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Support officer from Anglia Care Trust calls for male victims of domestic abuse to speak up

PUBLISHED: 12:38 03 March 2016 | UPDATED: 12:38 03 March 2016

Matthew Cunningham of Anglia Care Trust at Martlesham Heath.

Matthew Cunningham of Anglia Care Trust at Martlesham Heath.

More needs to be done to strengthen the voices of male domestic abuse survivors in order to tackle the stigma which forces them to stay silent.

How Anglia Care Trust can help

Anglia Care Trust delivers domestic abuse services on behalf of Suffolk County Council.

People are referred to the charity from police, doctors, health visitors, midwives, mental health services, hospital teams, adult services, housing providers, and there is also a self-referral help line.

If a victim is identified as ‘high risk’ then their case will be taken to the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC). This is a monthly risk management meeting where professionals in the county share information about victims to put together a plan to keep them safe.

The charity also works alongside the IDVA service – Independent Domestic Violence Advisors – at Lighthouse Women’s Aid, based in Ipswich.

These advisers provide specialist support independent from the police for high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and there is currently one male IDVA working in Suffolk with Matthew Cunningham for men who come forward as victims.

When the risk to the victim has come down, they will then be referred back to Anglia Care Trust for further support. The charity offers three services: crisis support; advice and guidance; and intensive support.

This is the view of one of the only specialist male victim support officers in Suffolk as he explains why he believes the crime is drastically under-reported.

According to the Office of National Statistics, male victims are nearly twice as likely as women to not tell anyone about partner abuse. Only 10% of male victims will tell the police, 22% will tell a person in an official position and just 10% will tell a health professional.

Anglia Care Trust started offering specially catered help for men who have suffered at the hands of an abusive or controlling partner in October 2013.

Since then the number of male victims seeking advice and guidance from the charity has significantly increased, now sitting at around 15 referrals per month.

Matthew Cunningham, specialist male victim support officer at Anglia Care Trust, said he anticipated this figure to continue to rise over the coming years.

“We are just at the tip of the iceberg, there’s so much more to be uncovered,” he added.

“We want male victims to feel like they can come forward and they will be treated respectfully and in confidence so they can discuss these issues with us.

“The stigma behind male victims of domestic abuse is at the heart of it and it’s getting better, but to begin with we were blind-sighted.

“It was under-reported to police and even the education of practitioners on what to do in these circumstances was very female focused, which in my opinion is how it should have been at the beginning because the female sector has worked hard over the years to get it noticed.

“It’s a big shift in pattern, but the male side does sometimes get left behind.”

Mr Cunningham said a dangerous phrase that he often came across when talking to victims was “real man”.

“The embarrassment is what I hear a lot, they are too embarrassed to say ‘I’m a victim’ and they think ‘if I was a real man I would be able to deal with this’,” he added. “Men say quite a lot that they didn’t know it was abuse because it wasn’t physical, there’s a lot of financial abuse and using the children as a weapon and a lot of verbal bullying and controlling.”

At the end of last year, a new law was brought into force in England and Wales targeting abusers who use controlling behaviour on their victims.

The offence introduces a maximum five-year prison term for perpetrators who subject spouses, partners and other family members to serious psychological and emotional torment, but stop short of violence.

“The fact the law passed around coercive control does help because in a way if you say to a victim that by doing that that person is breaking the law then it helps people to accept it,” Mr Cunningham said.

When a survivor of domestic abuse goes to the charity for support, Mr Cunnigham said they will not be pressured to go through the court process, but would be given all the available options and the choice to decide.

Anglia Care Trust works in partnership with West Suffolk Refuge to provide safe accommodation for men who need to leave their home situation.

According to the charity’s figures there are only around 20 beds in the country for men fleeing an abusive partner.

To access the charity’s free helpline, call: 0800 977 5690 or visit: www.angliacaretrust.org.uk to make a referral.

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