AFTER reading The Bolton News’ series on the different types of domestic abuse, told through the stories of those who have rebuilt their lives, more survivors have been empowered to share their experiences. HELENA VESTY reports the story of a male abuse survivor.

STEREOTYPES surrounding domestic violence can leave those suffering abuse feeling they cannot come forward.

One Bolton man has come forward to share that he “felt less of a man” while suffering at the hands of the mother of his two children because of the misconception that men cannot be subject to abuse.

The 29-year-old said he feared he would not believed and would be prevented from seeing his children if he reported that he was being psychologically and physically abused, ultimately stopping him from leaving his partner of six years.

The abuse started when she was pregnant with their first child, now three years old.

He said: “She was controlling. She didn’t want me to go out, she didn’t want me to work, she was watching if I was late home from work, she was watching who I was with.

“I couldn’t go out and see my friends because I knew there would be backlash.”

When the difficulties began, he too did not fully understand the ways abuse could manifest.

He said: “When I thought of abuse, I thought of physical violence.

“I didn’t understand the rest of it. I didn’t think about her behaviour being controlling, I just thought she was worried but when I tried to discuss things with her it would always turn into an argument — she would explode and make it seem like it was me that caused it.”

The couple had a second child together shortly after, but the situation worsened and now involved the children.

He said: “She used the children a lot against me. When we were still together, if I didn’t answer the phone or come running when she asked, she would tell me that I couldn’t see the kids.

“It made me think that if I didn’t do what she said, I looked like a bad father.

“There had been a few times that I left, but I went back because I was always concerned about the children.

It took three years of escalating psychological control and four assaults for the father-of-two to recognise how much he was suffering. Just a few months ago, he decided to leave the relationship.

He said: “I was questioning my own sanity so much I was self harming.

"I was holding my eldest child when my former partner assaulted me for the last time — my former partner kicked me, when I walked away she hit me round the back of head and then hit me in the face twice.

"I was appalled at the violence from her, I just sat down and tried to comfort my daughter. I didn't say anything, I picked up both of my girls, I walked out of the front door and I didn't go back."

The 29-year-old was referred to Bolton domestic violence charities Endeavour and Fortalice through his GP.

He said that the two charities gave him the support he needed to find his way through the difficult time, but said that seeking help as a male abuse survivor has not been easy: "I have been worried about reporting the assaults because it has always been my word against her’s. People think you're a bloke and she's a woman, surely she can't hit you, but it's not as simple as that.

"You feel ashamed and you do feel like less of a man — that might be the main reason people don't report, I know that's why I didn't report."

"I felt anxious and nervous about coming forward, but Endeavour and Fortalice told me there's a lot more male victims coming forward. If it wasn't for their support, I wouldn't be where I am today. There is help out there for male victims and they don't have to put up with it.

But he says that coming forward has been life-changing: "I feel like I've come a long way, I know in my head I'll never go back now.

Going forward, the dad said he would like to see male survivors come together to share their experiences: "I know they have groups for women where they meet up, but they don't do that for men. It's something I think should change in the future."

To speak to someone about what you have experienced or are currently experiencing, you can call Endeavour on 01204 394 842 or the Fortalice Support Centre on 01204365677.

If you want to seek refuge, call 01204701846 — this is a 24-hour service.

In an emergency, call 999.