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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 07:45 GMT
Men's domestic abuse refuge opens
James
James sought help from the family crisis centre
The first safe house in Wales for male victims of domestic abuse is set to open in Powys.

The three-bedroom refuge officially opens on Friday, although its exact location is being kept a secret.

Set up by Montgomeryshire Family Crisis Centre (MFCC), an increase in inquiries from men sparked plans for the home.

One male victim, helped by Newtown's MFCC, has told how he suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of a former partner.

James, 44, has two daughters with his ex-partner of 15 years, Sarah (not their real names).

James, originally from an English city, but now living in Powys, said his partner was a fun-loving person when they first met.

I don't think men realise either that there are people who can help them
James

However, their relationship descended into a life of drink, violence and verbal and emotional abuse.

By the time James plucked up the courage to end the relationship last July, she was drinking up to eight cans of strong lager and two bottles of wine a day.

"We used to go out for drinks and we were just fun-loving young people. There was no indication then what she would eventually turn in to," he said.

"As her drinking increased her personality changed. There were many times when my children and I were upstairs trying to sleep and Sarah was downstairs drinking and playing loud music until the early hours.

"The next morning I'd wake and get the girls ready for school and go downstairs to find her lying in her own vomit or urine or both."

Physical attack

James described how Sarah's verbal abuse sometimes led to physical attacks.

He said she once threw a cup of tea over his chest. On another occasion, she focused her attack on his groin, which led to him requiring medical treatment.

"The psychological abuse just chipped away at me," he explained. "She would say hurtful things like I was worthless, useless and lazy.

"My family were very supportive and told me to leave Sarah, but I couldn't - what would have happened to my girls if I had?

"But men are often too embarrassed to report they are being battered by their partners - it's a macho thing.

"I don't think men realise either that there are people who can help them. They tend to think the help is just for women."

He said the years of abuse had a "terrible effect" on him.

"It destroyed my confidence and made me a deeply unhappy person," he said.

Eventually, last summer Sarah was persuaded to leave their home by the police and it was around that time that he finally sought help from MFCC.

"It was so good to speak to someone who listened. The people at the centre were incredibly helpful and they just took me seriously. Families are great, but they can often be bias - it's great to have impartial advice," said James, who is now happily involved with a new partner.

"Had the centre's safe house been open when I had my problems, then I would have taken advantage of it and taken my girls there."

The Welsh Assembly Government said it had no figures on male victims of domestic violence. A spokesman added that specific cases relating to men were not recorded.

James Rowlands, from the Dyn Project in Cardiff, which also helps male victims of abuse in Wales, said the number of men reporting abuse was on the increase.

But he said that "very little research" had been carried out.

Jackie Richardson of MFCC, which also has a safe house for women, said it was harder for men to ask for help.

"The old acceptance in society that men shouldn't cry has to change. That's ridiculous and means that men don't have feelings," she said.


SEE ALSO:
Drop-in for male victims of abuse
10 Jan 06 |  Southern Counties
Police target victims of violence
26 Dec 05 |  Shropshire
Abuse centre nominated for award
17 Oct 05 |  Lancashire



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