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Thursday, May 26, 2022

“No man wants to say, ‘I’m a domestic abuse victim’” – Britain’s first domestic abuse service for South Asian men launches in Bradford

BEAP Community Partnership officially launched the ground-breaking male domestic violence project, Men Reaching Out, last month, building on four years of quiet domestic abuse provisions in the district.

Chief executive of BEAP Community Partnership, Humayun Islam BEM has been working quietly with male domestic abuse victims within the Manningham community for the past four years.

Recently scoring funding that will pay for the services to continue for the next three years, Mr Islam has officially launched Men Reaching Out (MRO), a domestic abuse service specifically for South Asian men, although, all men are welcome to use the service, the first of its kind in Britain.

The project was awarded £115,000 by The Henry Smith Charity, a charitable organisation founded in 1628 to reduce social and economic disadvantage.

The service provides support through a confidential telephone helpline, community outreach support, and a peer support group. The first step of accessing the service is through the hotline where a trained member of staff will help in assessing needs. The person using the service can then decide on the amount or type of help they require.

The team at BEAP found over a period of four years that there is a need for this service which is why they bid on a grant to fund the project long term.

Mr Islam, who received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s 2021 Birthday Honours List for his dedication and service to local people in Bradford, said: “We have quietly been delivering this service for several years on a smaller scale with smaller funding.

“During this period, we have spent time evaluating the project, showing the outcomes, and we decided that there was a need for a male domestic abuse provision here in Bradford.

“The project began last month in September and the provision specialises in South Asian men. It is the only domestic abuse service for South Asian men in Britain.

“As well as providing one-to-one support and support in the community, we are also going to create a campaign that spreads awareness about domestic abuse. Domestic abuse comes in many forms, not just physical. It can also be psychological, sexual, emotional, or financial.”

Statistics from ManKind, a national initiative that helps men escape domestic abuse, show that 13.2% of men over 16 have been a victim of domestic abuse at some point in their life, equivalent to 2.2m men.  The statistics also reveal that male victims are twice as likely than women not to tell anybody about the partner abuse they suffer, with only 10% of victims reporting to the police.

The number of women convicted of perpetrating domestic abuse has more than quadrupled in the past ten years from 806 between 2004 and 2005 to 4866 between 2014 and 2015. Additionally, one in every five victims of forced marriage is a man.

Victims, male or female, who have suffered abuse within the home may feel scared, ashamed, or worried about speaking up about what they have experienced. Most men who call the MRO helpline, some 80% of them, have never spoken to anyone before about the abuse they face.

There are two dedicated and trained members of staff to work on the MRO project.

This is due to several reasons, but one of them is sharam, or shame. Ideas of masculinity, that men must “wear the pants” in a relationship, be the provider, and the “man of the house” coupled with the culture in the South Asian community of shying away from issues such as domestic abuse and mental health issues, means that often men feel like that they are unable to come forward about what they face daily. Mr Islam said: “The issue of sharam, is massive. Even when men access our service, no man wants to say, ‘I’m a domestic abuse victim’, and that’s why a lot of the men don’t tell anybody.

“It is hard to know whether domestic abuse towards men in the South Asian community is heightened or that it is a problem across the board. Abuse is abuse, it can happen to anyone, regardless of ethnicity, age, or gender.”

Incidents of financial coercion and control have been reported to Asian Standard. One man was brought to Bradford from his home country in South Asia to marry and work for his wife, being forced to hand over his wage slip and have his life controlled by his spouse and her family – a form of domestic abuse.

Discussing why men are less likely to open up about domestic abuse, Mr Islam said: “One of the barriers that men face when talking about domestic abuse is that there is little or no services out there for them, which is why we have launched this programme. Men can’t come forward if there is no one to listen.

“Another barrier is that men are often not believed. This is a real barrier; it is not just Bradford District-wide but spread across the whole of the UK. Since launching, we have had a lot of phone calls come in, men can see now that this is a real service that will believe them.

“The first thing we do when we answer the phone is believe and listen to them, providing the emotional support that they need. We then look at how we can support them through a structured plan, create a risk assessment, and create goals for what we want to achieve.”

The service does not only provide emotional support but will also provide information on practical steps to remove victims from their abusive situations. “If the man needs help with housing, we can help with navigating that. If they need legal support or help with their finances. We can show them how and where to get assistance.”

Previously, fifty men a year were helped by the team at BEAP. Mr Islam aims to help more men now the project is officially

Mr Islam also touched on the stage when men come forward. Many men who have opened to Mr Islam and the volunteers at BEAP have come forward after being in an unhealthy relationship for five to ten years. “When men come forward at the latter stages, they have already lost access to their children or have lost their jobs, or have suffered years of emotional abuse”, Mr Islam said.

“By creating a campaign and raising awareness surrounding male victims of domestic violence, we encourage men to come forward at earlier stages, and we can support them.”

Since 2017, the project has helped almost fifty men a year going through domestic abuse, with the community centre receiving around forty calls a month regarding the issue. “With the official launch and two dedicated members of staff, this number will only increase. We don’t want it to, obviously, we would like for this service to not have to exist, but we want to help as many men as possible.

“It is also important for people to know that just because this provision exists, we aren’t taking away from female domestic abuse services. For us, we want to raise awareness surrounding abuse in general. All victims, men and women, need to come forward, and, have an organisation that will listen and believe them, which is why MRO was created.”

 The helpline is open 10am – 3pm, Monday to Thursday or you can email the service at menreachingout@beapcp.com.

If you don’t get answered the first time, please try again. The service provided is confidential unless there is a life-threatening situation, or a child or adult is felt to be at risk of significant harm.

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