Man from Norwich became victim of domestic violence
PUBLISHED: 15:15 10 February 2011 | UPDATED: 15:25 10 February 2011
Most victims of domestic violence who contact the police are women. However, statistics show that one in five are men. And, as one male victim of abuse told crime correspondent BEN KENDALL, many feel unable to speak out.
"If I told anybody about it they would just tell me to hit him back. We were both men and people thought I could look after myself. I never hit him back because that would justify his behaviour and lower me to his level."
Speaking out about domestic violence is often the first, and hardest, step towards escaping abuse.
Victims often find themselves unable to seek help because they feel tied, either financially or emotionally, to a relationship. This is particularly true when a child is involved.
Social stigma is another obstacle and when the victim is male there is an added stigma: men are supposed to be strong and able to stand up for themselves.
That is the experience of Michael, a 39-year-old from Norwich, who suffered abuse at the hands of his male partner throughout their seven year relationship.
Michael, who has chosen not to give his surname, said: “We were a year into the relationship and he got drunk. We had an argument and he smacked me in the mouth.
“The next day he said sorry and it didn’t happen again for seven or eight months.
“But progressively it got worse and worse until he was hitting me every three or four days.
“If I told anybody about it they would just tell me to hit him back. We were both men and people thought I could look after myself.
“I never hit him back because that would justify his behaviour and lower me to his level.”
On one occasion the police were called to the couple’s home.
Michael’s partner had knocked him to the floor and was stamping on his head. Michael bit his ankle to get him to stop.
Because of this he spent a night in the cells at Bethel Street police station. He was not charged but nor could he prove that he was the victim.
“He would hit me in a way that didn’t leave marks,” he said.
“So it was impossible for me to go to the police as I couldn’t prove anything.”
Things came to a head at Christmas when Michael decided he could no longer tolerate the escalating attacks. But ending the relationship was not easy.
“We had a joint mortgage together so I couldn’t just walk away from the relationship,” he said.
“Also we still loved each other and he was really remorseful.
“I had to face up to telling people what had been happening. I’m still living in the house but he still has to return. I have a daughter with my ex-wife and I had to explain to her why she couldn’t visit the house.
“I also had to tell work what was happening so they would understand why I was having a lot of time off.
“When I spoke to the police I broke down in tears. Not because I was upset about what had happened but because I was so embarrassed to be telling somebody about it.”
Of the 9,080 domestic violence incidents reported to Norfolk police last year, 19pc of victims were men.
Michael believes his experience is common, particularly among gay couples, and that the problem may be under-reported.
He said: “In my experience with people I know in gay relationships, man on man and woman on woman violence is quite common.
“I’m sure there are lots of people who don’t ever contact the police because they’re not sure they will be taken seriously or because they tell themselves they should be able to cope.”
He added: “I think it is important for society to understand the scale of the problem and that it isn’t just something which happens to women.
“Maybe it is more socially acceptable for a man to hit a man but it shouldn’t be.
“The psychological impact is still the same, especially when it is somebody who is supposed to love you.
“I’m out of that relationship now and won’t go back. But now I have to face up to telling people what happened and that means reliving it all over again.”