Now male victims of domestic violence can feel safe as houses

A lifeline has been handed to men suffering in silence as new service is launched. STEF HALL reports from the opening of a new refuge.
Pictured at the launch of Lancashires first safe house for male victims of domestic abuse in Burnley are, from left to right, Mark Brooks, Ian McNicholl, Karen Ainsworth (chair of SafeNet Board), Anthony Duerden (chief executive of The Calico Group)Pictured at the launch of Lancashires first safe house for male victims of domestic abuse in Burnley are, from left to right, Mark Brooks, Ian McNicholl, Karen Ainsworth (chair of SafeNet Board), Anthony Duerden (chief executive of The Calico Group)
Pictured at the launch of Lancashires first safe house for male victims of domestic abuse in Burnley are, from left to right, Mark Brooks, Ian McNicholl, Karen Ainsworth (chair of SafeNet Board), Anthony Duerden (chief executive of The Calico Group)

A lifeline has been given to male victims of domestic abuse as the county’s first refuge places for men are officially launched.

The safe house, which is open to men from all over Lancashire, has been full since it was first made available six months ago as a pilot scheme.

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Charities say it highlights the urgent need for a network of safe houses across the county for men who want to flee their abusive partners.

The official launch took place at Calico Housing’s Centenary Court office in Burnley.

Calico Homes and domestic violence charity SafeNet have provided the safehouse places in east Lancashire, alongside a specialist male victim support service. Three men are currently being supported but the team reports there is even more demand. Around a fifth of domestic violence victims in the county are believed to be men.

Mark Brooks, chairman of the ManKind Initiative, which supports male victims of abuse, gave a speech at the opening.

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Today he said: “The partnership between Calico Homes and Safenet is groundbreaking as there is no other safe house for male victims of domestic abuse anywhere near. Men fleeing from domestic abuse need to escape to somewhere safe and have the chance to rebuild their life.

“We want to see a network of safe houses like this across the whole of Lancashire – the fact that this safe house has been full since it opened, shows there is a clear need.”

The Lancashire opening was attended by businessman Ian McNicholl, 49, who hit the headlines nationally when his 5ft 1in ex partner, Michelle Williamson, was jailed for seven years for causing him grievous boily harm. He suffered two years of abuse, including having bleach sprayed in his eyes, fractures to his skull, cheekbones, and nose, three cracked ribs, and horrific burns on his arm from an iron.

She also lit cigarettes and pushed them up his nose, poured two kettles of boiling water over him - and even attacked him with a vacuum cleaner, splitting his cheek,

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Ian was beaten with a metal bar and his body smashed in several places with a claw hammer before an anonymous phone call to police led to her arrest.

Abuse service announces closure

News of the county refuge for men coincides with an announcement the Safer Preston Domestic Abuse Service will close.

Bosses at the charity, which offers support to men, women and children, say the decision has been made as the charity has no funding to continue delivering core services.

‘I would have sought help if I had known it was available’

Former barman Martyn Brown, from Blackpool, suffered horrific knife injuries when his fiancee, whom he had known since school, began to inflict domestic violence upon him.

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The pair had met at St Aidan’s school in Preesall, and after being reunited by a mutual friend years later, they moved in together and decided to set a wedding date at Blackpool’s Park View Hotel.

But his dreams of matrimonial happiness quickly turned into a nightmare.

The abuse culminated in a violent ordeal in which evil Harriet Sharp knifed him repeatedly, leaving him bleeding and terrified at their Cleveleys flat. She then feigned stomch pains and called an ambulance – for herself – and ordered him to keep quiet.

Suspicious paramedics realised the dad-of-two was badly injured and took him to their ambulance. He had suffered a punctured lung.

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They had been together for five months before he moved into her one bedroomed flat on Beach Road in Cleveleys - where her mother Jane was also staying.

During their relationship Martyn was stabbed, bitten, scratched, sliced, slapped and kicked.

Sharp, 25, of Beach Road, Cleveleys, was given an 11 year jail sentence with a four year extended licence after a judge found her to be a “very dangerous woman”.

As well as coping with his physical injuries, ongoing pain and shocking scarring, Martyn is suffering mental health issues. He tried twice to take his own life in the devastating aftermath of the attacks, and is currently being treated at The Harbour hospital in Blackpool having suffered hallucinations, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety attacks and suicidal feelings.

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Speaking a few days before the safehouse was launched, he said: “If I had known there was support available for men who are victims of abuse at the time, I would have sought it. But I was too scared to tell anyone. If someone in my situation is reading this I hope they get out, because it will get worse.”

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Solicitor stabbed to death by his new bride

The tragic murder of popular Lancashire solicitor Dave Edwards at the hands of his violent wife shocked the nation.

At the time of his death no safe houses for men were available.

Dave, 51, was stabbed to death at his home in Parkers Wood Close, Chorley, by his new bride Sharon, then 42, who is currently serving life after she was convicted of his murder.

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The talented law worker died possibly up to four hours after he was stabbed in the heart with a kitchen knife, following a turbulent history of injuries and abuse witnessed by his court colleagues, friends and family, who gave a damning dossier to jurors.

His new bride denied inflicting the catalogue of brutal injuries on her husband.

She instead claimed he “walked onto” a kitchen knife after she took it from him.

In a “fake hysteria” she even denied he was dead as she was challenged in police interviews.

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But jurors saw through her tearful charade and convicted her after hearing how a post mortem examination found David had around 60 injuries, old and new, including 30 cut or puncture type wounds and eight areas of blunt force bruising on his head 

The successful criminal lawyer, who lived in a £300,000 detached home on a pleasant Chorley housing estate, had confided in colleagues about Sharon Edwards attacking him, but would not make a complaint to police. As the relationship became increasingly volatile, David started attending work at Chorley and Preston’s magistrates courts visibly injured, and also lost weight.

Some colleagues witnessed her behaviour for themselves. She was seen slapping David at a work do, in which she was thrown out of a hotel, and was heard screaming and swearing down the phone by office staff.

On June 28, 2015, exactly a year since he went to her house for the first time, they wed in a chapel in Las Vegas in a 10 minute ceremony.

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Even then he was sporting a black eye - a wound she claimed happened when he accidentally hit himself in the eye with the hotel phone handset as they went to order room service.

Campaigners say the father-of-one’s case shows domestic abuse transcends all social boundaries, professions and ages.

The case and the resulting publicity triggered awareness about the plight of male victims of domestic violence, and led to a surge in calls to male abuse charities.