Calls to a domestic abuse helpline for men has risen over lockdown – but the charity’s founder says much of this is down to fathers’ being denied access to their children.
And troublingly, reports of suicide due to abuse have also risen, according to ManKind Initiative chairman Mark Brooks.
The national charity supports male victims of domestic abuse. Mr Brooks spoke to the Watford Observer amid fears of rising cases of abuse.
He said he had been receiving different types of calls to the charity.
Mr Brooks said the increase of calls was not just related to abuse but also fathers dealing with parental alienation – a process through which a child becomes estranged from a process because of psychological manipulation of the other parent.
Mr Brooks said: “We have seen an increase in a different type of call.
“A lot of men are contacting us saying they’ve been denied contact with their children because the mother is using co-parenting agreements.
“Parental alienation is becoming an increasing problem for many fathers. It is more of an issue for men, but it does happen to women.
“When a relationship ends, the majority of women end up with the children – that’s the reality of it.”
Mr Brooks said he saw an increase in the number of women calling about a family member who had taken their own life due to enduring abuse.
He added: “We have also seen in lockdown an increase in the number of women calling us who have said that a male family member has taken their own life because he was suffering from domestic abuse.
“Before March it was only once a month. But for three months since the start of lockdown it was weekly we’d receive a call.”
Mr Brooks also discussed how domestic abuse should not be considered a gendered crime as it will reinforce the idea to male victims that they have no support.
He added: “We have always strongly disagreed with this statement – it’s a crime against individuals.
“To class it as a gendered crime in affect diminishes the acknowledgement and recognition that it happens to both male and LGBT+ victims.
“What we should always do is focus on the individual at risk. Whilst gender, sex and race are important factors it’s not more important than the person experiencing the abuse.
“People who class it as gendered do it to marginalise men and LGBT+ victims. Homelessness and suicide are not considered gendered, even though far more men commit suicide than women.”
Mr Brooks explained further that saying abuse is gendered will create a narrative which reinforces to male victims that there is no sense of support and that nobody recognises or cares about their situation.
He added: “I emphasise with LGBT+ because if you say domestic abuse is a gendered crime, how does it explain women who are victims of abuse in same sex relationships.
“If you say it’s gendered then no women can commit that type of crime.”
He believes that male victims of domestic abuse are not as recognised as women, due to gender norms, which are stereotypes or beliefs on how someone should behave due to their sex.
He added: “There is that belief that it only affects women in heterosexual relationships and therefore those stereotypes make it hard to recognise that there are male victims and it in turn makes it hard for them to feel comfortable to tell anyone.”
He continued and said that although he welcomes the Domestic Abuse Bill he says it is important to recognise that it applies to men in the same way.
He added: “It’s an issue when people say it’s a big victory for women and girls. Again it implies that narrative, the same law applies to every person equally.”
Hertfordshire male statistics
Statistics revealed in a Watford Observer freedom of information (FOI) request showed that since August 2015 there has been a steady increase in the number of male victims.
Mr Brooks said the figures gives a “real picture” of how many male victims of domestic abuse there are in Hertfordshire and that again it is not a gendered crime.
He added: “For many men, they think they are the only bloke in the world going through this. I am confident these figures will help them realise they are not and that there is support out there for them.
“They will also encourage friends, family, neighbours and work colleagues to recognise men are victims and encourage them to come forward.”
If you’re a victim of abuse and want to get in touch with the charity, call 01823 334244 or go to https://www.mankind.org.uk/