Two male survivors of domestic abuse, one of whom is gay, have been talking in detail about their traumatic experiences to encourage other men suffering in silence to come forward and report it.
The men, who have asked to remain anonymous, have spoken out to try and raise awareness of March being national domestic abuse survivors’ month.
They both suffered abuse at the hands of their former partners before coming forward to report it.
One of the men said he had never imagined a woman could be capable of abusing a man until he met the woman who would go on to abuse him during a night out.
He said: “I always thought that domestic abuse was something that happened to women by aggressive men – but it isn’t – men can be victims too. I realised this following a recent relationship with a woman I met on a night out.
“It sounds a cliché but Susannah (Name has been changed) really caught my eye across a bar on a night out. She was really attractive and appeared kind and a good laugh. We got chatting and exchanged numbers.
I felt embarrassed, ashamed and initially I thought I was wasting their time – domestic abuse was something that happened to women – right? Why could I not stand up for myself? But I was wrong, I have come to realise it can happen to anyone, of any sexual orientation, ethnic background, age or belief.Anonymous male domestic abuse victim
“We hit it off straight away. After a few dates we started seeing each other more regularly and it started to pick up pace and get a bit more serious. I really liked her and all my mates commented on how we were happy and were pleased I had finally met someone nice.
“I work shifts so sometimes I was not always available to meet her for a weekend ‘date’ but would always arrange to do something else with her. One night I was due to meet her but I got delayed as there had been a traffic accident, by the time I turned up to her house and looked at my phone she had sent me several messages accusing me of being with other girls, of cheating and how I was not worthy of her. I left, shocked at her outburst and put it down to a bad day.
“Little did I know, at the time this was the start of a catalogue of events that gradually got worse. We made up and carried on seeing each other – but with hindsight she had begun to chip away at me. It was almost like the initial rant and row was her testing the water to see if I would go back and how far she could push me.
“When we would meet – she would criticise the restaurant or comment on how unattractive other diners were – or even make out some man fancied her and how lucky I was to have her.
“She then started saying I should make more of an effort – I was too casual to date a woman like her – I was initially a bit hurt - but the way she did it was so subtle I told myself to get a grip.
“Over the next few weeks I had enough and decided to call it a day. That is when I saw her true colours. She spread rumours about me on social media sites and sent nasty texts to me – I ignored it and changed my number. She then started to send me gifts in the post and sometimes would leave them outside. It unnerved me but I thought it would go away. It didn’t.
“It was when she was waiting outside my house one night – I knew this had to stop and called the police.
“Susannah was arrested and was given a restraining order banning her from contacting me, my family or friends and from coming within a certain radius of my house.
“I just want to let people know that domestic abuse does not just happen to women. It also happens to men, and it is not just about violence – it is controlling behaviour and mind games. Susannah was a very troubled woman – who if I had not taken action could have ruined my life and destroyed my confidence completely. The police were brilliant. If this is happening to you – speak up – there are people who will help you.”
A second survivor, a gay man, also shared his experience after he was abused by his partner without initially realising what was happening.
He said: “Initially he was so caring and although I thought he was a bit full on – I was flattered, although looking back something was not sitting right.
“Soon after it became apparent – he would try and track me using social media apps – even though I would be doing something totally innocent – he would ask so many questions, then the accusations came.
“But he would turn on the charm and I would go back, telling myself it would be OK – he was just having a bad day – he didn’t mean it – after all – they could also be so kind.
“Years of accusations, blazing rows and derogatory comments took their toll. I became a shell of a person – compared to the outgoing positive person I used to be.
“I decided to change and I left – but that was when it got worse. My ex-partner was waiting for me after work one night and assaulted me – it was then I decided moving out had not been enough and I needed to call the police.
“I felt embarrassed, ashamed and initially I thought I was wasting their time – domestic abuse was something that happened to women – right? Why could I not stand up for myself? But I was wrong, I have come to realise it can happen to anyone, of any sexual orientation, ethnic background, age or belief.
“The police were brilliant and supported me through the process – and secured a restraining order against my ex.
“My message is clear – if you are suffering from domestic abuse – speak out. There is no shame in admitting you are a victim - it really can happen to anyone.”
Detective Chief Inspector Clare Smith, from the Harm Reduction Unit at Herts Constabulary, said domestic abuse can happen to anyone.
He said: “It isn’t just about physical abuse either – it can take many forms including coercive and manipulative behaviour, or through controlling finances. Our message is clear – there is help available to you, if you are suffering please call us on 101 or visit www.hertssunflower.org.”
You can also call Herts Sunflower centre on: 08 088 088 088 which is open 10am – 10pm Monday to Friday.
Sarah Taylor, Programme Manager for Domestic Abuse in Hertfordshire, said: “Please don’t suffer in silence. Help is available. We have recently just re-launched our Herts Sunflower website, please come forward, there is so much help available.”