Imagine for a minute, if you will, you're a typical lad. You've met the girl/guy of your dreams and you fall in love.
Over time - as most couples do - you decide to take the next step in your relationship. You move in together and, slowly but surely, your lives merge as one and you both couldn't be happier about it.
Time goes by, you work hard and your efforts provide for the life you both welcomed and now live.
The fairy tale starts to fade. Perhaps you didn't get the promotion that you both had your hearts set on? Or something else affects the relationship? Either way, your partner doesn't react well, airs his/her disrespect and starts blaming you for the situation you are both in.
It's your fault, you're 'stupid' and 'worthless'. You finally stop liking yourself and realise that walking away isn't an easy option.
Don't delude yourself into thinking that it doesn't happen because it does. Until we start talking about it, domestic violence will only get worse and more silent lads will suffer. According to a report produced by Mankind carried out in March 2016, 13.2 percent of men state that they have been a victim of domestic abuse since they were 16 years old (27.1 percent women).
Are you still with me? Because there's no zoning out of a violent relationship, therefore there's no zoning out here. The relationship becomes more tense. You don't end it because you know that every relationship has its problems - perhaps you can't afford to walk away. However, the more it continues, the more you isolate your life. You become a recluse from the outside world. Anxiety soon creeps in and you have no solution to the insults.
She/he starts picking at other things. Soon, every decision you make comes under scrutiny and you have nowhere else to go.
You, who would never raise a hand to your partner, are now trapped and locked in the mind of your abuser and you may not even know at first that you have been a victim of domestic abuse for a while, whether verbal, physical, or both.
When the realisation hits and you finally believe you have enough strength to leave, would you want to talk about it?
If not, then here's why, from a mental health perspective, you should, and why you should advise others to do the same.
Video credit: YouTube/Respect
I've worked on a similar project before. I have campaigned against domestic abuse, and signed a pledge to promise not to be silent should I see traces of domestic violence. Never, though, have I truly considered the serious implications on victims' mental health further down the line, once victims have come forward. That is until I spoke with Respect, which works with men and women to end domestic violence. It's not an easy topic to write about because it's not quantifiable as to when psychological abuse starts and when it becomes calculated in the perpetrators' mind.
Mental health conditions that can occur from domestic violence...
"You're effectively living with a terrorist in your own home and that's going to make you ill, whoever you are," says Ntokozo Dlova, Senior Support Worker at Respect and the Men's Advice Line.
It's no secret that psychological abuse leads to self-loathing, damaged self-esteem and a serious mistrust in people. Mentalhealth.org unveiled that women in England are more likely than men to have common mental health problems and are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders. However, in 2013, 6,233 suicides were recorded in the UK for people aged 15 and older. Of these, 78 percent were male and 22 percent were female. That has to say something. So, lads, today we are talking about it whether you like it or not. In 2014, according to Samaritans, 6,122 suicides were registered in the UK. This corresponds to a suicide rate of 10.8 per 100,000 people (16.8 per 100,000 for men and 5.2 per 100,000 for women). It's a major issue.
Credit: Bob Iszoo
Suicide is another stigmatised and widely misunderstood topic. These victims are, too, not beyond help when experiencing the first symptoms. After doing a little bit of research, 'life history' is first on the list for suicide causes. Second is 'mental health'. The downward spiral of living with anxiety can, over time, with no help, advice or support, evolve into deeper issues such as depression. That's when, with still no one to talk to, sufferers give up. The tragedy is that those who have committed suicide believe that, in their moment of need, they didn't feel like they could talk to anyone. That needs to change and Dlova agrees. She explains: "We [women] are more likely to go to the doctors when they have a problem but men generally don't talk.
"Having said that, sometimes it's difficult to even get through the door to a GP. Not many people have just one GP, I don't know my doctor. If you were ever feeling down and you went to go and see a doctor, you would be talking face-to-face to a stranger.
"There are so many barriers with mental health and too many people see it as a weakness."
Video credit: /YouTubeRespect
Understanding the mental health of abusers...
Respect and the Men's Advice Line is a confidential national helpline service that provides support for those suffering from domestic violence. The charity also welcomes phone calls from abusers as well as victims. Dlova explains: "It's interesting - the abusers are very honest. For whatever their motivation to change is, we are hard on them. We realise that by the time perpetrators call, they are ready to hear the reality. What surprises me is that nobody ever hangs up. They call and we're really quite straight with them, but they stay on the line even if they don't like it.
"I think they [abusers] are conscious of what they are doing because they wouldn't usually behave like that. They are also mindful because they wouldn't want others seeing the abuse. It is very much a conscious thing.
"Perhaps the motive is not to destroy at the beginning and I think, to start with, that it's designed to motivate them to do better.
"Later on it does become more degrading. The more confidence the victim loses, the more ammunition the abuser has."
"Your friends have been driven away, your family have been driven away and you have gone along with it because you have fallen in love and are trying to please your partner," says Dlova. "Society says that all of us, gay, straight, bi or trans, have to be coupled. There is an enormous pressure to be coupled, which is why many victims of abuse feel like they cannot leave an abusive relationship."
After speaking with Respect about the complicated nature of mental health issues that form from domestic violence, one thing is apparent; it's complicated and it can only be diagnosed and treated individually. Therefore, we all have a duty to act when recognising signs of domestic abuse and being honest about our own relationships. Nothing will change if we refuse to talk about it. Let's be honest, a lot needs to change.
Respect phoneline (for domestic violence perpetrators): Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. 0808 802 4040 (free from landlines and most mobiles).
Mens Advice Line (for victims): Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. 0808 801 0327 (free from landlines and most mobiles).
Be brave. Talk about it.
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MIND: 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans: 116 123.
CALM: Outside London 0808 802 5858, inside London 0800 58 58 58.