When one thinks of the term ‘domestic abuse’, often the first thought that comes to mind is of a man perpetrating violence against a woman. People often forget that men can be victims of such abuse as well.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) defines domestic abuse as violent, abusive or “threatening, controlling, coercive behaviour” by a partner, ex-partner or even a family member. The abuse suffered can be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual or financial in nature.
Figures released by the PSNI reveal an increase in male victims aged 18 and over in Northern Ireland in the past 10 years. At the end of the 2009/10 financial year, the number of male victims in Northern Ireland aged 18 + stood at 1,892. By the end of 2018/19, this figure stood at 3,483.
The statistics show a significant increase in male victims over the past 3 years. Having seen a decrease from 3,038 victims in 2015/16, down to 2,966 in 2016/17, the numbers then rose significantly, to 3,175 victims in 2017/18 and then to 3,483 in 2018/19.
Looking at 2018/19 as a whole, there were 5 male victims of domestic abuse crimes aged 18 and over per 1000 of the male population aged 18+ in Northern Ireland.
In terms of council districts, Belfast City comprised the most adult male victims of domestic abuse in 2018/19, with 27% of victims. This was followed by the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon district, which made up 11% of victims. Fermanagh & Omagh had the lowest number of victims, making up only 5% of the Northern Ireland total.
Belfast City council saw the highest increase in male victims between 2017/18 and 2018/19, with a rise of 71. This was followed by Mid-Ulster district council, which saw in increase of 54 victims in the same timeframe.
The only district councils to record a decrease in male victims of domestic abuse between 2017/18 and 2018/19 was Fermanagh & Omagh and Derry City & Strabane.
The Men’s Advisory Project (MAP) are a specialist agency supporting victims of domestic abuse. The organisation has been running for 20 years and provide confidential counselling and referral services. Rhonda Lusty is a co-ordinator for the charity and says that these figures don’t provide the full picture as many male victims of domestic abuse still don’t contact the police.
“We as a charity would help around 1000 men per year and of those men, very few of them are known to statutory services including the police. The statistics regarding men who are victims of domestic abuse don’t give you a full snapshot of what is going on.
“If every male victim of domestic abuse in Northern Ireland came forward to the police, I would suggest the numbers would be a lot higher.”
Despite suggesting that PSNI statistics don’t account for all male victims of domestic abuse, Rhonda does believe that more men are becoming open to the idea of coming forward about their ordeal.
“Things have moved on a lot from the Troubles and the hypermasculinity that existed within society during that time has reduced a little bit and allowed men to come forward. Services have also got better at coping with male victims and tailoring to their needs.”
When pressed on what more needs to be done to help male victims of domestic conflict, Rhonda was keen to stress the need for increased awareness through advertising, in order to stop the normalisation of violence towards men.
“Many people will see a man being slapped in a public setting and will typically laugh. Attitudes need to change.
“We need to have advertising campaigns that show men as victims, so that men see themselves as victims. If people see themselves in a situation enough times, they will be able to make that connection on a subconscious level.”