Do domestic violence ‘help-lines’ help male victims? How?

Some time ago I wrote a post about an Australian domestic violence organisation called ‘DV Connect’ and how they treated men who contacted them. I’d suggest taking a read of that now if you have the time. This other post may be of broader interest.

I haven’t written anything more about the topic. Yet at the same time, it is something which is put in our face every time the media (TV) runs an item on domestic violence and finishes with the advice to call (such and such agency) if “you are troubled by violent or abusive behaviour from your partner”. Which leaves everyone thinking that at least some help is available for (all) victims of domestic behaviour. But it’s not so.

Most agencies in the domestic violence sector will either turn male callers away or will (officially) cater for them, but on the (wink/nudge) understanding that they are either abusers trying to locate their partners, or are simply abusers in denial.

But now the topic of whether domestic violence help-lines actually do assist male callers has been raised again by an English researcher, Deborah Powney (Twitter id = @Firebird_psych). On 14 April 2020 Deborah began sending daily tweets as per the following:

“Can @RefugeCharity@ukhomeoffice be clear whether the 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline directly supports male victims of domestic abuse or not? Can they clearly state what happens when a man calls? @ManKindInit@nicolejacobsST@10DowningStreet@patel4witham

Simple question. Shouldn’t take long to answer. And she waited. And while she did, she asked one or two further questions, for example:

“Could you provide the numbers of female perpetrators you have helped in the past 12 month? Could also provide the number of female perpetrator programmes that Respect have accredited in the same time period?” (To @RespectUK on 29 April 2020)

It took until 15 May 2020 before Deborah received an initial response.

“Hi, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline is branded as a women’s helpline, however if we do receive calls from men the Helpline our staff will always listen, risk assess, address any safeguarding issues and validate the experience. They will then refer them to the Men’s Advice Line which provides specialist support for men.”

Deborah responded the same day, as follows: “Thank you for your response. Just to clarify – you do not help male victims at all – other than ‘immediate’ referal to the @RespectUK men’s helpline. Is that correct?”

@RefugeCharity further responded (also 15 May 2020)

“Hi, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline is branded as a women’s helpline, however if we do receive calls from men the Helpline our staff will always listen, risk assess, address any safeguarding issues and validate the experience. The national domestic abuse helpline, which Refuge runs, is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days week. If male callers contact us, we refer them immediately to the men’s advice line, which is a specialist service for male victims of domestic abuse. They will then refer them to the Men’s Advice Line which provides specialist support for men.”

On 15 May 2020 Deborah then asked:

“Can @RefugeCharity@ukhomeoffice be clear what support the 24 hour National DA Helpline gives to male victims of domestic abuse when the @RespectUK taxpayer- funded “Men’s Advice Line” is closed (from either 5pm or 8pm weekdays to 9am & weekends) @nicolejacobsST@pritipatel”

While waiting for a response to the above, on 17 May 2020 Deborah queried another troubling aspect of the UK Government’s current DV response:

@martintandc @RespectUK @JoTodd4 Could you clearly explain why you make specific reference to male terrorists in your Toolkit for working with Male Victims of domestic abuse for the Men’s Advice Line? @nicolejacobsST @pritipatel @ukhomeoffice @mankind @MartinDaubney @PhilipDaviesUK

“For instance, the biggest denominator in acts of terrorism and mass killings is that almost all of the perpetrators are men. Women suffer mental illness at roughly the same rate as men, but almost none commit large-scale violence. Similarly, the levels of suicide for men are much greater then for women, because of social pressure on men not to seek help to deal with their emotional problems”. (Source)

Response subsequently received from a reader (19 May 2020)

From reading this material it seems obvious to me that staff in the relevant agencies had not considered how male callers were being dealt with, let alone how they should be dealt with. The topic was not even ‘on the radar’ as it was seemingly seen to be unimportant, and offering to assist men at all was seen as merely a token gesture.

You might wish to now refer to Deborah’s Twitter account to see if any further responses have been received from government, domestic violence industry, or readers.

(Some information about Deborah’s current research project regarding the experience of male victims of domestic violence can be found here.)

Readers may also find this paper to be of interest:

Exploring the Experiences of Telephone Support Providers for Male Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse (29 July 2020)