By Sharne Williams, CEO of the Paul Lavelle Foundation
When we say the words ‘domestic abuse’ the first thing that comes to mind for many, is male perpetrator, female victim. Regretfully, we at The Paul Lavelle Foundation, know all too well, males can be victims of domestic abuse too.
Paul Lavelle was killed in an act of domestic violence by his partner in May 2017 who was later sentenced to 7.5 years imprisonment, in January 2018.
None of us knew what Paul was going through until it was too late. He took the silent route that many men take – was he too embarrassed or ashamed to tell his friends and family? Did he even know that he was being abused? Tragically, we will never know.
Domestic abuse crashed onto our doorsteps leaving us all devastated.
After the horrifying loss of Paul, his friends and family came together to create The Paul Lavelle Foundation which is based in the Wirral. The experience of supporting each other through Paul’s death generated an energy amongst close friends and family who were determined that vulnerable males should not face these issues and stigma alone.
The charity was created to raise awareness about male domestic abuse, to support male domestic abuse victims and survivors and to provide healthy relationship education to children and young people as a preventative measure.
In April 2018 we became an official registered charity, and we went about researching how to achieve our main aim which was and is to provide frontline support to male victims.
Following a heartfelt speech about Paul’s story, delivered by two of our trustees at a local authority domestic abuse conference, we were overwhelmed by the support offered to us from our local community. Both from other community organisations in the field of domestic abuse and also our local authority, Wirral.Gov.
From there, we were delighted to have been offered an office space within an established community building, The Community Village, to work alongside a local service supporting female victims and survivors. We hold deepest gratitude to the CEO who offered us the space and for the continued support along our journey.
February 2019 saw the opening of our office and from there – due to the gap in service for male victims – the response to our foundation grew considerably.
We set about developing our service and after months of hard work of research, networking and recruitment, we finally got to the point of opening a frontline male domestic abuse Drop-in service, at the beginning of March 2020. …. then …. COVID-19! Literally, within three weeks of opening our new service, we had to shut down, like many, due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
Sadly, as we all know, domestic abuse was exacerbated by the lockdown periods of the pandemic. As a result of this we were able to access Government backed COVID response funding. On 20th July 2020, after more planning, we opened our male domestic abuse dedicated frontline therapeutic support service, delivering 1:1 support.
Our 1:1 support is focused on recovery and is designed to provide a person-centred blend of therapeutic, advocacy, advice and link-worker/signposting support activities. We offer face-to-face, telephone and virtual support options.
As per our constitution, our geographical area is Merseyside and Cheshire, however, we have supported males all around the UK who have contacted us.
We offer a fortnightly peer support group and community activity groups in the form of walking, running, cycling and swimming. These are a safe space for males to speak about domestic abuse issues as well as wellbeing concerns in general. They act as a 2–way gateway in and out of our therapeutic service and in some cases have created friendship groups for those who have been isolated, sadly a common legacy of domestic abuse.
At the end of 2020 we were offered an additional space within The Community Village building which enabled us to create our Paul Lavelle Foundation community hub, something that we are very proud of.
In 2020 we were invited to be a part of the Wirral Domestic Abuse Alliance, a collaboration of third sector and statutory organisations working together to tackle domestic abuse, on Wirral. We contributed towards the compilation of a five-year domestic abuse strategy for Wirral, which was launched in December 2020, and we became a part of the innovative idea of a Domestic Abuse Hub for Wirral.
This is where third sector agencies and local authority domestic abuse teams, work collaboratively, under the same roof, offering the whole family approach to support, for both victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse. Since becoming part of this collaboration our service and knowledge has grown from strength-to-strength and for this, we are truly thankful.
In the beginning our aspirations were modest. We said, even if we can save just one male from the life of abuse our friend Paul had to endure, then it would be worthwhile! To date, we have supported 286 males through our service and the referral rate is increasing month on month, as our service becomes more widely known.
We aim to continue the good work in our friend’s name, but we now have a more ambitious aspiration, of seeing more frontline services for males like ours, around the UK!