Men encouraged to speak out about domestic abuse
Men were yesterday asked to break their silence over domestic abuse as a relationship specialist said male victims increasingly sought help for their plight.
Tina Laws also highlighted the need for family and friends to show their support to sufferers of both sexes as she marked Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is marked in the United States every October.
Ms Laws said: “No matter how you're raised, no matter what you go through, sometimes you may have a woman that's going to be just as angry and aggressive as a man.
“We want to raise the greater awareness around men also being victims.”
Ms Laws, the founder of Under Konstruction, which offers private support services for people affected by domestic violence, added: “We want more men to speak up.
“I'm finding personally, I've had more and more men reach out to me in regards to being victims ... of domestic violence.”
She said that men were often raised to avoid tears and to act as heads of households or to take leadership positions.
Ms Laws added: “There should be no line between if it's a man and a woman.
“The only difference I see is that, sometimes, men tend to feel a little bit more shameful.
“They feel like, ‘I'm a man and I kind of feel horrible coming to you and talking to you about this'.
“But this is what I relay to them: when I speak to a corporate woman, a CEO, a doctor or I speak to a woman who's in a hierarchy position, that's the type of conversation I have with a man.”
Ms Laws said that friends of both sexes should “embrace the conversation more” with men who struggled in abusive relationships.
She added that men often held back from telling other people about their experiences for fear of the reactions they would face.
Ms Laws said sometimes the responses can make men feel like their situation was their own fault.
She warned that if men got the impression from other people that they were not “hard” or masculine enough, they could become aggressive.
But she added: “There are a lot of men that were raised right, they know you're not supposed to hit a woman, no matter what she does to you.
“You can have a 7ft tall man with a 4ft tall woman and she's beating him.”
Ms Laws said that family and friends were often aware of abuse, but did not know how to deal with it.
She added: “There are so many women next to death in these relationships and I just feel like we need to keep continuously talking about it.”
Ms Laws advised anyone who suspected someone was a victim of domestic abuse to try to arrange some time alone with the individual and explain to them how that person is supported, as well as talk about their accomplishments and how their behaviour might have changed over a period of time.
She said family and friends can remind their loved-ones or colleagues that “I'm not trying to get in your business, but I'm very concerned”.
Ms Laws added: “That can let you know yes or no to continue the conversation ... if the person seems like they're shutting down, the next response would be ‘but I'm here, whenever you're ready to talk, whenever you're ready to get support, I'm there'.
“Try not to go on and on, leave it at that, show your love and every week make it a point to try and send a WhatsApp or a quick telephone call — whatever your form of communicating is — just supportive things.
“Even in some instances share something with her or him of your weakness ... it doesn't necessarily have to be domestic violence.”
The specialist highlighted the importance of continued support, “even when they shut you down”.
Ms Laws also pointed out that children could be affected when they saw parents in abusive relationships.
She said youngsters could suffer depression, insomnia, anxiety, aggression, lack of appetite and cognitive problems as a result.
Ms Laws added that “every and anybody” can be affected by domestic abuse.
She said: “Every other person has been impacted, in some form or the other, by domestic violence.”
Ms Laws added: “As it's also breast cancer awareness month, we have to be mindful that there are also victims of domestic violence suffering with breast cancer.”
She said that the Centre Against Abuse was a specialist charity designed to provide crisis support services to adults affected by domestic abuse.
• The Centre Against Abuse runs a 24-hour hotline with trained staff on 297-8278