuse with his young son, two years ago. He has ADHD and had suffered years of emotional, financial, and physical abuse from his partner and son’s mother. She was using drugs and was pressuring Jason for money to pay for them. Dealers would often come round asking for money she owed, which he gave to them. He lived with constant threats from his partner and from her associates.

Jason was placed in housing that was too close to his ex-partner; she found him, and the abuse started again. Jason called the Men’s Advice Line again for support. He was distressed and anxious and his thoughts were racing. He had had to communicate with many services and institutions over the previous two years. He had found this overwhelming at times but kept going for the sake of his son. Jason was grateful that the helpline Advisor took the time to listen to his complex situation and understood that his ADHD made communication difficult. Jason appreciated that he was heard by someone who understood this as well as the domestic abuse.

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