The cost of living crisis is having a huge impact across society in England and Wales. One in three people are struggling to pay rent and mortgage costs, and over half of adults are cutting back on using gas and electricity due to soaring energy costs.
In many cases, the crisis is only compounding the situations of those who are already vulnerable, especially victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
A Women’s Aid Federation England survey found that 73% of women who both lived with their perpetrator and had financial links with them were unable or struggling to leave due to the cost-of-living crisis.
The same survey revealed that 69% of survivors would not be able to afford the increased cost of living without a financial contribution from the perpetrator, and 50% of survivors would not be able to support their children if they left.
And amidst soaring energy bills and the increased cost of living, Refuge reported in 2022 that they would need to raise £1 million to keep their vital domestic abuse services open.
These figures from Women’s Aid and Refuge show us how the cost of living crisis has affected women and children survivors, but we wanted to find out more about the impact on men and boys.
Our communications team spoke to Ippo Panteloudakis from Respect, and he described the impact of the crisis on the male victims who call their Men’s Advice Line for support.
Have you seen an increase in calls over recent years?
Demand for the Men’s Advice Line has nearly tripled over the past five years, with the most rapid growth taking place during the pandemic. Victims were locked down with their abusers, which resulted in an increase in the frequency and severity of abuse for many.
We expected that the numbers might return to pre-pandemic levels quite quickly once lockdowns were lifted, but they have actually continued at a similar level.
One reason for this is the cost of living crisis, which has become an aggravating factor for the abuse our callers are experiencing. Financial worries have always been something male victims mention in the context of abuse, but in recent months it’s come to the forefront as a factor.
What are you hearing from male victims who call the helpline about the cost of living?
Lots of callers are talking about the cost of living leading to arguments about bills, energy usage, and rent and mortgage payments which precipitated abuse.
We’ve heard stories from men who have been abused for turning off appliances to save money, and from men who were targeted for asking their partner to reduce spending on luxury goods.
The cost-of-living crisis is also a barrier for men who are trying to leave their perpetrator, especially for those with children who would have to continue paying a share of the household bills if they left.
What barriers do you think men face when it comes to accessing support?
There are unique barriers to disclosure that male victims of domestic abuse face regardless of their sexuality. Men who are GBT+, deaf and disabled, black and minoritised or migrant survivors also face additional barriers.
Due to factors such as harmful gender norms and stereotypes of masculinity, there are still many men who aren’t aware that they can even be victims of domestic abuse, and this expectation can be weaponised against them. Often men tell us that their perpetrator has shamed them for being emotional and use this as a tool of abuse.
Even when men and boys do recognise they are experiencing abuse, accessing services can be very difficult.
What myths and stereotypes need to be challenged?
Men and boys are often led to believe that feeling emotional pain, being bullied, or being abused are ‘women’s problems’ – and that experiencing them makes you less of a man. This can lead to a huge amount of shame and embarrassment, which can prevent men from reporting abuse or accessing support.
What would you say to any male victim experiencing domestic abuse?
It’s not your fault and you are not alone. There is help out there and we will support you. The Men’s Advice Line is open Monday-Friday 10am-5pm and our friendly advisors will talk things through with you, with no pressure or judgement. It’s confidential, and free to call on 0808 8010327.
The Domestic Abuse Commissioner has been calling on the Government for an emergency flee fund for all victims of domestic abuse which was announced in March.