To mark International Men’s Day on 19th November, we spoke to Tony* a survivor of domestic abuse who has shared his story to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the support he received.
Over 12 years, Tony was subjected to physical attacks, financial control, constant criticism, humiliation, blame, and even being restricted from areas of his own home. It was only when Tony and his wife separated, and finally divorced, that he was able to recognise that the behaviour had been abusive.
Tony said, “I thought, I can’t be abused. That only happens to women,” he explains. “I didn’t want to believe it. But when it all ended, when she left me, when we divorced, that’s when I realised that I was being abused.”
While women are more likely to be impacted by domestic abuse, men can be victims and it is important for men to know that support is available. An estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2020. This includes 1.6 million women and 757,000 men (Crime Survey for England and Wales March 2020).
Reflecting on his experience, Tony says it began with financial abuse.
“I was paying all the bills, doing all I could to make ends meet and she refused to contribute saying her money was her money. I was working all the hours I could do to provide for us both, but she said that wasn’t good enough, she always wanted to spend money that we really didn’t have.”
Tony explained that his e-wife belittled him, blamed him for everything and called him names.
He said, “I began to be worried that things were not as they should be, that she was not the person I thought she was. She would make me out to be the bad person. I used to be called horrible names, it made me feel so low.”
Tony’s wife’s behaviour changed throughout their long relationship. Attentive at the beginning, Tony said that she began to withdraw from him and rarely considered his wellbeing.
“She made me feel like a second-rate person, my feelings didn’t matter, and I was made to feel like her slave. I was made to wait on her hand and foot, it’s not a nice place to be.”
Overtime, Tony’s ex-wife extended her controlling behaviour from financial control to restricting him from spending time in certain parts of their shared home.
Gaslighting became a part of everyday life with her behaviour undermining his confidence and self-esteem. Often, he would escape the verbal attacks and emotional abuse, taking refuge in his car where he says he would regularly break down. Then the arguments about money turned violent.
“She would either hit me or bite me,” says Tony. “I would try to stop her, and she would respond with a knee between my legs. If that didn’t work, she’d bite me. I would have to walk out of the room and burst into tears. I would never hit a woman, but she would call me a wimp.”
When Tony divorced from his wife, he began to make sense of the behaviours he had been subjected to and contacted IDAS for support.
“I came into contact with IDAS during the pandemic. I began writing down what I’d been feeling and that was painful. But I wanted to get the message across that, look guys, you are not alone. This can happen.”
Following the support provided by IDAS, Tony is now more hopeful for the future and talks about having the support of his family and a local community group he has joined to help him rebuild his confidence. While his ex-wife is no longer in his life, he still bears the psychological scars and said that it will take him time and courage to trust someone again.
Tony wants other men to know that support is available:
“My message to men suffering from abuse from a partner is, you are not alone. Seek help. Speak to a charity like IDAS. Speak out and try to connect with other victims. Don’t feel hopeless. There are people out there who understand. People like me”.
If you need support, advice or accommodation we are here for you – Find out how IDAS support male victims of domestic abuse
*We have changed the name of the survivor interviewed for this blog to protect his identity.