NorthEast records equal male and female domestic abuse fatalities in three years

New data released by the Northumbria police have revealed that an equal number of men and women lost their lives to domestic abuse in the North East in the last three years.

A freedom of information investigation by SGM can reveal that the year 2020 saw one female and one male victim, followed by one male and one female victim in 2021.

The numbers rose in 2022 with three male and two female victims, raising the figure to five men and five females (ten) overall in the area.

A spokesperson for Respect, a pioneering domestic abuse organisation which runs the Men’s Advice Line, said a significant number of the men reaching out to the service expressed that they had felt hesitant to seek assistance due to persistent misinformation surrounding men’s experiences of abuse, such as, “domestic abuse is exclusive to women,” or “going through abuse undermines masculinity.”

“For many of our callers, it has taken them a long time to call the helpline. Society puts a lot of pressure on men to act strong and deal with issues on their own, so many are embarrassed to be experiencing abuse or don’t see what they’re experiencing as abuse.

“Many male victims fear they won’t be believed, and some aren’t. Our first step is to validate their experiences and support them emotionally, so they know they are believed, and they can feel confident accessing further support. We also challenge the myths surrounding male victims in our marketing materials reminding men that anyone can experience domestic abuse, and no one should be ashamed to reach out for help.”

The spokesperson, Tanisha Jnagel also said male victims encounter practical issues when disclosing their abuse, such as the lack of a safe place to go or financial means to leave their abuser. Ms Jnagel added that concerns about leaving children behind or limited access to them also arise. However, there are advisors who can help by connecting the victims to necessary information and support for safe escape, healing, and rebuilding their lives.

A spokesperson for Wearside Women in Need NorthEast (WWIN), an independent charity that works with Sunderland-based GP surgeries, said: “WWIN receives over 3,000 referrals a year for our specialist domestic abuse services. The number of individual adults receiving support from our services was 1,432 last year (1,320 the year before and 1,461 in 2020-2021).

“To support survivors, we run several weekly groups or safe spaces where they can learn more about the dynamics of domestic abuse and make sense of their experiences.” According to the spokesperson, families, and friends are the first to know about cases of domestic abuse. In response to this, a new service called Findaway has been launched to provide support to individuals such as families, friends,
colleagues, neighbours, and other community members who express apprehensions regarding someone else’s relationship.

“If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore your guts,” she added. Mark Brooks, Chairman of ManKind Initiative, a charity that works with male victims of abuse in the NorthEast and across the UK said: “Abuse can affect individuals of any gender. Unfortunately, one challenge is that men may feel they don’t receive the seriousness and attention they deserve when they come forward with their experiences.

“If you go to the police or Wearside Women in Need(WWIN) to report abuse, they will believe you. Because these organisations are in partnerships with councils in the area to not just provide support for female victims, but also for male victims/survivors. The problem is, that many men, don’t even recognise that the violence, economic control, psychological or mental harm, and also being controlled is actually domestic abuse in the first place. More men need to understand the signs and red flags early and seek support.

“Ideally, family and friends shouldn’t tell men off when they report any case and whether they are a victim or survivor, we want them to know that they are not weak, not to blame, and they are not alone. There are lots of men going through this every single day in the North East, but also there will be hundreds of men starting the journey to leave the abusive relationship. So, there is always hope. Men do escape from the situation so you can too,” he said.

A spokesperson for Sunderland City Council said it works closely with the police, and organisations across Sunderland, the region, and nationally to tackle domestic abuse and violence. “The council has a Sanctuary Scheme which aims to support survivors of domestic abuse, and their children, to remain in their own homes, where it is safe to do so, by installing safety equipment in the home.

“There is a partnership called Sunderland Domestic Violence Partnership that works in line with the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 to provide improved protection for many victims of domestic abuse (DA) as well as strengthened measures to tackle perpetrators. “In 2021, Sunderland City Council established a Domestic Abuse and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Executive Board. The Board enables the council to enact its statutory duties in relation to domestic abuse, whilst also supporting strong partnership arrangements across the city to help transform our approach to prevention, early intervention, and support in relation to domestic abuse and gender-based violence.”

Meanwhile, guidance from Darlington Borough Council says, “The council adopts a multi-agency approach to addressing domestic and sexual violence. We collaborate with partners, such as the police and support organisations, to ensure a coordinated response to incidents and provide support to victims. “This approach involves sharing information, resources, and expertise to effectively address the needs of survivors.”

Sunderland resident, Elijah Utuyo expressed a strong reluctance to report instances of abuse, primarily due to concerns about how it might impact his strength and his ability to assert control within the relationship. He emphasised that he would prefer to seek ways to exit the relationship rather than allow anyone to become aware of the abuse. Elijah said: “How will I report abuse? Even my guys would think I am a joke if they heard me say it, let alone the Police or any organisation. I will need to do extra explanations and show proof that I have been actually abused. No man wants to subject himself to that.

There is the fear of stigma, shame and embarrassment, fear of retaliation, and concern for the abuser, especially if the abuser is a loved one or someone they depend on financially. lack of awareness, lack of support services, isolation, cultural and societal factors, and self-blame could be why most of us don’t report abuse. “I must admit that it is shocking to hear men died as a result of this. But the truth is that watering down abuse for male children did not begin today. It started as children where the boys are not expected to show emotions- if you do, they tell you- ‘Why are you crying like a girl’? or if he can not move an item from one point to another, he is shouted at or told ‘- Even a girl can lift that. From that age, the boy just wants to stay strong and not be referred to as weak.

We grow with it. “Maybe if the same energy used in campaigning against domestic violence in
women is invested in men’s abuse, then more men would be willing to report cases,” he added.
Dr. Amy Pearson, an expert in Psychology at the University of Sunderland said experiencing abuse has an incredibly negative impact on someone’s psychological well-being or mental health. In the long term, their self-esteem and self-worth are affected which oftentimes leads to anxiety and depression.

“Many survivors that we have spoken to, say they struggle to regain that sense of empowerment, recognise their worth, and engage in things like self-care, which results in a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and complex PTSD. “In a recent study, we found that most people could not afford therapy. But people who had good mental health support afterward, on the other hand, talked about recognising their own worth and rebuilding their confidence, as well as, more importantly, beginning to put barriers and boundaries in place in their own lives.”

Dr Pearson said the impact of domestic violence on survivors extends to their ability to form and sustain relationships. Some withdraw from romantic relationships entirely, while others find supportive partners who encourage setting healthy boundaries. The recovery from violence and abuse is an ongoing process, with survivors carrying emotional scars even after healing, she added.

To report any suspicions of abuse in the NorthEast, contact Respect MensAdvice @0808 8010327 or info@mensadviceline.org.uk. For women, call 0191 416 3550 or @wwin.org.uk.