THOUSANDS of Lancashire men are becoming victims of violence and abuse at their partners’ hands, figures show today. The number of referrals to Lancashire Police this year is estimated to be more than 5,200 men, compared with 4,817 last year.
It comes as the county launches its first safe house for men – but it will only have two places.
Mark Brooks, chairman of the ManKind Initiative which supports men suffering abuse, said: “The number of men coming forward to the police sends a clear reminder to those supporting victims of domestic abuse across Lancashire that they must provide the same support and look for the same signs as they quite rightly do for female victims.”
Altogether around a fifth of Lancashire’s domestic violence victims are men - and campaigners say they are desperately in need of safe places to go.
There are only 19 organisations nationally offering refuge or safe house provision for men - a total of 78 spaces.
Two new beds will be available in Lancashire as charity Safenet launches a safe house in response to the increased number of men coming forward for help.
A manager said: “The men can stay as long as they need to. If the need increases we will look at the service provision.”
The number of referrals to Lancashire police is estimated to be 5,200, up from 4,817 last year but down on 6,003 in 2014. The plight of these men was highlighted during an event held at Chorley FC, attended by charity the Mankind Initiative.
Solicitor Dave Edwards, who was stabbed to death by his abusive wife Sharon last year, was a big fan of the football club and they have campaigned to raise awareness in memory of him.
Mark Brooks, ManKind chairman, today praised the club for leading the way in getting information to men.
He added: “The charity does not believe that services or funding should be taken from female victims of domestic abuse and given to male victims - there needs to be more funding for all. Lancashire has little support at the present time. While it is recognised that there is not a need for the same number of safe house provision for men, there is still a proportionate need. The charity conducts a weekly ring round to every refuge and safe house provider and the majority do not have capacity.
“Some men who flee domestic abuse become homeless because they have nowhere else to go. Some cannot afford alternative accommodation because they are still contributing to their former property’s rent.
“Sadly many men still feel shame at being a victim. It is quite telling that while Home Office figures from an anonymous survey, where one in three men said they were victims of domestic abuse, are vastly at odds with men in Lancashire coming forward to report it - we believe this is due to under-reporting.”
The referral figures were revealed in a Freedom of Information request to police by Ian McNicholl, a survivor and ambassador, who wanted to show other men they are not alone.
He said: “We want to highlight to domestic abuse professionals in Lancashire just how many men are suffering, in order to ensure their services are gender inclusive. I never came forward to the police when I was experiencing abuse and it nearly cost me my life.”
Sources have told the Post that the county council is expected to commission services for male victims in its next domestic abuse strategy. At present, men can access advice from existing charities, but it is difficult to find accommodation.
A spokesman for Safenet, which has just launched its first safehouse for men in Lancashire, said: “We have seen an increase in men approaching us for help.
“The safehouse is a new project and we have two spaces. But if we find there is demand, we will try to meet that demand.”
In 2014 Fylde Coast Women’s Aid employed its first specialist male independent domestic violence advisor to support men dealing with domestic abuse in Blackpool and surrounding areas after getting funding from the Big Lottery Fund to extend our remit and offer a support service to male victims.
Tina Hibbard, service manager said: “In the second year of the project, the number of self-referrals doubled from 13 per cent to 26 percent with 47 men receiving one to one support.
“In June 2015, we supported our first victim from a black and ethnic minority background and our first gay victim the following month.”
Det Supt Andrew Webster, head of the Public Protection Unit at Lancashire Police, said: “Anybody can be affected by domestic abuse and anyone can be an abuser. It doesn’t just happen to women – men can be, and are, victims too, whether their partner is a man or woman. Abuse is a control issue – abusers believe they have the right to manipulate, control and humiliate another person – and this belief is not only held by some men but also by some women.
“We are very fortunate in Lancashire that the domestic abuse services commissioned by Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackpool Council, along with numerous other ‘self-funded’ domestic abuse services around the county, offer support services to male victims of domestic abuse.
“It is accepted that men can be reluctant to say they are victims and often worry they won’t be believed. What I would say to these men is that there is more help out there than they might think. The key is to talk to someone. The start of this can be reporting any issues to the police.
“You may feel as though you are the only one to have experienced this sort of abuse, but this is not the case. Please don’t suffer in silence – let someone know.”
Contact Safenet at http://safenet.org.uk/ or ManKind via http://new.mankind.org.uk/ and 01823 334244.