'She controlled my money, and when I could eat'

By James Melley
BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme

Image caption,
"Dean" says he would suffer mental abuse from his ex-partner

There are only nine refuges exclusively for male victims of domestic abuse in the UK. One of them is at risk of closing. The Victoria Derbyshire programme has been to meet one of the men it is helping.

"She was quite controlling, she always used to take my money out of my bank account when I got paid," says "Dean".

"She threw stuff at me. She basically kept me away from my family for the last 10 years."

Dean - whose real name we have chosen not to use because of concerns over his safety - has been living at one of the refuges.

He was abused by his female ex-partner for a decade.

"Most of it was mental abuse, so she'd be shouting at me," he says.

"Things were chucked at me. I did actually get plates chucked at me. I've got a dent on my head from what she was doing."

'I wasn't allowed to eat'

The refuge is run by the Northamptonshire Domestic Abuse Service (NDAS), and Dean was referred there by hospital staff after he collapsed at work.

He says his partner had been stopping him from eating, and he had become seriously dehydrated.

"They don't know if it was a fit, or through dehydration, but I basically wasn't eating. I wasn't allowed to eat at home," he says.

Image caption,
Matthew Cunningham says many men do not realise they can access help

It is estimated that one in six men will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime, with very few ever seeking help.

"I know it sounds silly, but you think if someone hurts you, just 'man up and get on with it'," he says.

"I didn't realise there were people out there to actually help."

Matthew Cunningham works in the refuge and says that this confusion is not uncommon with male victims of domestic abuse.

"It's so under-reported," he explains.

"Males don't recognise they are victims sometimes at all, and don't see what domestic abuse is, and have never known the right paths to go down to get help."

'Turning away men'

The refuge was set up 10 months ago, and has space for three men and one child who are fleeing domestic violence. It is the only male refuge in the county.

Its three rooms have been full since a few weeks after its launch, and according to NDAS they have had to turn away 50 men who have been referred there because they do not have the space.

But despite the demand, the service, as well as four women's refuges, faces closure unless NDAS can raise £100,000 by next March.

The charity had been relying on winning government funding to help sustain its services.

It applied for it with Northamptonshire County Council - which is facing severe financial problems - but the request was turned down.

The council said it "takes domestic abuse very seriously and is committed to supporting vulnerable people in our communities and reducing risk in families".

It added: "With our partners we continue to fund services that deal with domestic abuse and sexual violence in the county."

In July this year, the government committed an extra £19m to expand services for survivors of domestic abuse in England.

But, so far, NDAS has not been able to access this money.

Image caption,
Terrie Eales says if the refuge closed it could put some of those abused at risk of being killed

Northampton Borough Council has offered to provide some financial support - but the level of investment is not known.

One of its councillors, Terrie Eales, says if the refuge did close, it would be "an absolute tragedy for domestic abuse victims".

She added: "We've got one of only nine male refuges in the country. If that's not out there, the best outcome would be [Northampton] Borough Council has to pick up the slack for the emergency accommodation.

"Worst case you're looking at deaths from the abusers, and they're not going to get the help they need."

Dean is hoping that the refuge will be saved, for people like him in the future.

"I'm hoping I'm going to get myself back into employment," he says, "hopefully get myself in my own little place and live a simple life to myself.

"I just want to be on my own, living how I want to live."

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