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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 24 November, 2014

Why are there no refuges for male victims of domestic violence?

One man told AMEN that his relation was sleeping in a park as he couldn’t find shelter due to domestic abuse.

Image: Help via Shutterstock

IF YOU ARE a man who is experiencing physical or emotional abuse at the hands of your partner, there is no refuge for you to go to.

There are not enough spaces in refuges for women as it stands, but the situation for men is even worse.

Domestic abuse in Ireland

In a 2005 study, the ESRI looked at domestic abuse of women and men in Ireland.

Although the data is nearly 10 years old, it found that 15 per cent of women and six per cent of men have experienced severely abusive behaviour of a physical, sexual or emotional nature from an intimate partner at some time in their lives.

It said that its survey suggests that in the region of 213,000 women and 88,000 men in Ireland have been severely abused by a partner.

Women were twice as likely as men to require hospital treatment due to abuse, but respondents said that the emotional abuse or emotional consequences of abuse were the ‘worst thing’ that they had experienced.

It also found:

Informal supports were important when someone left an abusive relationship. Of those who were living with an abusive partner and moved out, nine out of ten stayed with family or friends, and only 7 per cent stayed at either a homeless hostel, a refuge or on the street.

A report into domestic violence in Ireland by the Child and Family Research Centre at the National University of Ireland in Galway stated:

Although widely acknowledged that the majority of victims of domestic violence are women, it is important to recognise that victims can also be men.

No beds for men

“There is not one bed for men suffering from domestic violence,” said Niamh Farrell of AMEN, the only domestic violence resource in Ireland for men.

“If there is no bed for men there is no bed for the children [with the men],” she said, explaining that fathers or guardians may not want to leave their children in the domestic situation.

“You can encourage them to look for help but in terms of housing, we can’t do anything to help them with that because there is no refuge.”

She said that she had spoken to a man recently whose family member was sleeping in a park due to domestic abuse.

“The problem is it can be complicated in some places,” she said of the situation, explaining there may be issues around mortgages, owning homes, and accessing social housing.

“There is no stop gap in between that for somebody who is being abused who is a man because they have to wait,” she said. This leads to men sleeping in relations’ homes, children’s homes or other stop-gaps.

Leaving the home

Farrell believes that too much onus is put on the victim being forced to leave their home and not the perpetrator.

“Regardless of the gender of the victim, the victim shouldn’t have to leave their home. It’s not fair to expect a man or woman to leave their home,” she said, while acknowledging that it is not necessarily easy for people to get the perpetrator to leave the home.

Farrell said that there “needs to be recognition from Government and the powers that be” of the scale of domestic abuse against men. “There needs to be a realisation that this does happen,” she said.

“They are not interested in listening to the argument about where these kids are supposed to go,” she said. “Do they care where these people go?” She said there may be an assumption that men have family members they can stay with.

There is also the issue of how socially acceptable it is for a man to bring children to a refuge, and how bringing children into homeless shelters may not be safe.

“It is leading to men becoming homeless,” said Farrell. “It is worse leaving them in a situation where they have no choice.”

What do men think?

Some men that ring the AMEN do not know if there is a shelter available for men.

“[They] will ring and assume that there are the same services for men and women, they ask ‘where do I go?’, ‘but there’s one for women, there should be one for men’. They just think there should be same services for men as there are for woman.”

According to Farrell, “in theory a refuge should be a refuge regardless of the gender of the victim”, but she does not necessarily believe that the current shelters should be opened to men and women.

There is currently a shortage of domestic violence shelters for women.

Attitudes towards male domestic abuse

Farrell said that some “people don’t think there is a need for [refuges] because people don’t think that [domestic abuse of men] happens”, and that some men tell AMEN that when they looked for help, some people laughed at them.

She said that some men are worried they might not see their children again if they leave the home, and that others have told AMEN their partner threatened to take their children out of the country.

In post-recession Ireland, due to financial reasons some couples find it difficult to separate, which can also exacerbate problems, she said.

“Nobody should have to stay together just because they can’t afford to split up,” she said.

Farrell advises men experiencing abuse at home: “don’t be in denial that things are going to change, because they won’t”.

“Don’t ever think the perpetrator is going to relinquish their power over you, because they won’t. [Men] have to be proactive and look for support themselves.”

For men experiencing domestic abuse, Farrell advises them to contact AMEN on its helpline number, 046 9023718 or through its website

Need help? Here are some contacts:

Read: Legislation being updated to help end ‘epidemic levels’ of domestic violence>

Read: 467 women and 229 children received domestic abuse support in just one day last year>

Read: Why some women have “little option” but to stay in a violent home>

Read: Opinion: ‘On one occasion she punched me in the face numerous times’>

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