Today, 2nd November 2023, is Supporting Male Victims of Domestic Abuse Day 2023, a day when organisations and individuals come together to show male victims that you are not alone. Male victims face significant barriers to reaching out and accessing support, but this day is about highlighting the support that is out there and encouraging male victims to come forward to access the help they need.
To mark this day, we spoke to Behind Closed Doors, a domestic abuse service in Leeds which has been running a dedicated domestic abuse services for men since 2011. providing support for male victims.
Behind Closed Doors provide specialist Men’s Community Practitioners to offer practical and emotional support to men in Leeds. The specialist practitioners work alongside men to help reduce their risk of harm from abusive relationships, and help victims to recover and improve their overall wellbeing. This is achieved by offering practical help that is tailored to men’s needs, such as support to put a safety plan in place, explore housing options or to access legal advice and services.
We asked Behind Closed Doors, what men told them was key to offering good support. Debbie Cowling, Operations manager for Behind Closed Doors said it was vital for men to feel that services were not only accessible but specifically for them.
She said: “What we have identified as important, is to ask whether they have a preference to the gender of the worker. Just because they are male, doesn’t mean they want to be supported by another male. So wherever possible, we will respect someone’s choice.
“The website also needs to be gender neutral and clear on how we publicise the service for men, so for example our male specific page with the handbook and policy available to read, along with stories from male survivors.
“The venue of where you meet the service user is also important. So we offer a number of safe venues across the city but will find out if they have a preference. We will also meet people at their home address if safe to do so. We have some service users that have preferred to meet outdoors so that may be a walk around the park.
“We try to tailor the support to the service users’ needs and understand that it can sometimes take time for some men to disclose abuse or trust that we can support, without being judgemental.”
One survivor, called Paul*, who received support said, “Before I spoke with Behind Closed Doors I was very low and isolated. I was spending all my time in my bedroom.
“The support I received from Behind Closed Doors helped me understand what I was going through. I was able to build up my self-confidence and start to live my life again. I learned that it is OK for me to put myself first. I was supported to find new accommodation in an area where I felt safe and was close to family.
“While building up a new home from scratch is scary, I now feel strong enough to do it. I can’t recommend Behind Closed Doors highly enough. It is vital that this support is available to men if they need it.”
As well as providing support to male victims, Behind Closed Doors also offer men’s service user groups, so that male victims’ voices are being reflected in the service development, the organisation as a whole and the wider strategic partnerships where possible. Recently, they shared their feedback directly with the Local Authority in order that the experiences of men who are subjected to domestic abuse are better understood.
Their website also includes the accounts of some men who have accessed their service and the impact that accessing specialist support had on them.
Every victim and survivor, regardless of their gender, should be able to access the support they need when they take the brave steps to seek help. Services like Behind Closed Doors are playing a vital part in making that a reality.
*A pseudonym has been used to protect the survivor’s identity