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Domestic abuse is sadly something that still affects a significant chunk of the population. Abusive relationships take many forms, whether the victims suffer from psychologically controlling behaviour, sexual assault or physical violence.
There is a common misconception that men can't be the victims of abusive relationships, which has been deeply ingrained in society due to the rhetoric of charities and organisations that set out to 'Stop Violence Against Women'. But it's not just women who suffer. In fact, as the charity Mankind Initiative outlines, one in three domestic abuse victims are male.
However, the number of men who feel able to report their situation lags far behind the rate of women. According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2015 male victims were more than twice as likely than women to not tell anyone about the abuse they were experiencing. There is also a rising pool of transsexual and non-binary sufferers who are struggling to come forward due to various social, procedural and emotional barriers that are blocking the way.
However, on the horizon there is hope. There are now specific charities and organisations that focus on changing society's attitude by offering support and advice to everyone, no matter what their gender.
One of these survivors is Paul Chivers, 48, from Swindon in the UK who says he suffered a torrent of violence and manipulation at the hands of his wife. On paper, Paul and his partner had the perfect marriage. They were both church-going teachers who were in love and had a daughter, now 13, on the way. But behind closed doors it was a completely different story.
Paul Chivers was suffering on a daily basis
Paul told LADbible: "In around 2004 the archetypal controlling behaviour started kicking in and eventually I was alienated from my family and friends. I was being made to do things that I didn't want to, usually with some sort of bargaining tool.
"My wife often told me I would never see my daughter again if I didn't do what she wanted. I was also locked out of the house around 60 times over the course of 10 years and other times I'd get dumped in the middle of nowhere 60 miles away from our house. She'd take my wallet and keys so I had no way of getting home."
Although Paul was suffering on a daily basis, he felt he couldn't leave the family home for the sake of his daughter. Even though he wasn't allowed to see his parents, he made a point of visiting them behind his wife's back. "It was like having an affair with my own family and friends," said Paul.
This controlling behaviour continued for years, but in 2014 something happened that pushed Paul to seek help. He said: "One Sunday night my wife swung a hairdryer by its flex and split my head open and I ended up in A&E." This shocking incident led to a court case, where Paul and his daughter bravely stood up and gave evidence of the abuse he had been suffering for nearly a decade. It was a unanimous decision and Paul's wife was given a 16-month sentence for GBH and common assault.
To this day, Paul suffers from PTSD and has flashbacks to the attacks, but he continues to work hard to give his daughter a stable home life whilst using his story to help others, adding that he's in a much better place.
"Sadly, there seems to be a stigma with regards to male victims in today's society," said Paul. "For men in particular, it can be almost embarrassing as it's perceived as a sign of weakness. This attitude is slowly shifting as more men, including myself, are opening up about their survival stories.
"What I would say to anyone reading this is whether you're male, female or trans, if your relationship doesn't feel right but you're still in it, keep a dairy, record everything that happens with dates and times and keep it safe somewhere. Not only is this cathartic, but it will help massively when you do feel ready to give a statement.
"And, finally, if you feel ready to talk about your situation, phone up a confidential helpline and someone will be on call to help you."
Another survivor who found the bravery to speak out about his past is Alex Morgan, 27, Chief Executive of Stay Brave UK. As a survivor himself, Alex saw firsthand how damaging the stigma against male victims can be.
Alex Morgan's story began when he was a teenager
Alex told LADbible: "My story starts when I was 14 years old and I made a friend at school who was a couple of years older than me. He told me about a car park where I could make money from older men by performing sexual acts on them. I was drawn in by my new friend and was curious about my sexuality. At the time, I didn't realise that there was anything wrong; that it was young boys being manipulated into prostitution."
One night when Alex was walking home from the car park he noticed someone was following him. He was knocked down and sexually assaulted by the attacker. That was the last time Alex ever went to the car park.
"It didn't register until much later," remembered Alex. One day at school he spotted a number for a rape crisis helpline in his planner and he managed to find the bravery to call them up. However, Alex was shunned and told that women are the victims, men are the attackers. He said: "I just thought 'what is the point?'. No one would listen even when I try to get help."
As Alex grew older, these experiences manifested in his relationships. He told us: "If someone had jumped in then I don't think I would've got myself into the bad relationship I did when I was 17."
At college, Alex met a teacher from another school who was in his late 20s and a few months into the relationship he asked if he could film the pair having sex. What he didn't realise was that his boyfriend was selling the videos online.
"Soon after he started inviting people over to join in with us," he explained. "So he had his own little porn industry going on and I was compliant with it because I'd never had someone call me pretty before and that's what I thought relationships were. It wasn't violent at all, but I can see now that it was very manipulative."
Alex eventually went to university in London to start afresh. Although he managed to get his life on a steady track, in 2010, he was sexually assaulted at a London bar.
He recalled: "I felt like I was getting my life back together again, but this took me right back to square one." As a result, Alex's relationships suffered. Anyone who tried to get close was pushed away and after breaking up with someone who had treated him well, he decided it was time to seek help.
Following a series of counseling sessions and therapy, Alex finally started to get his head around everything that had happened to him. He said: "During this time I had a pep talk with my mum and she came out with this brilliant phrase, 'what happened to you is terrible, but go out there and stop it happening to someone else'." And Alex did just that.
Shortly after Stay Brave UK was created and he continues to tell his story to help other survivors realise that there is a way out. His advice to anyone who is suffering from abuse is to do what's right for you.
Alex said: "If you do decide to tell the police, remember that they will 100% believe you. And the most important thing is to look after yourself and if you can, don't be afraid to seek help. It takes a lot of bravery but every survivor has it in them."
Mankind Initiative helpline: 01823 334244
Men's Advice helpline: 0808 801 0327
National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Words: Daisy Phillipson
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